This week during a conference call with a large potential customer I had shown them our release history. Suddenly I realized that OpenRules just passed its 14th birthday. I remember as we started in 2003 with just a few people and a strong desire to build the best Business Rules Product. And now, 14 years later, I am glad to share multiple OpenRules success stories at the world largest international corporations and government agencies. In this post I will briefly look back to better understand the factors that contributed to the commercial success we enjoy as a company today.
I’ve just looked at the latest activity statistics of www.OpenRules.com:
It speaks by itself about the constantly growing popularity of our product. What were the differentiators that made our product successful?
Professional open source certainly worked for us as a great business model allowing OpenRules, Inc. to become and stay profitable since 2006. When we started in 2003, we already were experts in the practical applications of business rules and optimization technologies. But offering OpenRules as an open source product gave us access to real-world use cases and actual customers putting us ahead of competition in understanding what is really important and what is not.
For example, instead of offering another proprietary business rules management interface (most of which were “Excel-like”) we decided to use MS Excel directly as the de-facto most powerful table editor used by the majority of business analysts anyway. Using Excel with our ingenious design of decision tables was intuitive and required almost no learning curve. Organizing rule repositories around standard file formats (XLS/XML/CSV) and utilizing other commonly used tools (file managers, standard version control systems, web containers, authorization protocols, database access, etc.) quickly brought OpenRules into the world of enterprise-level business applications.
We tried not to reproduce what other major software providers already did. Instead, we integrated our product with such tools making OpenRules a good citizen of any existing and future software infrastructure. This approach worked well for us. For example, when in 2006 Google announced their Web Spreadsheets, we immediately canceled our own web-based rule editor. Since then Google Docs gives OpenRules customers the best collaborative rule management interface.
We competed in the area where we had the strongest expertise – representation of business logic in the most powerful yet easy to manage way! From the very beginning we oriented our product to business analysts working in concert with software developers. In our rules we clearly separated business and development views using Excel outlines. Then in 2008 we introduced Rule Templates, the mechanism that played a crucial role in removing coding from decision tables. It finally gave business people real control over business logic – since then it became a normal operational mode for our customers (not just a traditional marketing pitch).
Rule Templates also allowed us to build several important interfaces on the top of our core system including:
- Rules Dialog for rules-based web questionnaires
- Rules Solver for constraint-based decision management with alternative and optimal decisions.
I believe OpenRules Templates remain the most powerful in the industry and will continue to give us a strong competitive advantage.
Our orientation to business users with decision tables as the most frequently used format predicted the major functionality that later on was specified in the DMN standard. By the time DMN was introduced in 2013 OpenRules already supported ~80% of its features offering probably the most powerful decision tables available on the market. Naturally, we provided the very first implementation of the new standard. Nowadays we are constantly improving OpenRules DMN compliance and help our customers with development of domain-specific extensions of the DMN standard.
Over these 14 years, we were fortunate enough to work with great companies and individuals – it allowed us to enrich our own product with many features originated by real-world applications. We always gave the highest priority to our technical support and good documentation. As a result, we managed to build a very good reputation as a reliable vendor – this reputation is of the utmost importance to us. Being in production for many major corporations for years and handling millions of very complex transactions per day, our product became very reliable, highly efficient and scalable with proven track records. We are proud to be known for a great technical support and a serious R&D.
At the same time, our product includes many-many various features requested by different customers. Sometimes, I think we are falling into a trap typical for many good software tools – rich functionality makes our User Manual too big and hides the core advantages of the product from new customers. So, these days we are concentrating on one major function, namely Development of Executable and Maintainable Business Decision Models.
That’s why I wrote and just published a new book “DMN in Action with OpenRules“. This book is oriented to business people who want to build their own operational decision models. The book is compact and simple enough to help them to reach this objective.
In conclusion, I want to thank our existing customers and invite people who want to build their own decision models to try our product. Start with the book that comes with a free evaluation version of OpenRules, and contact our firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any help.
Happy 14th Birthday, OpenRules!