Skip to Main Content
Access your saved content
Business Rules Engine
The Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) sought to lower administrative costs and make its systems more flexible and responsive to external members and business users. Historically, ERS had implemented and maintained its business rules logic and policy through traditional programming languages and database tables—an approach that resulted in business dependencies on IT resources.
ERS wanted to give business users more responsibility in managing business rules, so they looked to Accenture for help in implementing and deploying the Oracle Policy Automation (OPA) Suite. OPA lets subject matter experts centralize and manage business rules, while providing a standards-based integration with the ERS PeopleSoft Pension module, Benefit Administration module and a .NET customer-facing Web portal.
OPA has helped ERS to centralize and consistently apply business rules to multiple service channels while reducing business dependence on IT resources. Results include:
The Texas ERS administers retirement, health, insurance and other benefits for more than half a million state and higher education employees, retirees and their eligible family members. As part of a broad enterprise-wide strategy to enhance performance and accountability, ERS sought ways to make better use of technology to lower administrative costs and make its systems more flexible and responsive to external members and business users.
Among the areas it wanted to improve was business rules management. Historically, ERS had implemented and maintained its business rules logic and policy through traditional programming languages and database tables using legacy PeopleSoft PeopleCode and COBOL-based applications. This approach resulted in business dependencies on IT resources. Because legislative and departmental policies had to be maintained through hard-coded programming logic, the business users needed specialized and limited IT staff to perform extensive research to identify and troubleshoot the source of issues related to business rules. Moreover, because business rules were sometimes replicated in different systems, over time they became out of sync with each other, resulting in inconsistent and unreliable behavior.
ERS was interested in exploring opportunities to enable business users to have more responsibility in managing business rules rather than using the IT department to do so. ERS sought a solution that would:
ERS partnered with Accenture to implement and deploy the OPA suite. In undertaking this transformation, ERS became one of the first organizations to integrate OPA with PeopleSoft. OPA is an English-language rules engine that helps organizations better manage complex rules derived from business policy and legislation. OPA lets subject matter experts centralize and manage business rules, while providing a standards-based integration with the ERS PeopleSoft Pension module, Benefit Administration module and a .NET customer-facing Web portal.
In addition, ERS chose to leverage Collabnet’s distribution of SubVersion with its OPA implementation for OPA project versioning. OPA integrates at design time with most modern enterprise version control systems to allow organizations to leverage their existing investment in version control software.
The process for migrating rules from legacy code into OPA involved analyzing and harvesting business rule logic embedded in disparate legacy systems and transforming them into a set of English language rules. With the rules transformed into English, business analysts had the added convenience of maintaining existing rules and authoring new ones in OPA using standard Microsoft Word and Excel. The existing hard coded logic was then replaced with Web service calls to the OPA determinations server.
ERS and Accenture also implemented a public-facing, self-service Web portal, based on a custom .NET solution. This portal also made use of the same OPA Web services, creating a unified application of centralized business rules.
From the beginning, ERS and Accenture took a collaborative and phased approach to implementing OPA. The project team included business and IT staff from ERS to perform the bulk of the rules migration and authoring in OPA, with project management and oversight from both ERS and Accenture team members along with Accenture product experts. Accenture staff also provided ongoing mentoring of rule migration, OPA integration, OPA design, process definition and rule authoring. In addition, Accenture provided guidance on the enterprise SubVersion installation, configuration and business rule governance.
By starting with isolated functional areas, ERS had early and ongoing incremental successes while migrating business rules from legacy code. Today, the obsolete business rules that historically resided in a combination of .net code, PeopleCode, COBOL and database-driven applications are being replaced with a single authoritative set of rules maintained by business users in OPA.
The OPA implementation—one of the highest priority and most visible projects undertaken at ERS—has been of tremendous benefit to the entire organization.
From an architecture perspective, OPA has helped ERS to centralize and consistently apply business rules to multiple service channels while reducing business dependence on IT resources. Using English language and familiar Microsoft Office products has allowed business users to take increased ownership of the rules, rapidly respond to policy changes and provide more efficient and consistent customer service.
The use of Web services has helped move ERS toward its vision of a more service oriented architecture. Crucially, Web services also let ERS staff write a rule once and deploy it across systems so that business rules are applied in a consistent standardized manner throughout the enterprise.
The OPA implementation surpassed expectations in system performance and response times, with a roughly 40 percent improvement in batch processing performance and a 50-200 percent improvement for some internal and self-service response times. Additionally, through formalizing a system development lifecycle for business rules, including automated testing, the majority of defects are also uncovered earlier in the process, which has resulted in higher quality deliverables and less rework.
Skip Footer Links