IBM Operational Decision Manager Review

Enables business users to manage the business logic used in decisions such as fraud detection, marketing, and regulation compliance

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is being able to expose business logic to non-technical users. This logic is traditionally hidden within code. ODM exposes the logic out to the business users for them to be able to manage it over time without IT involvement.

I work with many customers across industries such as healthcare, insurance, finance, manufacturing and others.  In every industry there are business decisions that involve complex logic.  My customers are enabled to have their business teams manage this logic and to change their business rules on demand without IT involvement.  

How has it helped my organization?

As an implementer of IBM Operational Decision Manager, I have helped many customers improve their organization by leveraging ODM.

Operational Decision Management is a decision management solution. By the nature of it, it is helping our customer manage decisions.

For my clients, ODM gives them the flexibility to modify their decisions without the three-month or the six-month IT cycle.  The reality is that business decisions need to change at a much faster pace than what IT teams have been able to deliver.  By enabling the business users (business owners) the ability to manage these rules, we achieve two primary things:

  1. Business policy can change much faster to accommodate market changes, regulation changes, competition, fraud, or what ever other conditions drive the change.
  2. Provides IT departments with agility.  By offloading the maintenance of this business logic from IT, they are now available to work on providing new capabilities to the business.

For clients that have embraced ODM in this model, it has been a win-win to both the business and IT teams.

What is most valuable?

First and foremost for features, what you get out-of-the box is the most valuable. There are other solutions out there on the market, and by far, ODM is the most complete. It gives you that out-of-the-box capability, is enterprise scale, and has a lot of the internal workings to handle the complex use cases that we find out there for making business decisions.

Implementing regulations and business policies: There is a lot of business logic there. That is exactly what the solution will target.

What needs improvement?

There is some promise of how decisions could take advantage of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). That has been slow to develop. It is still not clear where the market will take it, but that is something that I am looking forward to down the road.  Today we augment some ODM decisions with AI and with analytics, but I expect that in the next several years we will see much more growth in this area.

ODM has recently released support for Decision Modeling and Notation (DMN) models that can be authored and executed right within the product.  This too is an area that is in its early stages and I expect will mature quickly to an enterprise level.

For how long have I used the solution?

13 years

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

ODM originally comes from the ILOG company. This product has been around for 35 years. It is the most robust, mature rule engine on the market. It is very stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is best on the market!

How are customer service and technical support?

I personally don't use the technical support often. Our team has been working with ODM for a long time so we don't typically leverage IBM technical support.

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

As a consultant, I have seen customers using many different solutions.  There are only a few products out there on the market that actually allow business users to manage business rules.  Most of the other products that compete with ODM are too IT-centric.  By far, our most successful customers use ODM for managing business logic.

Customers switch to ODM for two primary reasons.  They want their business users to own the business rules and/or they need super-fast performance. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup has gotten much easier. IBM now offers containers that you can spin up very quickly. They also offer ODM as a SaaS offering, so you can just subscribe to the service, then it's up and running.

What was our ROI?

I have been working in this automation project space for a long time. We have a client who had a three-month ROI on this tool, just in additional sales, from sort of "the next best action" of what product that they should offer to their clients. ROI can be very quick.

It reduces operating costs because you are taking some of this work out of the high cost IT people, freeing them up to work on new initiatives and getting them out of maintenance mode. Now, the business people are the ones making business decisions on what needs to change. They are hands on making these changes.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

IBM has offered ODM on Cloud for over three years now.  They have a really attractive pricing model that allows our customers to get started very quickly without the need to worry about hardware provisioning and software installation.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Out-of-the-box, you get more capabilities with ODM than any other rule product out there.

ODM is a proven solution. There is a lot of talk about Decision Model and Notation (DMN), making sort of this DMN flow chart format for making complex decisions. I would caution you that DMNs is still very young. My decision to make recommendations to clients around ODM is based on knowing the solution will work for our customers. Some of these other newer products out there are very immature. I always look at scalability, maintainability and the capability to handle real complex decisions.  When looking at other solutions, I always ask myself:  "Do I trust this product to make my most critical business decisions?"

What other advice do I have?

It is enterprise scale and provides amazing performance. 

In a process or case, there is decision logic. Without this tool, the business logic oftentimes gets coded into those tools, and now, it's no longer accessible to the business. While it compliments business process management and case management, managing business logic is separate and abstracted away from those processes. However, the tool is definitely used in conjunction with them.

Getting started with ODM can be a bit difficult without a little expertise. Most of our rules team have been working with it for a long time. In the end, it's well worth the investment to learn it, because it is the most capable solution. For nontechnical users, it's very easy to use. It is really the technical side of things to get it set up where the investment starts upfront and the usability ends up being the best experience in the end.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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