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The Importance of Business Rules

Importance of Business Rules

The Importance of Business Rules

The Importance of Business Rules
by Behnam Ataee, CIO
Dream Warrior Design Group

Regulation is much more than consideration for laws of the land. It involves fine tuning and understanding the business and communication rules behind your E-Commerce startup. These rules are both formal and informal.

For instance, in the late 1980’s, I headed a team of designers and programmers in the creation of a concise, functional and user-friendly data management system.

Our client was a major corporate entity in its field of operation and they desperately needed to upgrade their data management process. We worked on the project for over eighteen (18) months.

By the time it was finished, I felt like a proud father. The outcome was everything promised and more. Subsequently, our code sat on the shelf for the better part of three years until it was ultimately implemented.

Unfortunately, what I had failed to realize were the facts facing me squarely in the face. The Corporate Culture (Organizational Behavior – Cultural Rules as a subset of Business Rules) of the end users did not approve of or want any change. Furthermore, this industry’s legal climate required testing measures far beyond anything that may be considered reasonable in any other business arena.

Most of these issues could have been accommodated within the information design process. For example, we could have (and on hindsight should have) created a user interface that would have been identical to the previous software they were so used to using. Our attempt at enhancing the usability had backfired.

While we asked for user input, we failed to involve those with “informal power” within this large organization or allowed them to test and provide feedback at intermediate points. Rather, the managers performed this function. Additionally, we could have (albeit with great difficulty) brought in State Officials to the process of development by providing constant updates and feedback.

This, as I learned subsequently, tends to increase the time of development by a small factor but decreases the approval process significantly. Ultimately, the project earned regulatory approval and was implemented statewide. Although over fifteen years old, the software is still in use today by one of the largest insurance companies in the United States.

As you can see, understanding the Environment (Regulations/Business Rules) is of paramount importance.

To create concise Business Rules for your E-Commerce, the first step is to ensure a clear understanding of your organization and the response to technology. Analyze the work habits of your company, this will tell you what level of automation you will need for your Web site. Next is your technical understanding, which will provide you with a measure of how much work should be outsourced or training considered. Then you must consider the financial rules you live by. Is your company experiencing Cash Flow issues? If so, you will want to consider when choosing your financial alternatives (i.e. having a viable E-Commerce site so that the funds are deposited into your account directly).

Another consideration is your privacy rules. Many privacy rules reflect a set of “fair information practices” first drafted in the 1970s.

Although formulations vary, basic components are:

• Notifying the person (a.k.a. “data subject”) that data is being collected.

• Giving the data subject choices about what is collected and how it may be used.

• Limiting what is collected, how it may be used and how long it is retained to what’s needed
for the original purpose.

• Ensuring the data is accurate, which includes allowing the data subject to review the data
and make corrections.

• Providing reasonable security from unauthorized access or modifications and ability to
verify compliance through audit trails.

In order to combat SPAM (Junk Mail) on the Internet, please feel free to contact us at Dream Warrior Design Group to learn more.
When thinking of the regulation dimension of your E-Commerce, I strongly recommend that you

• Outline all important business practices particular to your sector that you wish to have implemented for customer dealings.

Think of your own organization and its strengths and weaknesses. What is necessary
within the E-Commerce system and your organization to create synergy between the
E-Commerce system and your company’s culture.

• Find out about all relevant legal issues that may affect your business practice on and off
the Internet and ensure that the programmers implement these rules within your E-Commerce system.

• Assign someone to continually keep track of the laws and regulations with regard to your industry and Internet. This person will have to be able to create effective and understandable documentation from which the programmers can modify the E-Commerce system.

• Adhere to and display the privacy rules within your Web site. You must also understand the consequences of your choices.
For example, if your Site clearly states that you will resell people’s information for profit, expect a lot less people to sign up for anything you have to offer.
Regulations (Example Company)

• Only Products that are drop-shipped by vendor are resold

• Vendors are paid weekly

• Immediate payment by customer

• All of our inventory should go through a fulfillment house

• A webmaster should be assigned to handle the site

• An accountant should be assigned to verify and certify payments to vendors

• Customer information is strictly private and for internal use

As you develop proper regulation, you must also pay attention to other dimensions of your developing E-Commerce business.
In order to do so, you must be able to define your company, your product or service, advantages and shortcomings of your offerings and most importantly your audience and target client.

There is a specific set of questions to address. Many of these questions will integrate with the answers you have already provided with regard to regulation.

Go back and look at your business, privacy and financial rules once you have answered the following set of questions:
Purpose Questionnaire:

• What are you offering?

• Who needs it? (target client)

• Who else is selling it?

• How are they selling it?

• Why your product/service and not your competitor’s?

• How would a customer feel while making a purchase?

• How would the customer feel after they have bought it?

• Who would the customer turn to after they have purchased your product?
Purpose Questionnaire (Example Company)

• We sell online pay per use videos, music, games and short animations.

• Our target audience is between the ages of 13 and 30.

• Our largest competitor is Apple Corporation (in music arena).

• The competition uses three sales models: pay per play/pay per volume/membership.

• We are much less expensive in all three areas and we provide more comprehensive content.

• Customer should be able to make the purchase with ease and without unnecessary page changes.

• We provide customers with the means to make the purchase part of their permanent collection
for a nominal fee, and the combination of two fees is still less than the competition for those
who purchase more than 30 songs.

• The customer is assisted in all stages so they can choose, find and download exactly what they seek.

• We have an outsourced customer service center which will be there to assist the consumer
with all their questions regarding download.

Now that the purpose questionnaire has been answered, let us see how the rules might change.
Regulations Modified (Example Company)

• Only Products that are drop-shipped by vendor are resold.

• Vendors are paid weekly.

• Immediate payment by customer.

• Implementation of a membership model is essential thus we will need a membership section
and discounted pricing for members.

• An In-House Customer Service Representative is necessary to handle membership issues.

• All of our inventory should go through a fulfillment house.

• A webmaster should be assigned to handle the site.

• An accountant should be assigned to verify and certify payments to vendors.

• Customer information is strictly private and for internal use.

As you can see, your purpose has a direct effect on the business rules.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments

Dream Warrior Design Group
Telephone: 818.610.3316
7131 Darby Ave Suite 203
Fax: 818.475.5144
Reseda, CA 91335 http://www.dreamwarrior.com

Copyright Dream Warrior Design Group, Inc. 1993 – 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: ArtemFinland

Guide to Purchasing a Content Management System (CMS)

content management system money

by Behnam Ataee, CIO Dream Warrior Design Group.

Every business aims to increase profit and expand its market share. The savvy business person makes sure the tools they use today can accommodate these goals for their tomorrow. When dealing with websites, one of the most basic of these tools is a Content Management System or CMS.

As with every other business decision, this purchase requires thought and a basic understanding of some fundamental facts. You must understand the various breeds and their viability. After all, there are plenty of CMS systems ranging from absolutely free to upwards of $100,000.

Even if you consider the most expensive product, CMS use is expanding and based on ROI studies is beneficial financially to the companies that use them.

CMS Breeds

First, you must consider the needs of your company. Is your company handling an informational site? Do you need to have your newsletter process automated? How often do you release PR pieces? Do you have a Calendar of Events? Does the structure of your site change on a regular basis? Do you wish to display more than content, i.e. Products? Guest Books? Forms? Server Management?

These questions and many more need to be answered before you decide on the CMS you wish to use.

All CMS’ are not created equal

There are a variety of programming languages available and there is a CMS written in every single one of those languages. Your options fall into three categories WinASP, LAMP, and High-end languages.

Some may wonder why Cold Fusion has not been mentioned among the options. Since Macromedia was purchased by Adobe, there has been a general lack of enthusiasm for further development of the platform. Most programmers have migrated out of the arena. Additionally, for the same results as you may get with ASP or PHP you would end up paying 50 to 100 percent more

. If you wish to utilize a windows based server the natural choice for programming language would be “ASP.net”.

The advantages to this method are high availability of servers and an abundance of programmers who can work in ASP. The drawbacks are first and foremost the windows environment itself and the vagaries including security issues, slow performance, and high cost of replication as your environment grows.

We recommend, for your own sake, you do not attempt any data intensive or highly sensitive processes to the WinASP solution set.

If you choose the UNIX environment, you have already guaranteed better security and performance. In the UNIX world there are two camps, the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) crowd and the High-End Language (UNIX, Apache, Java or C++) crowd.

Each solution has its appropriate place, but the ROI of the LAMP environment for small to moderately large companies is superior. Unless you are undertaking an immensely large scale project, you should consider the LAMP based solutions.

The High-End Language solution sets are more efficient for handling the very large scale environments, but the cost of development and maintenance puts them on the top of the price sheet.

Strategic Thinking

To ensure your continued happiness with your CMS choice, you have to plan out your present and future expectations. Usually, a well-written CMS will accommodate you over time.

A top notch CMS in any programming language will have the following characteristics:

• Accessible: It has to be user friendly and accessible to your least technical user.

• Modular: It has to be highly modular, so that when you need a new module (i.e. Catalog) it can be added easily and quickly.

• Extensible: It has to be able to extend beyond its original purpose with l little or no change (i.e. addition of various types of material, or various modules should not effect the original performance).

• Viable: Viability of any software is predicated by its structure. You have to look under the hood and see the Administrative side of things to determine the quality of the structure. This does not refer to the looks or placement of menus, but rather, to how well can it merge with your other solutions for today and tomorrow.

Bottom Line

So, a CMS has to pass six hurdles before it can become your application of choice. First, the Platform, then Cost of purchase and maintenance (ROI Analysis), and finally how Accessible, Modular, Extensible, and Viable it is for your purpose.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mr. T in DC