The kittens and the business rules..

So, for various reasons over the weekend I ended up feeding 6 felines. (Not the ones in the picture! Thanks to rodrigobasaure for the snap) 2 were mine (10 months old), 1 was next doors (17 years old, arthritic) and 3 belonged to a friend (2 young 'uns of 18 months old and a very infirm 18 year old cat who's been given The Last Rights 3 time by the vet)

Why do I tell you this (and what's it got to do with processes?) Well, in principle the process of feeding a cat is quite straightforward:

1) Locate cat food dish
2) Open cat food container
3) Dispense appropriate amount of food into dish.
4) Give to cat

This works for all cat's, regardless of age etc.

However, the problem comes when the cats have special medical needs. For example: My two are straightforward. I follow the process above. End of story.

But next doors cat has need of medication for her arthritis. It's a syringe of goo (4.5ml) that needs to be squirted on her food once per day

And the three cats that my friend has are peculiar too. The old one has completely different food than the two younger ones. It's special food to help the renal problems he has. Plus he needs lactose on it to help some other complaint. The lactose is 1/2 spoonful administered with all meals.

The two younger ones have normal food like my two. But here's the problem. The older cat doesn't like eating his food and prefers the younger cat's food. And the younger cats would rather eat the renal food with the lactose on (go figure!). So they need to be separated and watched to ensure no cross contamination.

How does that effect the process?

Well it causes issues. If we change the process to deal with the arthritis medicine, it won't work for my two (or the two younger ones of my friend), however if we add a decision to the process to deal with the discrepancy, we then need to complicate the process through the addition of a separate process for 'food with medicine' vs 'food without medicine'. This works (and it works very well) but it wouldn't deal with the need to separate the cat food between the older and younger cats.

I can't help feeling that there should be a different way of looking at this.

This is where decision systems and business rules come in. This is also where the proceduralisation of a written process takes over.

Let me explain.

What happens in a particular sequence of events is the process. The three items I listed at the top of this post, for example. How that actually gets implemented is the procedure.

In the case of the process for feeding the cats I would modify it to look something like this:

1) Locate cat food dish
2) Open cat food container
3) Dispense appropriate amount of food into dish (as per business rules).
4) Add medicine (as per business rules)
5) Give to cat (as per business rules)

When the detail behind this is understood for each occurrence of the process then we get a procedure. This can be governed by 'business rules' as well. In essence we end up with three procedures related to the same process
  • one for feeding my cats (business rule says 'no medicine')
  • one for feeding next doors cat (business rule says 'Arthritis medicine, 4.5ml once per day)
  • one for feeding the three cats (business rule 1 says 'Renal food for old cat', business rule 2 says 'Lactose on renal food', business rule 3 says 'Feed old cat and young cats separately to ensure appropriate food is eaten'
So it appears that a fairly simple process can - with the addition of appropriate business rules to aid decision making - be turned into a set of more comprehensive procedures.

Where could this apply to your business?

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