When we think about business rules we typically focus on logic. After all, business rules are about doing things, and many people see them as a way to eventually supplant hand-crafted program code. Yet the vast majority of enterprises use their IT infrastructure to process data held in databases. If the business rules movement is to make a real impact, it is going to have to look beyond the realm of pure logic and deal effectively with the interaction between logic and data. This could be tough to do. There are already business rules tools and techniques that address this area, but no matter how good they become there is one fundamental issue that may potentially limit business rules approaches: poor database design.

For many years the principles of good database design have been well understood. Getting databases into third normal form, for instance, is a goal for practically every data modeler. Achieving good database design is a different matter. First, data analysis can be difficult, and a true understanding of a business subject area may only come after a database goes live. The result may be changes to the design that include short-cuts that trade off good design against keeping an application up and running. Database designs can also get bent out of shape when programmers apply pressure to change a good logical design to something that is easier to for them to deal with. Every data modeler I have spoken with has had battles of this kind with programmers. Programmers often invoke the specter of poor performance to support their views, although their real reasons may be a little more obscure. In any event, the rush to implement an application means that "do it quick" usually beats "do it right." The result is that most database designs are denormalized with such things as repeating groups in database tables, multiple redundant implementations of the same database column, columns that contain more than one piece of information, relationships that exist for some records in a table but are meaningless for other records and so on.

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