IBM Operational Decision Manager Review

Business can change things on the fly without involving IT, but merging should be much simpler

What is our primary use case?

Our use case is that our business side has to make rules to take care of all the files that we process. Honestly, we do the coding side, I'm the developer on the site, and then the rule authors are the ones who create all the rules.

We have a lot of files that we process throughout the day. We're talking about 32,000 records per second, and it has been holding up really well. We have certain projects within ODM that are gigantic. They can get slowed down sometimes, but we're the only ones - I've looked around - we're the only ones that use that much; it can get slow editing. But when it comes to actually processing it in our production environment, we process things really quickly.

How has it helped my organization?

There are absolutely benefits to managing business rules with IBM ODM instead of hard coding them into our applications. They can change things on the fly and they don't have to deal with us in IT. If there's something wrong, obviously we'll come in and we'll help. But, on a day-to-day basis, after we've already implemented everything we need to, they can make changes on the fly. It's really enhanced our close dates, they have shrunk, because if something happens and they need to change up the rules, they don't have to mess around with us.

It used to take about 30 days to close at the end of the month, but now I think it's around six or seven days. Everything goes pretty smoothly after that, so that's been really beneficial.

In terms of the effects of allowing business users to update business rules instead of IT, no one is going to understand business better than business people. I've learned that at Nationwide very quickly. And no one is going to understand IT better than developers. So we keep our side of the fence, we keep it nice and pretty, and they keep their side of the fence nice and pretty. The fact is, we need each other. I need business, because how is IT going to make money without them? And how is business going to make good money without using IT efficiently? And that's ODM.

We do have a governance model, but it's a little bit difficult for me to talk about whether ODM has influenced time spent on compliance and reporting, because I don't have to deal with that.

As for Decision Server Insights, we don't currently have it.

What is most valuable?

The fact that I don't have to deal with business rules, and then our business partners deal with it. I'm a developer, so I don't have to deal with that kind of stuff. I just make the code, then our business people take care of the business side. It's a great split.

What needs improvement?

Merging. If merging could be just like SVN, that would help. It should be a lot simpler. That's the only thing I don't like about ODM, merging from our local computer up to the Decision Server. I feel like it could be a lot easier.

Also, extracting specific rules. We've had to do a lot of custom work on that. The testing, we've played a little bit with it, but we have our own testing methods. If it could be as simple as we have for our custom work, that would be great.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I think it's stable, but if they could beef it up a little bit for bigger businesses, that'd be great, because we have so much in there. We have products that we have to split up because they are too big for it to handle sometimes. But that's just in development, within ODM. Again, processing has been fine, but I wish things were a little bit beefier.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't really had to worry about increasing the scalability on it. When our infrastructure was set up, it was set up to add on. So if we truly wanted to scale up our infrastructure, we could just plug in servers, push it out, add another Rule Execution Server, XU, and apply it to it.

How are customer service and technical support?

Every time we implement an upgrade, we do have help from IBM with setting up the PMRs. We work with some of the ODM architects when we do it. It's been really nice, because they have been getting work done. They've been getting fixes back based on things that we've noticed, so that's been really great.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

At the time, we were trying to use an IBM solution for testing, but it wasn't as easy as it could have been. Really, our rule authors, as we call them, we needed them to be able to just get them out on the fly. Set up a project and make it work just like we would our actual application, and then have it run those rules. That's how we needed it to be.

My top criteria for selecting a vendor start with, do people like it? There's got to be some reviews on these vendors, and there has to be some kind of reliability with them. And with the software they're bringing out, how is their testing going with hit? Do you know what their testing methods are? That's one of my favorite things to say. They say, "Oh yeah, we tried this out. Let us show you it working." But I don't want to see it in some perfect scenario. When they say, "Let us let you use it for a bit," I love that. I like getting my hands on things.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

My shortlist was Microsoft. There are so many bugs. It's a little bit annoying. They've gotten a lot better, but I am always a little wary about using certain application suites with them. 

What other advice do I have?

At this point, I would rate this solution a seven out of 10, because I see room for improvement. 

Regarding advice, it's great if you're going big. Just be careful about the merging.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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