A business rule management system is a type of business software that can help eliminate the need for a large information technology (IT) department within an organization. It contains built-in methodologies for setting, defining, and changing business rules within the organization, making it a customizable program allowing organizations to define their own "business rules." Business rules are simply the standards by which an organization does business, such as the company's policies and requirements for operation. In addition to this, a business rule management system contains a fully functional interface for company operations; in other words, it is a completely encapsulated software solution for a company.
To understand the difference between a business rule management system and an ordinary business program, imagine a typical business program which allows salesmen to input orders, pull up customer data files, and so forth. A business management system would contain all of these basic features, in addition to containing a meta-interface that allows the organization to change company's "rules" on the fly. For example, if the organization had a hard-set rule that a customer can order no more than 1,000 items at a time, this would be built directly into an ordinary piece of business software, making it impossible for employees to process sales through the system for more than 1,000 items. In business rule software, the software would contain a feature allowing an authorized user to change that — and any other — rule(s) on the fly, allowing the software to continually evolve with the organization.
The advantage to using a business rule management system comes from its encapsulated interface, removing the IT department as the middleman standing between policy changes at an executive level and alterations in the actual business software. With rule management software, the executives can both decide upon the rule changes and alter them in the system as well, providing a higher level of efficiency within the organization.
One major disadvantage to using a business rule management system is cost. Naturally, since the software is more complex than typical business software, it will cost more to develop, upgrade, and operate. The additional operation cost often comes via hardware for the computers, as the system requirements for more complex software are naturally steeper than simpler programs. Although, for organizations that can afford these up-front and working costs, rule management software provides a streamlined approach that, in time, can end up saving a company money.