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Is a 'standard model' for case management a real possibility?

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From this blog by Max Pucher, is a 'standard model' for case management a real possibility?

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  • There it is, that word: standard. Makes people all warm and fuzzy. There is comfort in a standard. All the complexity of the world will be driven away, and we will have a single view of the world that we will all agree upon. This reductionist dream does not fit with the inherent complexity of the real world.

    Is there a standard definition of a "poem" or a "novel"? Most people can clearly recognize most novels, but there are those edge cases that are hard to categorize. Most people will recognize most "jazz" for what it is, but there is no firm definition of the elements of precisely what constitutes jazz.

    The blog post you refer to came after a long discussion we had about "tasks" and "goals". I like to use, in my daily work, something I call a "task list". I write down all the things I need to get done -- pretty simple really. Only one problem: what I put on that task list are "goals" not tasks! I set a goal to finish an article for a magazine. Is it a task? Not strictly. I am not quite sure exactly how I will complete the article, but the end result is clear; I want a piece of prose of a certain length that others agree is on the required topic and well written. That is a goal, and part of my daily work is to figure out how to get there. I usually get someone to review it, but at this point in time I am not sure who I will be able to persuade to do that. I will figure that out later.

    So I really should call it a "goal list" because that is what it is. However, when writing articles for business people (who are not process wonks) the term "goal list" comes across as jargon, or else as something highly technical that is a disruption to the way they normally work.

    Max's piece talks about how important it is to keep and track goals, and I completely agree with that. One secret to ACM is the goal orientation, because it reflects the way that knowledge workers plan their work on the fly: a goal is something that still has to be planned (usually) while a task is something that has already been planned (usually). Thus Human Process Management style BPM usually has all the planning incorporated in the process models, and deals only with tasks. ACM, on the other hand, deals primarily with goals because the knowledge worker still needs to do the planning.

    I have complete faith that these terms will be worked out and a "standard model" for ACM will emerge. It will probably not come from a standards institution, just as the "novel" or "short story" did not come from academic institutions. As business users become used to ACM systems, the terms will come to take on standard meanings, and we will be able to talk about it without unwarranted ambiguity.

  • This question looks like we are searching for a model that will operate as some kind of engine for process automation for result-driven, knowledge needing and dynamically emerging type of processes.

    But is this searching for a model really necessary? I don’t think so because the flow of work is not the main focus when helping a case. Delivering the promise (result with attached goals) is.

    But to be honest. I am working for a company that is selling process automation tools under the name ‘case management’ for about 20 years now.

    During execution this leads to a ‘list’ of process steps that can be executed but might not, depending on the case. The data, specific for a case, is used to guide the process worker to do the right things.

    Steps may never happen, order of steps might change, some steps may be skipped. So the ‘flow of work’ for the case at hand emerges dynamically, based on the case information. But still you need to specify upfront the workflow vs data relationship in a model.

    It is suitable for a lot of ‘semi-structured’ processes, but to me that is not what case management is about.
    It’s more dynamic workflowmanagement. It is the dynamic idea mapped on software in a forced way.

    But, case management must not be about ‘workflow guiding’ software, in my opinion.

    It’s already in the name: Case management must be about the case; a customer with a request or a problem that cannot be handled in a straight through workflow because every case might be unique.

    So more important for the process worker than process steering is that he has all the case information available. This information is needed to base his decisions on.

    So there must be away to find back all the information about a case. When we want talking tool I even think that ECM products serve these kind of processes better than workflow based BPMS’s.

    But when the case is on the way for a while also taken actions must be seen by the process worker. So some kind of registration must also be possible. And when it is registered in a process-oriented way (I did this step, at this time) Process Mining tools might be used to find the ‘followed route for a case’.

    This is afterwards of course, but might contain do’s or don’ts for next cases with similar properties. So finally some kind of process might appear for cases with some same properties.

    But about the model question. I don’t think we need it for these kind of processes. What we need is a place to specify:

    -Promise to the case (result and goals for that)
    -All information in the context of the case
    -Taken decisions for a case
    -Taken actions for a case (and maybe actions to be taken in some kind of planning)

    Having that, we can always tell the status about cases and when all the information is registered in tools (I don't care if it is Excel) we can use mining techniques to create some kind of knowledge base.

    So Case management style processes? I think we must not try to automate these kind of processes in a workflow (model based) oriented way. I think they are served more by other kinds of tool support.

    Case Closed ;-)


  • Until there's a “standard model” for business processes, I don't imagine there's going to be one for BPM or its much-hyped cousin, case management.

  • I am the one to be cautious with the benefits of standards. They are usually to late too little. So while I participate in discussions of what pieces make up an ACM system it is mostly to further the understanding and agreement in the marketplace. And an ACM standard will suffer from the limitations as the ones for any other concept.

    The problem is that most people think that ACM is just another word for case management which is no more than a large container for stuff. ACM has little to do with case management that has been sold in the past but it does supply its functions too. It is more like a mix of BPM, ECM, CRM, and Social products but with a focus on letting the performer be the creator. The process owners agree on outcomes, goals and handovers and the performers supply the rest. This is why I talk about a language of process. To me a standard would mostly be a core ontology of ACM terms. But already there we can't find agreement.

    It is however less of a problem than it seems.

  • Two flips to this particular coin here; standard model or standard definition.

    There's not a standard definition for BPM, nor will there be one and after trying for so long to at least campaign for a standard definition it's a wasted effort.

    In terms of case, and adaptive case, I don't see the benefit of having one either. I believe there may be elements within case management that must exist for it to function (for example the goal) but not an overall model that you should adhere to. That to me puts constraints in place and therefore you can't have the dynamic/ adaptive paradigm. If ACM is a mix of BPM, ECM, CRM and Social that Max eludes to then it must at least contain elements of all but these should be fluid in how they are applied.

    Don't chase your tails trying to pin one down and market it, don't try to wait for the analyst hype, if the future of case is adaptive and collaborative then we as an industry need to follow that and keep discussing it openly and evolve it as our understanding as a collective evolves.

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