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Conference Proceeding

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In the coming era of segment-of-one marketing, decisions about business transactions will be quite intricate, so that customer treatments can be highly individualized, reflecting customer preferences, targeted business objectives, etc. This paper describes a paradigm called “decision flows” for specifying a form of incremental decision-making that can combine a myriad of diverse business factors and be executed in near-realtime. Starting with initial input, a decision flow will iteratively gather and derive additional information until a conclusion is reached. Decision flows can be specified in a rules-based manner that generalizes so-called “business rules” but provides more structure than traditional expert systems. In many cases business managers will be able to understand and even modify decision flows.

We also introduce an execution model that supports eager and parallel execution (a.k.a. speculative execution) of decision flow tasks. This paper develops algorithms that can help minimize response time and/or workload. The algorithms detect at runtime three key properties of tasks: eligible for eager evaluation, even if the output may not be used in the final output; unneeded, i.e., the task is not needed for completing the decision flow instance; and necessary, i.e., the task is definitely needed for completing the decision flow instance.


Presented at the 2nd International Conference on Telecommunications and Electronic Commerce (ICTEC), Nashville, TN, October 6-8, 1999.