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Book Smart Enough Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions by James Taylor Neil Raden (2007-07-09)


Smart Enough Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions by James Taylor Neil Raden (2007-07-09)

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  • Prentice Hall (1600)
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Review Text

  • By Dan McCreary on March 16, 2008

    Rules management really a big thing these days. It is one of the best technologies for lowering IT costs. Rules empower business users and subject matter experts to view, change and simulate change impact of rules in an enterprise. This book is packed with great ideas and a good overview of business rules management from "why rules?", rule harvesting, rule management and rule execution.The excellent section on Rule Templates was a turning point for my cognition of how metadata registries can be used with rules engines. Conditionals can reference data elements and actions can change states of XML instances.One of the two author's is Jim Taylor who is a VP at Fair Issac. Despite this fact the book does a pretty good job of looking at the rule process not a specific rules engine.My only criticism with the book is it is very light on the topic of semantics, metadata registries and rules. There is a little coverage of the process of getting business users to write precise, concise definitions for business terms and the management and traceability of those definitions. A rule is only as good as the definitions for the business terms they reference. If you combine a good rules management system with an solid ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registry you can get the rule precision you need. Anything less could lead to chaos when everyone uses private definitions of business terms to express duplicate rules.

  • By Kristi G Grant on November 18, 2014

    Good content, could say everything in about half as many pages.

  • By Mark P. McDonald on August 28, 2007

    Smart Enough Systems is a book with one foot in two worlds. At one level, it is a business book addressing the issues of using information and decision support. On the other level it is almost a BI/DSS for the less intelligent in terms of its step by step guidance on working through these issues. Fortunately the books premise regarding automating hidden decisions requires a bit of both.As a business book, Smart Enough covers the need to explain the concepts in business terms and provide a framework for generating ROI. It does not talk in great depth about how decisions drive competitive advantage. It is also a little weak on the explanation of where to apply this technique as I doubt enterprises will make the funding available to automate all of their decisions.As a technology book, the author focuses on Enterprise Decision Management (EDM) is the primary focus of this book and it is described as applying a services approach to decision making. This looks to take business rules out of IT systems and put them into something akin to a decision service broker/service so the same situations are handled with the same set of rules.The book is a solid and complete explanation of the author's ideas. Taylor and Raden focus on the systems aspects of EDM and their automation. This leads into a discussion of decision types and how they are automated. Here Taylor and Raden do well to illustrate these concepts, although the reader often encounters graphics and statements that are more than a bit dated.The book would have been greatly helped with a clear and consistent case study application of its concepts. It also would have benefited from understanding the nature of decision systems support (DSS) a discipline that has been around for more than 30 years which is only discussed in a single sentence and again from a technology perspective.This is a solid book by a professional who certainly understands the technical implications of his ideas - enterprise decision management. However, by trying to stand in both worlds it excels in neither. I would recommend this book more as a technical and implementation guide rather than as an executive business book. In that regard it has a place in IT but probably not in the Boardroom.

  • By Dave Mccomb on August 4, 2007

    I've been in the enterprise software business for a long time, and for a long time I've had several related intuitions about how requirements, rules and SOA fit together. But frankly, I never managed to get to a coherent whole about them. Many times while reading this book I kept saying "yes of course, why didn't I think of that?" There are so many excellent insights in this book.Taylor and Raden may have created a new movement with this work in Enterprise Operational Decision Management. The central theme is that organizations are known by the decisions they make, and not just the major strategic decisions, but the myriad small decisions that their thousands of employees make on a day to day basis. Up until now we had to make due with Decision Support, Knowledge Management, Business Intelligence, Data Warehouses and other off-line aids for manual decision making. In the last few years the maturation of Rules Management systems and the near universal adoption of SOA, Work Flow and BPM are making it possible to more the entire decisioning process into real time, whether human assisted or fully automated.Two other profound ideas I want to comment on are the champion/ challenger concept, and the role of hypothesis and prediction. Each alone is worth the price of the book.The champion/challenger concept says once you have a decision model in place and working you owe it to yourself to constantly challenge it by setting up a series of alternate models and running some percent of the decision flow through the challenger model and testing the outcome against the current (champion) scenario. This wasn't really viable until the advent of SOA. They make a great case for how this arrangement allows firms to continually improve their decision making.A traditional rule system runs off what the experts think the best thing to do in the face of uncertainty. But unless and until a system makes predictions about the outcome of its decisions and closes the loop with the actual results (which of course are often not known for quite some time) it will not be able to improve. This is the heart of their prediction driven decision model.The book is obviously based on a wealth of information: there must be nearly 100 case study/vignettes sprinkled throughout emphasizing the points just made.Excellent and inspiring piece of work.

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