I started to write this as I sat on the Heathrow Express, the train that runs from Paddington to Heathrow. It is brilliant when it runs, as it means you avoid the Piccadilly line schlep to Heathrow.
This post isn’t about rail travel though.
After the meeting with the customer, where we discussed their global SAP HR rollout and systems consolidation project, I had lunch with Kim Fisher. Like me he has lurked in the SAP HR space for more than a decade. Unlike me he actually knows the deep down technical innards of SAP, and can exchange table 77S0 plogi plogi tales with the best of them. Most of his time is spent on big, challenging global projects.
He has been playing around with the SAP widget stuff, building examples that push payroll errors to the desktop of payroll managers. I suggested he post to SDN. This led us to talking about SOA. (Sad I know, lunch in London at a swanky Japanese restaurant and we talk about SOA)
We discussed how to explain it to business types without inflicting undue pain and trauma. His response was don’t explain it – show it. So I challenged him to give me an example that I could get HR management types excited about.
He said, “Well imagine there was a piece of software that could read through the company car legislation and build it out as a set of rules, and then configure the payroll rules in SAP, and deploy the same set of rules on the government self-help website, and keep them all in sync.
(In SOAese this would be all about services, soap, XML, composing, consuming, reuse)
He then went on to tell me about this Australian company- Ruleburst. French Caldwell from Gartner mentioned them to me, and hearing Kim talk about them with such conviction made me look them up immediately when I got to the airport lounge. Awesome stuff indeed. Watch this demo. There is also a live solution used to determine employment status on the HMRC site.
I could see all sorts of uses for this application for testing policies and then passing the configuration rules to multiple applications, and when the policy changes, update the application rules. So image you have 20 union agreements and your company has grown with lots of acquisitions. This means you are faced with several 100 pages of rules and policies, with conflicts and ambiguities. Typically analysing this lot would take ages, even before any attempt to automate it, and whenever you create a new policy it would need to be checked against old ones. With Ruleburst this process could be dramatically improved, both in terms of speed and accuracy. The Ruleburst is delivered as a webservice that you can call from SAP or other applications. More about the SAP-Ruleburst scenarios here.
I’d like to get a detailed demo of Ruleburst, and once I have seen more I’ll blog more. It doesn’t just work with statute, but with your own business rules.
It may also have implications for my academic efforts, as I’m very interested in the relationship between software and law. Looks like I will need to learn more about the Business Rules Engine market and the theory behind it.
Tools like this will aid software engineers to design compliant applications, and could help clean the policy morass that most organisations have accumulated.
I think it would be useful for lawyers and accountants too.
Ruleburst is an SAP X-APP certified partner, certified as “Powered by SAP Netweaver and to quote the press release, has joined the Public Sector Industry Value Network to develop a composite application that helps public sector customers automate rules processing to manage complex business rules and regulations. I’d also think that we could tie this in rather nicely with GRC.