Carsten Ziegler started off re-iterating the same benefits of business rules that came up when the SAP Netweaver Business Rules overview. He used an insurance policy application and pricing scenario as an illustration. The rules for this scenario are organized into a catalog that contains various rulesets, either if..then rules or a decision table, just like Netweaver. Configuration options allow some of the functionality to be deactivated for different users.The catalog contains function definitions to access the rules, expression builder and so on. Some “where used” information is available as is simulation. The simulation allows you to test a function and see exactly how it would execute for a specific set of values and a proposed rule change. It looked pretty robust in a quick demo.
PwC issues a technology forecast in 2008 talking about business rules as a parallel aspect of an intelligent platform containing business intelligence, business process and business rules. The quality, they said, of the rules engine used in a process platform makes a huge difference to overall process quality.
BRFplus allows business users to find the rules that matter to their business, explore and understand the rules, change and simulate/test them and ultimately manage the rules. BRFplus is designed, he said, to bring business and IT people together. BRFplus has the usual set of components – a rule repository or catalog, an engine and an editing environment. The rule composition/editing environment is browser based and supports more visualizations than the Netweaver environment (decision trees for instance are added). Execution logs and change management are also included. The engine generates code for execution and has an API convenient for ABAP as well as an ability to deploy as a web service. The decision table metaphor is pretty standard. All the usual features for managing the rules, condition columns and actions as well as some tools to handle completeness and consistency. The repository can use the ABAP Server for change and access control for instance and supports versioning (including time travel – executing the rules for a particular moment in time). The rules can be run (in the ABAP server) on a single, central instance or distributed to instances for local execution.
Invoking BRFplus is a simple function call from ABAP – 6 lines of code invoke the function and pass the context in. Multiple rulesets can execute in a function and then return a result. Rulesets can handle intermediate variables (to enrich data passed to them), have all the usual object management features like documentation and change tracking. Rules within the ruleset can trigger side effects like sending email or calling ABAP (though personally I prefer rules not to do this). The actions can also be extended by hooking up a function or building a new expression – the user sees these just like all other BRFplus actions. The backend can also be extended, overriding default behavior for things like authorization and notifications.
BRFplus is already being used in many SAP applications from CRM (loyalty, territory, real-time offers), Business ByDesign (many), Transportation (freight costs for instance), Government (benefits, entitlement) and others like tax and revenue management and the advanced metering infrastructure (rule based event management). It was encouraging to see the number of these, clearly SAP has at least started done the path of using rules to manage the logic in the business suite.
BRFplus has replaced everything from table customization to code exits, improving maintainability and bringing in business users to collaborate. In addition SAP tools like BRF, derivation tool, VSR, FoBu and more are being replaced with consistent use of BRFplus. This focus on having a single, rules-based tool for managing logic and customization is great.
BRFplus is not done – there is still work to do. The second enhancement release for Netweaver 7.0 is in ramp up now and is being used in 70 or more use cases in the suite. This will release in 2010 for general adoption. Migration and some competitive features are still to come. Sharing of rules between BRFplus and Netweaver BRM and a shared repository is still to come, though the tools can call each other already.
BRFplus users are changing the way business and IT collaborate, see a rapid time to value and find the management of BRFplus to be very seamless with the rest of their ABAP environment.