Rules Describe the Operations- Business Rules OK! – Part 2

Let’s take a look at an example of implementing business rules—a continuation of where we left off last time.


Developing Business Rules


I was once put in charge of a warehouse that held a variety of 65 000 items. The location system was so badly organised that every Christmas, 20 extra staff had to be brought in for 2 weeks before the order rush. This was for the sole purpose of memorising the order locations. That cost around $15 000 dollars annually just to prop up a lousy temporary system.


So we introduced a new location system as a solution to this problem. Here’s how we did it:


Biz Rule A: Locations were defined in logical blocks and generally separated by wider aisles. Standing at the front of the warehouse, the blocks ran from left to right (in an order of A,B,C), front to back and bottom to top for the mezzanine levels.


Biz Rule B: Number aisles; not rows of bins. Within each block was a collection of rows of bins or racks. Each aisle between the rows was numbered. This way, if the first part of the printed picking slip location said C05, staff would know to go find aisle label C05 which was the 5th aisle in Block C.


Biz Rule C: The bins on either side of the aisles were numbered the same way a street is—odd numbers on the left and even numbers on the right.


Biz Rule D: Shelves were numbered from the bottom the same way an elevator is numbered. Biz Rule E: Slots on a shelf were lettered from left to right, the same way we read.


So if the second part of the printed picking slip location said 06-4C, then staff would know to look on the right side for Bin 6, Shelf 4 and Slot C. End result?


– New staff could be introduced to the new system within 30 minutes and were immediately productive.


– Long time staff found that the logical system provided time to focus on things like counting.


– Put-away staff made fewer location errors.


Some Benefits of Written Business Rules


● They help you assert the way you want to conduct your business and achieve your goals.


● They help you to define your best operating system.


● They enable you to separate your rules from your applications logic. This way, only one change is necessary to achieve business-wide updates.


● Business wide changes to your systems can be achieved without needing IT support.


● They help you to be more agile in adapting your systems to new market demands.


● They give you the opportunity to see whether your rules are customer-focused or restrictive.


● They help you check for and eliminate conflicting rules.


● They provide you with clear guidelines for system developers.


● They are great for the induction of new staff.


How to Gather your Business Rules


The most expensive way is to hire a consultant like myself who comes in and analyses your business. So let me rather give you an alternative. Develop a framework and do it yourself. Create a simple Business Rules Database and add to it as you discover new rules.


Type of Rules within the Framework:


Definitions of Business Terms: These help us all speak a common language. “What do you mean by that?” You might want to maintain these definitions in a Glossary. “A customer is a person who pays for a product or service we offer.” What about when a couple or group dine and only one pays? Are you interested in only the paying person?


Rather try this, “A user is an individual that consumes/uses a product or service we offer.” So a customer may or may not also be a user. Defining ‘Users’ lends itself to enlarging your marketing database if you have some means of collecting their details. Certainly the non-paying users are just as capable of helping or hindering your business through their opinions. For example: a business rule of social media is that somebody doesn’t need to have paid for a product or service to pass an opinion on it.


Facts Relating terms to Each Other: “Customers consume our products” is a fact. This helps distinguish the behaviour of customers from suppliers.


Constraints: “3-toed tree sloths without shoes are not accepted as customers.” Or “Staff must wash their hands with soap after going to the toilet.”


Derivations: These are derived from other business rules. A mathematical example (Sales Tax = Bill Amount x Tax Rate)


Published business rules or regulations are also a means of fighting government corruption—particularly as it affects business. But that’s for another article.


Graeme Stevens
CEO and Co-Founder
neXtep easy


neXtep Business Builder Community Pte Ltd
Singapore ACRA Business Registration Number: 201424522Z
80 Kitchener Road #09-09/10 Singapore 208539