Decision Model and Notation


If we are going to implement enterprise wide decision systems we will need a logical structure to design, manage and develop such systems. The Decision Model and Notation (DMN) standard, developed under the umbrella of the OMG, provides such a framework, and it ties together a number of activities that are currently fragmented. Most importantly it unites the business process, where multiple decision points might exist, with the decision process at each of those points. The modelling of business processes is often accomplished using a Business Process Modelling (BPM) notation, but this does’t dive down into the logic involved in an actual decision. The logic and analytical models used to build a decision system are typically represented by structures such as decision trees or some other analytical model represented in PMML (Predictive Model Markup Language) – but the two worlds do not meet.


So DMN unifies the business process with the various decision systems that might be implemented. It serves the useful function of providing diagrams that can be easily understood by business users, and a framework which supports the development of decision systems in the context of business processes. It’s a unifying framework that is absolutely necessary if we are not to fall down a hole of decision system anarchy.

At the time of writing DMN is still in its early days, but several significant suppliers are working on the standard, including IBM, FICO, Oracle and TIBCO. Expect to see tools and services develop around this newly emerging standard, and a corresponding leap forward in the use of decision systems in the context of business process management (although it in no way is dependent on the use of BPM).

The latest version of this standard can be found here.