Adaptive Case Management

The Thought Leader Summit of the WFMC at the Tibco offices in Maidenhead was quite interesting. There were 20 attendants. I was very positively surprised to hear that most see the need for a new kind of process or case management.

The day was spent with the following discussions:

  • Is there a need for new concept that enables adaptive processes?
  • Which different set of benefits does it deliver to the business?
  • How can it be distinguished from BPM and Case Management (CM)?
  • Is that difference so substantial that it is not just an extension of either?
  • Is BPM for clerks and case management for ‘knowledge workers’?
  • What would one call such a concept (and with it the solutions)?
  • How would such a concept be received in the marketplace?

The presentations of Cordys and Global360 made it clear that the business perspective is certainly different to BPM. Global360 also made it clear that it is different from Case Management. In my presentation I tried to make understood that I see BPM as a very limited solution when compared to real-world business needs and while Case Management is a step in the right direction, it is mostly hardcoded in features towards the area of use in either healthcare or legal and thus too limited for widespread business use. All other Case Management solutions are typically custom-built by vendors or service providers from 3 to 7 individual products with lots of custom coding. Yes, there are a number of BPM products that have ad-hoc functionality, case folders, dynamic sub-process selection and process wikis, but they still require substantial upfront analysis effort.

What are the unique business benefits of such a solution?

  • User work only with real-world items, such as content and people.
  • There is no upfront analysis and design of business processes.
  • Business entities are accessible and usable in real-time in the case.
  • Processes are focused on achieving individual goals.
  • Organization can be virtual with participants being added at any time.
  • Business process DECISION knowledge is discovered during execution.
  • Management acquires full transparency of processes and execution.
  • Business users, management AND CUSTOMERS can participate.

In the end we could not agree what to name such a solution. The closest match was ‘Adaptive Case Management’ but then attendants either thought that Case Management was close enough or too different. I could go with Adaptive Case Management (ACM) and will call it that here for the time being. Typically TLAs are created by some analysts group based on a large enough market fragment. No revenue – no TLA (Three-Letter-Acronym)! If you have any suggestion for a TLA, then please let me know. I said before that I intensely dislike market fragments but it seems thats what people want.

Here is a revised, shortened list of ACM features and differentiators:

  1. I proposed that the key ACM differentiator is in the template life-cycle.
  2. ACM therefore requires a version-controlled, central repository of model templates that enables definition changes to be deployed using a change management life-cycle.
  3. In difference to BPM, the process template is not fully analyzed and designed up front and then instantiated and executed as-is.
  4. In difference to CM and collaboration, a case is not just a folder that bundles all information with some state definitions.
  5. In difference to both, a case can be assembled BY THE USER from a set of predefined template elements, including content and business entities that are real-time linked to business applications.
  6. In difference to both, ACM employs some means to enhance case handling knowledge from user actions on previously executed cases.
  7. ACM can BOTH guide or enforce user actions.
  8. ACM allows both parallel and strict sequential execution of role activities.
  9. ACM controls user access to EVERYTHING based on role/policy not dependent on organisational roles or GUI/forms definitions.
  10. ACM can include rule/pattern/state controlled decision-making.
  11. Business entities and content are not encapsulated by a case but just referenced and therefore changes to business entities can change many cases.
  12. Events can influence any process or case entity at any time or trigger rules.
  13. Boundary rules can be defined by users as business-wide or case relevant.
  14. .. this is not a complete list either.

So far, so good. There is a Linked-In group I created on ACM and there is a discussion about doing a symposium. I am worried that too many interests will once again conflict here. There is also a Case Management RFP at OMG in the wings. We’ll see.

While I am excited that this first step has happened, I realize that there are so many special interests of vendors, analysts and consultants that there is a long way to go until a new process management paradigm will be widely accepted. Either the technology and user acceptance will be so convincing that the market will jump at it, or some large vendor will spend billions in advertizing to make people accept an inferior solution as ‘the standard’. No, I am not jaded. I happens all the time.

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Papyrus Software, a medium size software company offering solutions in communications and process management around the globe. I am also the owner and CEO of MJP Racing, a motorsports company focused on Rallycross or RX, a form of circuit racing on mixed surfaces that has been around for 40 years. I hold 8 national and international championship titles in RX. My team participates in the World Championship along Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Ken Block.

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Posted in Application Lifecycle, Business Architecture, Case Management
16 comments on “Adaptive Case Management
  1. […] is the concept behind Adaptive Case Management.  It is not simply a new kind of BPM or an extension of BPM.  It comes from a completely […]


  2. […] Adaptive Case Management « Welcome to the Real (IT) World! (tags: case_management) […]


  3. Dileep says:

    From IT implementation perspective, the case/knowledge worker can add a process (ad-hoc) or checkin and modify the existing process/activity.
    The challenges are
    1). Training the knowledge worker
    2). Maintaining the process governance.


    • Dileep, thanks for the comment. Appreciated. You are right when someone would try to do this with a typical BPM system. Number one, to change the process, rules or content there is no training needed in an adaptive process environment. The user just works with template entities he understands and the functions are non-technical. He just pulls new goal templates into the process. The user can also write rules using NLR (Natural Language Rule) entry. With today’s BPMS process governance is very complex and requires an independent bureaucracy that has technical AND business authority. But practically, the process owner is the only governor needed, as he/she is the one who is responsible to management to achieve their tactical objectives and therefore is the authority to define process milestones/goals. What Adaptive Process does is that it empowers a) the actor to use his business knowledge to create the process, b) the process owner to define the operational milestones/handovers (with other POs), c) the management to set the tactical objectives, and d) the executive to define the strategic business goals. Adaptive Process provides full transparency up and down the management hierarchy despite the flexibility.

      The challenge is purely a managerial one, whether they are ready to drive the business in a more real-time way, or if they want to be stuck in a planning, budgeting, reporting, fix-old-problems rut. Thanks again!


  4. Dileep says:

    Thanks for the reply.
    So the knowledge worker work with in the boundary of the
    1). Process owner/Business Analyst
    2). Management
    3). Executives
    4). The Standard Operating Procedures etc etc
    to define the new process according to his/her intelligence.

    An enterprise wide Case management solution requires BPM, Adaptive (ad-hoc) process, analytics (both case and content), ECM, collaboration,Social software etc etc…..and knowledge worker plays the major role.
    I call it like this “The intelligent process/activity” that the Knowledge worker creates will be using the Goal template, NRL, BPNM or BPEL.

    From the Software tool or interface perspective the case management vendors proved basically two interfaces
    1) Inteface/GUI (for the Business Analyst) for designing the solution or solution templates which included the case(s), Activities etc etc , content object etc etc ie the Solution artifacts
    2) Interface for the Case/knowledge worker to work on the cases

    Some vendors provide the capability to create user defined process/activity (at the solution design time) and the case/knowledge worker select these process(s) according to the situation or intellligence.
    This is not adaptive case management right??.

    I am studying the book “Adaptive Case management”. great work…


    • Hi Dileep, ACM can also include the ability for the user to call predefined process segments as part of the process/case they are working on. The question is whether the business users can create new processes without such predefined fragments. A BPM solution can’t do that. Some offer Ad-hoc task creation, but that is more like collaboration. A truly adaptive solution does not have a different user interface to work with the process/case for the analyst and the actor. A great product will allow the GUI to be configured role specific, but they all have the same capability in principle, constrained by authorization.

      This differentiates ADAPTIVE:
      1) Processes are goal oriented and NOT flowcharted
      2) Processes are created interactively by the actors.
      3) Actors can add new goals, tasks, content, rules and actors at any time.
      4) Knowledge from previous execution flows back to the templates.


  5. Dileep says:

    Great….Thanks a lot.
    I think now most of the BPM vendors starts thinking about the Case management offerings (even thorugh the concept is availble since long time) which is more adaptive with more analytics and this would be the wave for the next couple of years. We can expect some great adaptive solutions in the market.
    We could see the oraganizations are getting matuare and knowledge workers play very very important role in solving the business issues.
    I think we can position ECM/BPM/ACM in a better way by catering to the business/organization need
    Example : A start up could first prefer an ECM solution with document life cycle capabilities as major area to tackle wouldbe document management.
    A middle level business/organization may go with a BPM solution as they need more matured process and process pay the center role.
    More matured organization will adopt the case management solution as the knowledge plays the major role and is goal oriented.

    I think the next step would be a conceptual shift from process oriented approach to knowledge oriented approach. (document centric process to knowledge/goal oriented) and knowledge worker creates lots of value to the organization.

    Where do you see the future of ACM.

    Dileep Paul


    • Hi Dijeep, in all my blogging I do position ACM as a tool for the business and not for IT. This why I talk about EMPOWERMENT. The organization does not have to be mature to use ACM, but the management can mature the organization by giving them the power to use their knowledge. An normal case management is not ADAPTIVE, which why I like the term ACM not as much. I use ADAPTIVE PROCESS as the broader aspect of covering all kinds of processes in a business.
      Thanks, Max


  6. Dileep says:

    so the matured or an intelligent managent will enpower the kowledge worker to get involved in the business decision making.
    He/She can use the knowledge and tools to achieve the goal.

    so Business drives the IT…

    Thanks a lot..


  7. Dileep says:

    Am studying the “Mastering the Unpredictable” my finish in 3 to 4 days. it is really great work with lots of insights.
    Do you think is there any standards evolving around Case management (same like BPMN or BPEL). I know it is debatable as we cant have a pattern in ACM.



    • Dileep, I am doubtful about standards in this area. I do not see them as so relevant. We use for example BPMN for the templates where necessary. No one else would be able to make use of this BPMN definition anyway and that is the case for all process definitions. They are not portable.

      In any case, ACM is more about reusable patterns than about flow. The problem is that with most products they can not handle a consolidated patterns of all elemetns of ACM. Especially when you focus on goals, with each one you have resolution templates for multiple options.

      Thanks, Max


  8. Dileep says:

    I think we have discussed a lot here and is really constructive.
    Adaptive Case management is a combination of
    Content, process (structured , unstructured/ad-hoc), rules, collaboration, Analytics (both content and case info), dashboard for online monitoring etc etc.
    It is a conceptual shift from process oriented approach to goal oriented and a ACM tool will be great only when it supports or provides the flexibility to deal with the unexpected nature of the decision making. as you said the EMPOWERMENT of the knowledge worker.
    The tool and way the knowledge worker handles the situation is immeterial as it should be under the guidelines and the standard Operating procedure of the organization. so the management has to decide whehter they want to implement an adaptive case management solution or not.
    The ACM tool should have the the templates for process/tasks, rules etc which knowledge worker can work with (with out having IT ).

    Thannks a lot


  9. […] you want this number to be as low as possible. Note that this measure does not discriminate against adaptive case management (ACM) systems where there may not be a formal automated work flow embedded in the system. A process […]


  10. […] Adaptive Case Management ” Welcome to the Real (IT) World! […]


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Max J. Pucher
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