Which Decisions Belong in Decision Models?

In 2009, The Decision Model (TDM) was revealed to the public. In 2011, a new kind of software emerged to support it. Recently, the BABOK (Business Analyst Book of Knowledge) team approved decision modeling to replace the use of process models for decision logic. In 2014, the Object Management Group (OMG) voted to publish the Decision Model and Notation (DMN) as a new standard for software development.

So, What’s New?

Decisions aren’t new, but a shift is occurring. Decision models are now sanctioned and thousands are operating in production in major corporations. The question now is: what kinds of decisions belong in decision models?  The following table includes criteria used by organizations for answering this question.

Seven Criteria for Decision Models Description
  1. Business Governance


Giving business representatives control over logic for important decisions from start to deployment
  1. External Governance
Managing decisions whose rightful change agent is external to the organization
  1. Customized Governance
Managing decisions having different sets of logic based on business context, i.e., different for geographical locations, political jurisdictions, or customer categories.
  1. Technology Flexibility
Selecting and changing the technology for automated decisions without changing the decision model logic
  1. Business ROI
Predicting and measuring how a decision contributes to the health and well-being of a business
  1. Agility and Velocity of Change
Enabling frequent, quick, effective decision logic changes
  1. Decision Logic Complexity
Simplifying, estimating decision models that are large in size (i.e., quantity of structures, fact types, etc.) or intricate in logic

One way to understand how TDM supports these criteria is to list the basic characteristics of TDM (shown in the following table) and correlate these for your organization to the seven decision model criteria above.

Four TDM Characteristics Details
  1. TDM Decision Model Structure
  • Single format (although not tied to a specific notation)
  • Well-scoped (starting point and ending point pre-defined by the structure, from business decision to raw data)
  • Simple business-friendly format (devoid of any technology concerns)
  • Normalized into the smallest manageable and reusable pieces
  • Structures connected by pure logic dependencies
  • Views of entire decision models to support customized logic
  • Serves as the single point of change, no more updates directly to program code
  1. TDM 15 Principles
  • Structural Principles, Technology-Independent (declarative) Principles, Integrity Principles
  • Combination of structure and principles makes it faster to create and automate decision logic than other approaches
  1. Technology-Independence
  • Business glossary of business names, business definitions, business data types, and business domain values
  • Business glossary independent of physical data technology
  • Decision model structure and content independent of execution technology
  1. Foundation for Software Innovation
  • Automatic validation of the 15 TDM principles against entire decision models prior to deployment
  • Automatic test case generation and execution of entire decision models prior to deployment
  • Automatic full-life cycle possible from business to IT
  • Version control of business glossary entries and decision model pieces
  • Messaging

Have We Been Here Before?

A long time ago, a new model for data, called the relational model, was published and supported in new kind of software. Data wasn’t new. But, a shift lay ahead as did the question: what kind of data belonged in relational representation? Today, we know the answer: all of it, or most of it (Specifically, structured data). Corporations prioritized and migrated most operational data into a relational form, which delivered on its promises.

So today, which decisions belong in decision models? The answer may turn out to be: all of them or most of them. (Specifically, decisions of conditions leading to conclusions.) If so, this is the time to develop criteria, prioritize, and start delivering confidently on the promises of decision modeling.

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Barbara von Halle

Barbara von Halle is co-inventor of The Decision Model & Event Model; co-author of The Decision Model: A Business Logic Framework Linking Business and Technology. The 5th recipient of IDAMA’s Outstanding Individual Achievement Award, she was inducted into its Hall of Fame. Barbara is a consultant for Sapiens on the Decision Model & Event Model and is a regular contributor to www.modernanalyst.com.

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