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Is the future for both BPM and case management being combined into a single solution?

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Is the future for both BPM and case management being packaged together in a single solution?

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  • A) In many instances, this is the present, so no need to wait for the future.

    B) Case management is also just as easily lumped under the ECM umbrella.

    C) By the theory of transitivity, therefore, so, often, is BPM.

    To me, an application-specific variation on a theme. Highly effective when properly done, but no biggie, and certainly not a "someday" proposition.

  • Case management is a crucial aspect of BPM. First, for exception handling. When the normal flow of process instances can be aborted and people can decide how to deal with it on the fly, that simplifies the process modeling significantly. It means that process modelers can skip modeling all the rare exception paths. And secondly, more and more of the work that people do becomes knowledge work. The fixed process can define the fixed high level milestones and phases, but allow for the details to be worked out by capable business professionals without a predefined flow. At the far end, in many situations, cases even makes sense without a process flow.

  • Well, if you're a vendor with just a Case Management product, No.
    If you're a vendor with both, Yes.
    In reality, Case Management forms a wide spectrum, from wholly knowledge-work to predominantly routine work. Vendors with only a Case Management product can probably do 10% of this spectrum brilliantly but the other 90% is a struggle.... square pegs comes to mind.
    The vast majority of solutions require both BPM & Case Management, tightly integrated together.

  • I second Steve's comment. Both are processes of a type, with more or less constraints.

  • Here's the thing. Time and again I see Case Management solutions presented with heavy process design elements. Now to me all this talk about unstructured and ad-hoc work handling is anything but in these instances and just marketing hype.

    Mark says "Case Management forms a wide spectrum, from wholly knowledge-work to predominantly routine work. Vendors with only a Case Management product can probably do 10% of this spectrum brilliantly but the other 90% is a struggle." - Not true. A 'real' Case Management solution ought to handle everything, and in the above instance stated there are those that obviously can handle the bog standard stuff.

    Boiled down to its most basic levels; BPMS handles linear processing and workflow, Case handles more complex variants.

    However, spanner: Case and Task Management are again different variants. Knowledge Work has both elements of these but you wouldn't use a Case solution to handle tasks; sledgehammer and nut.

    What's more, there are newer companies tackling this without the preconceptions and industry legacy attached to case and knowledge work. They may not have sophisticated rules engines but then they are approaching work in a different (and perhaps less inherently complex) way.

    Tom says Case is a crucial aspect to BPM. Case supporters say the opposite and that they are their own leading man, not a supporting act.

    Who is right ? Who really cares ?

    It's about handling work through the right methods and solution. And if it means some have to learn to work together then just get on with it.

    The future of process has always been in using the most pragmatic solution for every problem.

    • "Not true. A 'real' Case Management solution ought to handle everything, and in the above instance stated there are those that obviously can handle the bog standard stuff."

      Of course, the case management solution often handles everything by handling nothing. This is actually a good trick in BPMN as well - you get to something that doesn't make sense to model in detail, and you just abstract it as an activity where "magic happens" -

      "Boiled down to its most basic levels; BPMS handles linear processing and workflow, Case handles more complex variants."

      Its these kind of generalizations that get us in trouble :) What case is doing isn't more complex from a software implementation point of view.

      I tend to agree with David Chassels that these distinctions are blurring because there isn't sufficient technical differentiation.

  • Theo... you're right, a "real" Case Management solution ought to handle everything... maybe it does, but possibly in a non-optimal manner.
    BPMN, love it or hate it, at least it's an agreed upon standard, has to be a better way to model routine work within a case above some case management cludge.

  • For some reason the following comes to mind...
    - You've got your peanut butter in my chocolate.
    - You've got your chocolate in my peanut butter.

    BPM vendor with case management, case management vendor with BPM or either stand alone are all viable options, depends on what you want and need. Looks like I agree with Theo on this one-- what is the pragmatic solution

    I would add however, that the vast majority of complex BPMS projects I have been involved with over
    the last 10 years required case management capabilities. Of course this is likely due to the fact that I spent many of those years working for a Human Centric BPM vendor.

  • I'm with Theo on this one. I've seen straight through workflow tools used for 'case management style, executor driven processes. Employees went from annoyed to mad to burn out.

    I've seen ACM systems used for processes that need to deliver the same result for year after year: customer went from annoyed to mad to competitor.

    And in the end it's not about the question what tool do we need. It's about 'what kind of steering is needed to make this process perform'

    Does it have to be strictly managed, so that every step is checked or is it more result/goal driven where the executor is in the lead? No tool needed for this decision.

    Every process is unique in it's needed characteristics. Please treat 'm that way.

    Processes have a heart too.....sniff

  • I'm not sure that all the hair-pulling over BPM and Case Management is worthwhile. I frankly think there are other overlaps, such as BPM and CRM, that make at least as much sense.

    The invisible hand will nudge the markets in the direction they ought to go (by which of course I mean that Microsoft will decide for all of us). In the meantime, if we as vendors stay focused on solving problems for our customers, rather than on the names we assign those solutions, everything will work out for the best.

  • BPM supporting technologies are now better at delivering simplicity to handle complexity and breaking the traditional silo barriers of the variuos tags CRM ACM ECM even HRM. In truth any application that supports people as users or customers will blurr traditional thinking. If such operational applications are not supporting the BPM priciples it will be a poor investment. So the answer is.....?

  • I think that both have, at least, one common problem - they work against their own goals.

    Because of that, I developed a methodology unifier called Purpose Case Management (http://www.infoq.com/articles/purpose-case-management) - PCM.

    Case management cannot be a part of BPM as well as BPM cannot be a part of Adaptive Case Management. The essential difference between them is a knowledge worker in Case Management model who makes decisions about next step of work having no predefined rules. So, both management methods can work in ensemble but not in inclusive manner.

    The PCM defines criteria and rules for switching between BPM and ACM. The result is an work optimised for the preliminary set overall business goal and objective. This also helps to identify business processes that work for their own sake and have deviated from the corporate business objectives.

    • Michael, your statement - 'Case management cannot be a part of BPM as well as BPM cannot be a part of Adaptive Case Management.' - is simply wrong. Even if BPM means rigid flows, such processes can be linked into a case to fulfill one of the defined goals. I have defined ACM to be goal-oriented in 2009.


      BPM flows can be part of a case and still be modified by the perfomer at runtime given the authority. It does however open the question if in this situation the process will still complete correctly. For this the process must either also be goal-oriented or contain business rules to ensure that certain minimum criteria are fulfilled or certain actions are prohibited.

      The above functionality to support BPM(N)-flows in CM is part of my ACM definition and functionally available in the Papyrus Platform. So we are not having a theoretical discussion, because I can prove that what I am proposing works.

  • Sticking to the question (for a change!) the simple answer is yes. I agree with those who suggest that vendors in one camp or the other may suggest either no, or argue that their product can do both. I also agree with Theo that sometimes we forget that the problem in hand requires a simple task management solution.

    I suggest that the eventual answer will depend on the development roadmaps of vendors, those with resources will recognise that they need to offer support for all three scenarios and that their clients want to be able to address properly all three, but will be unwilling to pay for multiple solutions. The key will be to do more than simply keep bolting on extras and instead consider re-architecting their products to ensure that right from the start it supports the multiple types of use-case.

    I can think of at least two vendors who are moving ahead very aggressively to develop such a product set.

  • Neither orthodox Case Management with added process flows nor orthodox BPM with added case capability will be the future solution to combine the benefits of both.

    The simple reason is that BPM requires a methodology to work and CM does not enable users to create reusable work descriptions that will support the 20% of structured BPM work.

    The key to it all lies in the term 'ADAPTIVE'. You are not surprised, or are you? But what does it really mean? It is not dynamic-BPM, social-BPM, production-CM, purpose-CM (another name for goals?), IBO or iBPMS - and yet it does most of what these terms encompass.

    'Adaptive' means to evolve for permanent change from within. There is no external methodology needed because it is embedded. The ACMS enables users to drive change and retain gained knowledge (new task sequences (processes), new rules, task types, content types and user interactions) as templates for later reuse.

    To guide users when they are not given rigid sequences for knowledge work the concept of goal-orientation is needed. Goals are defined and verified explicitly as part of the work definition rather than just measured outside statistically. That can be expanded to include business targets and strategic objectives as explicitly defined elements of process management. Goals can also be seen as milestones but they are more because they contain a rule that specifies the goal achievement. A milestone just groups work towards junction or decision points.

    Goals may be achieved through rigid processes or case-based knowledge work and work descriptions can become more rigid or more dynamic over time without the need to change toolset (from CM to BPM or vice versa). Goals are the linkage between the various execution styles.

    ACM also enables Social communication to be goal-oriented and to become part of the work interactions. ACM supports the use of business rules as guardrails or constraints. ACM is in principle a high-end task management solution with the benefit that lists of task do not hang in mid-air but are connected to business targets or process goals. ACM is also a high-end project management environment as the tasks support the time management functionality.

    We are not moving agressively to develop such a product set but the ISIS Papyrus Platform - http://www.isis-papyrus.com - supports the above decribed form of ACM since 2009. What we have been working since is a flexible user interaction and user interface to meet the needs of many different industries and verticals.

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