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