History Of The IDIOM Decision Manager

IDIOM - The beginning

The article (see download link below), which is re-published with permission from CIO Magazine, features Phil Bowden describing the background to the development of the original IDIOM Decision Manager version 1. At the time Phil was the IT Strategy and Planning Manager for NZ's largest insurance company, NZI Insurance, and as a result of Phil's insight, NZI became IDIOM's angel customer. IDIOM was formed in April 2001, and this first project went live in December 2001. The system is still operational today, underwriting a substantial proportion of NZI's domestic business.

This initial Decision Manager version focused on development of the decisioning executable (now referred to as a 'decision engine') and the configuration which drove it. It resulted in a pragmatic and robust run-time architecture that has stood the test of time and is still very much at the heart of today's IDIOM decision engines. This contrasts with the ability to design, test, and deploy the configurations, which has seen substantial change over the years from a manually constructed XML document in version 1, to a text based UI in version 2, and on to the sophisticated decision model palettes we see today. The configuration document is still a key input to the decision engine generation process, but now it is simply a manifestation of the more sophisticated 'decision model' concept. A decision model is a model of decision making logic that is used to drive systems behavior; today's decision models are a direct descendent of the version 1 configuration document.

After NZI went live, work started on version 2 of the IDIOM Decision Manager. This version provided a basic text based UI that managed the construction of the configuration document. This version laid the conceptual foundation for subsequent decision model interfaces, and included the mind-map style branching tree structures. While the v2 version did allow users to input a 'decision model' more or less as we know them today, a recent IDIOM user would not recognise them as such.

In 2003 work started on the fully graphical user interface that is the heart of the current IDIOM Decision and Formula palettes, the visual form of which IDIOM users would now recognise as a 'decision model'. These two graphical tools are the core of IDIOM's ability to build and test large scale decision models easily and quickly. IDIOM now generates decision models that scale to millions of lines of code for some customers - one example that demonstrates this reach and scale of decision models is billing for the 47 hospitals and 121 outpatients clinics of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.

The Decision and Formula palettes have proved to be attractive and highly effective modeling tools, and have been consistently popular with our customers. On their release, the CEO of Powerhealth Solutions (the authors of the Hong Kong billing models above) described using these palettes as 'more fun than playing golf'; and a consultant with one of IDIOM's partners described them as 'a GUI your grandmother could use'. IDIOM v.3 was released to General Availability in March 2004.

The version 3 series of the IDIOM Decision Manager was enhanced over the next 4 years (stopping at v.3.1.8), at which time the IDIOM Decision Manager was substantially re-written to take full advantage of the current generation dotNET framework. At this time, further enterprise features were added and the role of the IDIOM Decision Server enhanced. The runtime architecture has been stable since the earliest releases, and has been progressively updated in both its C# and Java versions to improve performance and support the new model features that have been progressively added to the Decision Manager. As of January 2013, the IDIOM Decision Manager is currently at v.4.0.8 with an important new release under development for release 2nd qtr.

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