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Business Rules Extraction: Why Understanding Rules vs Logic is Important


At EvolveWare, we often get questions around the meaning of “business rules extraction” and where it fits within the application modernization journey. This usually leads us to follow up questions on what “business rules” are and why they are important. In this article, we will address those questions while incorporating examples from modernization initiatives that we’ve worked on. We’ll also introduce the Intellisys platform and the features that are built in to allow organizations to perform business rules extraction in an automated and low-risk manner.

Business rules are an organization’s unique policies

When looking at an application, business “rules” are often confused with business logic. We first encountered this confusion when working on a project for a state’s Department of Health. Business logic can be described as the parts of an application that interact with the database such as the various “if, then…” conditions. This is in contrast to application logic which helps with the execution of the application such as process logic.

When working with the state’s department of health, we performed an application assessment and automatically extracted the business logic from a sample application. When we did this, we were told that what they were really looking for were the business rules – i.e. the organizational policies that are implemented through the execution of the consolidated logic. These rules can also be thought of as an organization’s intellectual property (IP) as they are the unique policies that run the business.

Some examples of this include:

  • Medicaid
    • Business Logic: All the individual “If, then” conditions that determine Medicaid eligibility and require interacting with values in the database such as income level, pregnancy status or age qualifications
    • Business Rule: The overarching requirements or combined business logic that determine Medicaid eligibility without the execution functions i.e. based on all these “if, then” conditions, a person is eligible for Medicaid or not
  • Shipping costs when a purchase is made
    • Business Logic: All the individual “If, then” conditions that determine whether to charge for shipping and how much to charge that require interacting with values in the database such as location, amount spent, loyalty status, sale status, etc.
    • Business Rule: The overarching requirements or combined business logic that that determine the end result shipping amount for a purchase

Business rules in a legacy application may not be compatible with current strategy

 An application’s business rules must be documented and understood to make sure that they are consistent with the current policies and strategy of an organization. To understand what the business rules are, an organization must consolidate the business logic into higher level rules while also removing process logic or logic that is used in the execution of an application such as initialization statements. This process is also known as business rules extraction (BRE).

 It’s important to understand these rules for various reasons. For example, state agencies and healthcare, financial services, and insurance organizations all have to comply with changing regulations. As the regulations are updated, the applications that are affected by these regulations must also be updated. Sometimes, this is easier said than done when environments are rapidly changing and there are legacy applications in the mix. We’ve come across several examples where regulations had changed but the resulting application rule had not, resulting in incorrect payments.

Similarly, as business environments change, organizations may no longer find the logic and rules contained in their legacy applications optimal for their overall strategy. As they think about evolving their strategy to better address the current market, they should also assess the rules that are currently being implemented in order to update them accordingly. This is the second step (after initial documentation & analysis of the application) for two types of legacy application modernization efforts: a replacement of the current application with a modern off-the-shelf product, or a rewrite of the application. In order to move forward with either of these modernization initiatives, an organization must first understand the business rules in the application they are looking to transform and then decide what updates need to be made and validate the path forward.

The challenge with knowing which business rules are being implemented and their accompanying impact is that most of the people that defined those rules for legacy applications have left. The rules are written in an older programming language that is no longer supported or understood by much of today’s workforce. Most of these applications span thousands if not millions of lines of code and don’t have current documentation that would aid in understanding these rules.

Face these challenges head on using Intellisys’ automated Agile BRE capabilities

The Intellisys platform is the only end-to-end platform that automates the processes involved in application modernization, including documentation, analysis, optimization, rules extraction, and code conversion. Its Agile BRE solution provides the breadth of information, features, and intelligence required to consolidate business logic into rules and extract those rules. Moreover, it does so without requiring you to freeze code or having you lose sight of updates to the current version of applications. By using Intellisys, organizations can reduce the time spent on the extraction of business rules by at least 60% without missing out on any relevant rules

Agile BRE works by:

  • Automating meta-data extraction from source code, including the embedded business logic, dependencies, and data accesses. The platform supports applications written in 20+ languages.
  • Identifying areas of code that are likely to contain business rules as well as areas of optimization such as dead & redundant code
  • Providing features to consolidate the business logic into business rules and processes such as merging and splitting of logic
  • Transferring code updates made to the legacy application during the project into the extracted rules repository without losing sight of prior work
  • Performing multi-level cataloging of rules to differentiate the types of rules and automating their export in multiple formats for consumption by modern-day programmers and commercial or government off-the-shelf (COTS/GOTS) products

This process was used at the State of New York to curate thousands of business rules from their multi-million line legacy Integrated Eligibility (IES) system for validation and export into a modern GOTS product in just over 2 years. It has also been used at multiple insurance companies, in one case extracting rules from over 1.5 millions lines of COBOL code in under 8 months for export into the Drools business rules engine.

Ultimately, by extracting the current rules underpinning your business, the Intellisys Platform allows you to evaluate if these rules are still relevant or need to be updated. You can then determine what rules need to be carried over, deleted or rewritten as you continue with the next steps of your legacy application modernization journey.


To learn more about EvolveWare’s Agile BRE capabilities and what value they may provide your organization, click here or contact us.

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