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Editor’s Note: Document-centric BPM, the original heart of BPM, is still beating. But as Alan Earls describes in Part I of this series, that beat may increasingly be marked by a different drummer: case management. In Part II, Earls explains how learning about case management can help make knowledge-centric work more efficient and systematic.

Some application categories are short-lived. Capabilities change, business conditions morph and buzzwords fade away. But in the instance of what’s currently called (at least by some) document-centric BPM, there’s a remarkable degree of consistency between the old and the new.

According to Sandy Kemsley, an independent BPM consultant based in Toronto, its roots go back some 30 years.

In the early 1980s, new document-imaging and workflow approaches were emerging. "BPM was always part of document management, but then it started to become a separate discipline in the late 1990s," Kemsley says.

Big analyst firms came in with new theories and terminology proliferated. Now there was human-centric BPM, integration-centric BPM and, of course, document-centric BPM.

Where does that leave decision-makers who are considering a document-centric solution--or living with one they already own? Kemsley says that despite being in a somewhat "muddled" state, document-centric functionality is a well-established winner. When it comes to systems that handle things like transactional documents, the value is clear: the ROI comes from reduced need for data re-entry and reduced head count. "That has been the case for the past 30 years and nothing has changed that," she says.

What has changed is the emergence of additional flavors of BPM, especially case-management-centric BPM (sometimes known as dynamic BPM), which offers potential efficiencies for workers handling complex semi-structured or unstructured processes.

"A current challenge is to know your problem and then figure out how to map requirements into structured or unstructured workflow—and if it falls in between, you may need to do both," says Kemsley. For example, she notes, an insurance claim may start off very structured and then quickly get into unstructured case management territory, where processes and solutions have to be invented or applied uniquely. It is still the same "case," but having the right tools makes for better management.


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