Thursday, May 27, 2004

NAnt for BizTalk 2004

Continuous build and testing are essentail. Scott Colestock has a good article how NAnt (with extensions) can be used to handle the stop, unenlist, undeploy, redeploy, enlist, start, bounce BizTalk routine. Follow his article for downloading the extension and setting up the environment.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Power to the Business Expert

With BizTalk 2004, Microsoft has entered the market of Rule Based solutions. For a first release I am quite impressed. Although the rule expressiveness is not on the level as the current established rule based providers, BizTalk 2004 has much more features than just expressing rules.

The data orchestration, security, single-sign-on etc is where the established rule based providers have been struggling with, and BizTalk 2004 has this all nicely integrated.

What kind of surprised me is that the Business Rule Composer (a tool that ships with BizTalk 2004) is still way to technical for the average Business Expert. And I really wonder why the Business Expert should make the mapping of the business vocabulary to the existing data structure.

The business expert definitely need a vocabulary, and he is the one who should create and maintain these terms and descriptions. But the mapping to a Database, XML document, or C# class implementation, is really for the IT person.

This is not the "what-is-first-chicken-egg-question". Whatever is available in the current datastream (database, xml-documents), should not influence the business logic (or policies how Microsoft refers to it). If the Business Experts want to express that e.g.
Hummer-SUV's are a much higher risk than regular SUV's for approving a car insurance, than it's not relevant if the data is currently already stored in a database, xml-document, or is not available yet. The Business Expert should be able to define the rules, and test the rules.

Also it could be that existing database structures are moved into XML documents, or are only made available through secure webservices. No matter what the IT-strategy is, the Business Rules should stay independent of the IT-strategy.

What I would like to see is that the Business Rules Composer has different user level entries.

  • One for the business expert: Purely defining it's logic, and be able to test this.

  • One for IT people (or Knowledge Engineers) who will map the used Business Terms to the appropriate datamodel, or generate functional requirements from the Business Users expressed needs on Terms what can not be mapped directly to an underlying data structure.



If I'm not mistaken the BizTalk API's are quite open, and this Blog will see how we can use the API's to further enhance BizTalk 2004 rule capturing environement.