Here we are, well into the 21st Century, and still we have large companies that are not in control of their business rules, or at least, not in control of how they’re projected to their customers.
We recently bought a new washing machine, made by a respected European manufacturer with a reputation for quality. Nevertheless, we decided to go for the extended warranty, as it was (surprisingly) a good deal. The process for obtaining the warranty was straightforward, and the warranty certificate arrived in the post shortly after we registered.
We actually received an envelope containing two separate letters.
- The first letter thanked us for buying the extended warranty, and was accompanied by the receipt. I’ll call this one the receipt letter.
- The second letter also thanked us for buying the extended warranty, and was accompanied by a certificate. I’ll call this one the certificate letter.
Two versions of the same Business Rule
Both letters told us what to show to the engineer if we ever made a claim under the warranty; unfortunately they tell different stories.
- the receipt letter tells us to present the warranty certificate and the original proof of purchase
- the certificate letter tells us to present the warranty certificate (no mention of the proof of purchase)
Remember, these letters came in the same envelope.
How could such a confusion arise?
The two letters were probably produced by different systems, each working with it’s own set of data and rules, managed via some form of integration architecture – the data on the letters was consistent, so that part worked OK. It’s possible that neither of these two systems plays any part in managing warranty claims, so there might be another system (and associated procedures) that actually implements the Make Claim on Warranty business process.
Part of the procedures that implement this business process are described in the two letters we received. Perhaps the procedure changed at some time in the past, the impact of the change was assessed, and only one of the two letters was output from that impact analysis, so only one letter was amended? Why didn’t they know about the other letter?
The appliance manufacturer needs to re-assess their metadata management capabilities. They might also need to change the way they manage their business rules and business processes, but that’s not the target of this particular blog post.
I’m not really surprised at the scenario I’ve just described, as very few organisations have solved the problems of metadata management to this extent. You can’t prevent issues like this easily; in a complex business, you would probably need to integrate two or more disparate metadata management tools, business rules management tools, business process management tools, and modelling tools.
By the way, I’m not restricting myself to ‘data about data’ when I say ‘metadata’, I’m thinking much wider than that.
Perhaps Terry Pratchett was right, and this is the Century of the Fruitbat?