What is decision modeling?

Decision modeling: what is it, and why does your business need it? by Jolien De Landsheer


What is decision modeling?

Not only processes are important for businesses: so are decisions. In most organizations, the business processes are modeled out, yet the business decisions aren’t. Why would we only care about (or model) the processes, and lose sight of the decision? The operational decisions of a business are not only frequently and rapidly taken, they have a measurable impact on the business as well.

The value of a business decision lowers as the action time prolongs. As you’re going through the stages of making a decision and taking action, the business value grows smaller. To get the most value out of a decision, we thus need to take it quickly yet stay consistent and complete. We can do this through the use of decision modeling.

First, you need to separate your decision rules from your processes. These rules can then be put into a table (decision table) which can be used to model decisions. These tables ensure consistency, completeness and correctness in your decision making.

Of course, it’s important to know whether a specific decision is a good candidate for decision modeling. A decision will be a good candidate if taking the wrong one will hurt your organization. This can happen in multiple ways: it may cost you substantial amounts of money, it could damage the reputation of your company, or even make you lose your accreditation. If the decision can have the impacts mentioned, you need to govern the logic behind it. You can’t afford not to, as that will inevitably lead to a wrong decision. Yet most organizations don’t.

Now you know a bit more about decision modeling. But what exactly is the Decision Model and Notation (DMN) Standard? The standard is a method of forming decision tables to model decisions. It models the logic of the decision; a decision which can be used in multiple processes or to answer a various amount of questions.

Why does your business need it?

To explain to you how important decision modeling is, or should be, to a business, we will use the example of a homemade lasagna.

How does a company usually cope with the creation of decision logic and rules? Let’s compare it to making fresh lasagna. First, you gather all the ingredients you need to make the pasta. Then we knead, mold and cut the pasta into ready-to-use lasagna sheets. These sheets are the parts of your business logic. It’s ready to use! When we try and explain our ideas for fresh lasagna to the IT department however, they take our fresh lasagna sheets and turn them into spaghetti -which in turn, is unrecognizable by the business itself.

How can we solve this? By letting only the business itself touch the logic.They are the only ones who need to govern the logic behind the decisions, and such should be the only ones to make changes to it. Instead of handing our lasagna sheets to the IT department, we will layer them ourselves.

There are plenty of benefits:

  • Development costs will decrease
  • Automated logic isn’t a black box to the business anymore
  • The business can adapt the logic without needing to involve IT, making it far more flexible and adaptable