Decision Management, revisited

Our Decision Management blog aims to provide educational materials to practitioners from business and IT. We share best practices, new trends and thought leadership pieces.

Take a look at SMARTS
Carole-Ann Matignon

Carole-Ann Matignon

CEO and co-founder
Read More
Carlos Serrano-Morales

Carlos Serrano-Morales

CTO and co-founder
Read More
Colleen McClintock

Colleen McClintock

VP Products
Read More
Marc Lerman

Marc Lerman

VP User Experience
Read More

Decision Camp 2014 – Call for Speakers

dc2014logolongLast year we were one of the organizers and sponsors of the inaugural  Decision Camp.  Decision Camp is a  free event where practitioners, industry thought leaders, and vendors come together to share and exchange information on decision management technologies  (business rules,  business intelligence, analytics, and optimization).  Over 300 people attended last year’s conference over the 3 days of the event!

Decision Camp is unique.  Not only is it free, it is one of the few conferences focusing on decision management in practice where you’ll learn how decision management has transformed the business for organizations in healthcare, manufacturing, insurance, banking, retail, utilities, and telecommunications ! You won’t want to miss this year’s event as it promises to be bigger and better.  The call for speakers is open until May 31, so if you are currently involved in a decision management project and would like to share your experiences with other practitioners, you should consider joining us as a speaker this year!



Learn about our latest SMARTS release – Marrakesh!

Our latest SMARTS release, Marrakesh is out!  This release introduces a significant number of improvements and enhancements, primarily driven by customer requests.  This release is a bit like a souk (an open-air marketplace) in Marrakesh where there are lots of interesting things to see and something useful for everyone!



Browse through the list of new features in Marrakesh, and see if something doesn’t catch your eye!

Support for Functions – You can now define functions in the SMARTS form and invoke them in your decision logic.  Functions are like computations that allow you pass arguments when you invoke them.  Two types of functions are supported, local functions and remote functions.

A good use for local functions is formatting an output message with additional details from your input data and/or a date/timestamp.  The message itself could be passed to the function as a parameter.   In the screen shot below, we pass a message as a parameter to the Message function.

function invocation

The formatted output from the function is shown in the Decision Outcome section including the name of the applicant and date the application was submitted.

Remote functions are used when you need to retrieve information from an external service as part of decision evaluation.  Remote functions are defined with a JSON-RPC 2.0 service entry point.  Obviously, you should exercise some caution when invoking functions in rule conditions as they can be executed many times resulting in poor performance.

Support for Decimal types – Decimal types allow you to define the format and precision of your data.  Formats supported include Currency, Scientific, Percent, Hexadecimal and more.  The decimal data type supports up to 29 significant digits.  It is particularly suitable for financial calculations that require a large number of digits and can’t tolerate rounding errors.

In the screen shot below, the field Premium has been defined as Currency with two decimals.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.43.28 PM

Segmented Simulations – SMARTS has always had the ability to run local simulations, allowing you to execute your decision logic against the currently loaded data sample and produce reports in the SMARTS dashboard.  In our Honolulu release, nearly two years ago, we introduced the ability to run remote simulations against very large data samples with potentially millions of records.  These remote simulations execute asynchronously on the server using the SMARTS out-of-the-box MapReduce framework.   New in this release is the ability to run segmented simulations.  A segmented simulation allows you to select one or more segmentation fields (included computed fields).  SMARTS segments the data sample based on the distinct values in the field(s) and executes the simulation against each segment.  You can then view the dashboard reports for each segment in addition to the overall simulation results for the entire data sample.

The screen shot below shows a dashboard report, Decision Outcome,  produced by executing a segmented simulation by state, showing the decision outcome (number of applications approved, referred, and denied) for the entire data sample (in blue) and the number for each unique state.

segmented simulation

Customized Form Import – SMARTS makes it easy to define your decision inputs, outputs, and intermediate values.  In SMARTS  you can import a data sample (from a JSON, XML, or CSV file)  and automatically create a form describing the structure (sections and fields) of the data sample.  SMARTS  infers the field type based on the values in the data sample.  Once the form is imported,  you can modify the form to make it more readable and business-friendly by renaming fields and adding new fields, including computations.  New in Marrakesh is the ability to customize the form on import, allowing you to change the display name, data type, or cardinality.  This is a convenient feature that can save you some time when starting a new project.

Disable/Enable Rules and Rule sets –  During development and testing you may need to disable some rules or rule sets to help you understand how your changes are impacting your decision results.  One way to do this is to temporarily add a guard condition (setting the guard to false) to keep the decision logic from executing.  Prior to Marrakesh, this was the only option.   In this release you now have an option in the rule and rule set menus to explicitly disable and enable.  Disabling a rule or rule set makes it invisible to compilation and execution, so you can temporarily remove rules or rule sets from the decision’s execution.

Guards are different- they are compiled and evaluated at execution time so that the rule or ruleset will only execute if the guard condition evaluates to true.  You can use guards when you need to dynamically determine whether or not to apply a rule or rule set to the current document or transaction.

Assume you want to disable your Senior / Low Mileage rule for testing.  In the screen shot below, you can see the menu item to disable the rule.

enable disable menu

Once the rule is disabled, the name of rule (or rule set) will have a line through it as shown here:

disabled rule

Markdown in Descriptions – The ability to maintain traceability from a rule or rule set to its source requirements is a common requirement in business rule and decision management applications.  Many of you requested the ability to provide a link to an external document or repository containing the source policy, regulation, or requirement.  In Marrakesh, we now support Markdown in descriptions for decision artifacts.   Markdown syntax is very readable, easy to learn, and can be converted into HTML.  So now, you can include hyperlinks in your descriptions and you can format your descriptions too!




In addition, Marrakesh includes some exciting new features and enhancements to BluePen, the analytics module for SMARTS.

Improved Scalability and Performance – You can now run analytics jobs against much larger data samples.  Also, many of the key algorithms for rules generation have been enhanced for better scalability and performance.

More Algorithms – new algorithms have been implemented for variable identification, variable discretization, and rules generation.

Segmented Analytics Jobs – Just as for simulations, you can now run segmented analytics jobs, selecting one or more segmentation variables and triggering jobs that will execute against each one of the corresponding segments.  This will potentially yield results that are better tailored to each segment.

Streaming Rules Generation Algoritms –  Beta support for streaming rules generation algorithms has been added.  These algoritms don’t require that all the documents in the data sample be in memory and therefore can scale to very big data sizes with very little memory.

We hope you enjoy our latest SMARTS release.  We  appreciate all the suggestions you provided that shaped this release.  Please let us know what you think.

If you haven’t yet used SMARTS, some of the new feature descriptions likely lack context.  SMARTS is the most intuitive and powerful decision management offering on the market.  Attend one of our product tour webinars or sign-up for a free trial to learn more!



From Business Intelligence to Better Decisions

Last week we jointly hosted a webinar with our consulting and implementation partner, Mariner.  Shash Hedge, BI Solution Specialist from Mariner, described operational BI, its challenges, and some traditional and recent implementation approaches.  He concluded with a few cases studies of operational BI projects that were missing an important piece — the ability to make decisions based on the operational insight provided by the system.

Operational BI systems provide critical insight on business operations and enable your front-line workers to make more informed decisions.  But as Shash highlighted, insight delivered in the right format, to the right people, at the right time is often not enough, you need to make decisions based on that insight in order to take action…

I lead the second half of the webinar, introducing decision management and describing how it complements operational BI.  Watch the recorded webinar to learn more.

YouTube Preview Image

The recording is a bit rough when the video gets to my part; it sounds like I am presenting from another country!  We’re planning another joint webinar in May where we will cover the topic in more depth and demonstrate how these two technologies complement each other.  Stay tuned for dates and registration information.  I’m sure we’ll get the sound issues resolved next time!

My first ‘Hello World’ rule

Let’s go back to basics and explore how business rules work.  For that purpose, I am using the unavoidable ‘Hello World’ project.  I will show you today that agility can be obtained without a whole lot of complexity…  My first-grade son could do it, so it can’t be that hard ;-)

Before I start writing rules, let me take a very quick detour.  To make the exercise more concrete, it helps to have test cases so that we can see how the rules apply as we write them.

Continue reading “My first ‘Hello World’ rule” »

What are Champion / Challenger experiments in Decision Management?

Coin TossHave you ever heard of Champion / Challenger?  If you are in the Financial Services industry, chances are you have and you might even have used this technique.  If not, I wouldn’t be so sure you have.

What is Champion / Challenger?

In a nutshell, the idea is to compare two or more strategies in order to promote the one that performs the best.

Continue reading “What are Champion / Challenger experiments in Decision Management?” »

What is Decision Management?

I am often asked what Decision Management is.  If you do not know what decision management is, and yet you too are wondering, this video is for you.

The purpose of this video is to explain through a use case what problem we solve and how.  And when I say ‘we’, I really mean the industry.  This is not a commercial about SMARTS, it is an educational video that could apply to any product.  We believe we do it better, but that is a completely different topic ;-)

YouTube Preview Image

This video describes a use case — our traditional insurance underwriting example of course.  But keep in mind that these technologies can be used in any type of decision-making application where the logic is complex, owned by business analysts or business users, and changing often.

Feel free to contact me or post a comment if you have questions about Decision Management.  I love sharing what I know about my passions!

Decision Management Predictions for 2014

PredictionAs it is customary, let me share what I foresee as being big this new year…  I would like to focus on just three points that are striking me as important in no particular order.

Continue reading “Decision Management Predictions for 2014” »

New Year, New Look

2014 has just started. We are foreseeing lots of activity this year in the decision management industry and want to mark its beginning with a new look.

Let us know how you like our new site and relocated Decision Management blog!

Decision CAMP 2013 – Shash Hegde – Giving machines a collective memory & intelligence

Shash HedgeShash is sharing an interesting business model his customer has developed. He figured out a way to guarantee a level of power while reducing the operational costs by augmenting the battery life. While manual inspection and industry knowledge has been the key to this business, automating maintenance allows the company to sustain their rapid growth and remain ahead of their currently nonexistent competition.

The change of format for this talk is really cool.  Shash assigned tasks to the audience!  They can ask any questions, but the idea is to brainstorm on a possible solution for the customer problem.  This is one of the most existing and productive exchange between attendees so far!

Continue reading “Decision CAMP 2013 – Shash Hegde – Giving machines a collective memory & intelligence” »

Decision CAMP 2013 – CTO Panel

CTO PanelNeil Raden is the host for our CTO Panel at Decision CAMP.  His victims are:

  • our own Carlos – Sparkling Logic
  • Jacob Feldman – OpenRules
  • Gil Segal – Sapiens
  • Mark Proctor – Red Hat

The conversation goes fast to Business Rules and Analytics of course.

Carlos says that Analytics market is much bigger than Business Rules.  SAS only is a couple of billion $$.  The difficult part is the operationalization of analytics, and this is the opportunity for Decision Management.  Deployment of models is made easier.  That was a big discovery for the modelers.

Continue reading “Decision CAMP 2013 – CTO Panel” »