ACM Workshop at EDOC 2014

ACM Workshop at EDOC 2014 Calls for Paradigm Shift in Company Management Towards Empowered Knowledge Workers

The Adaptive Case Management (ACM) Workshop at EDOC, which took place September 1, 2014, in Ulm, Germany, provided a platform for researchers and practitioners to discuss ACM and other non-workflow approaches to BPM. A list of top-class participants, an audience that was even larger then at last year’s ACM Workshop, and inspiring discussions showed the growing need for and acceptance of systems that support flexibility and guidance.

ACM across systems

In his keynote, Keith Swenson, one of the conference organizers, talked about ACM as the key to enable innovation in organizations and reviewed its evolution and relation to BPM and CM. What he sees as one of the major turning points is the way that ACM goes far beyond the IT core systems and enables emergent processes by bringing in experts and people with a specific knowledge, even from different organizations, just as the current situation demands for.

This means that bridges across systems, systems thinking, organizational mindsets, and terminology are going to become more important, where Keith Swenson claims that XBRL plays a vital role for a unified data exchange between different systems. Swenson has a future in mind of “personal assistants” who help knowledge workers from organizations to communicate and share available information. While he thinks that ontologies will be needed, he did not consider them to be part of the ACM configuration by business administrators or users.

Research sessions

In the research sessions, PhD students and their professors presented the current scientific ACM research topics with focus on ACM guidance for knowledge workers, a solid ACM definition and underlying theory, and on knowledge extraction from existing cases, as is for example the case with User-Trained Agent (UTA) developed by ISIS Papyrus.

Other interesting aspects are so-called “case health monitors”, which deliver indicators to case owners if something goes against goals, and algorithms which produce a clear quality measure from arbitrary event logs to whether they contain predictable processes. With an “event log trace diversity value” like this you could conclude whether process-mining is reasonable or whether an adaptive case management approach is appropriate.

Researching efforts also concentrate on collaboration templates used for creating instances of specific situations and on applying analytics to retrieve knowledge from archived instances for future use. Tagging of these instances is essential for reutilization, which is still weak because of a lack of appropriate analysis tools. Here the ISIS Papyrus UTA can also step up to play an important role.

Practical sessions show different aspects in ACM approaches

In the practical sessions, three leading companies in the field of business process management gave insight into their ACM approaches.

UTA for supporting knowledge workers

ISIS Papyrus proposes an approach that supports knowledge workers based on the knowledge previously applied by others in the form of a User-Trained Agent. The UTA learns from ad hoc actions taken by knowledge workers to suggest best next actions for the current situation.

The UTA was acknowledged as an important ACM component for enabling knowledge sharing and collaboration between teams. Business Ontologies would be developed to guarantee proper context definitions. The calculation of confidence ratings for Task proposals should include not only how often users decided for a certain proposal but also how much the Task contributed to a certain goal. Apart from objective quality information, also “subjective” information such as user ratings could be included.

Visualization of dependencies

IT University of Copenhagen together with Exformatics A/S presented a UI Web application that uses DCR Graph notation model (Dynamic Condition Response Graphs), a tool to visualize dependencies between Tasks and simulate what ad-hoc changes will cause to the live system before they are being deployed. The UI is using card-based items, which also includes an execution log showing the user all events that happened.

While flow chart based guidance is more intuitive than BPM style graphs, it is still quite complex for normal users and might be suited for application administrators.

Blackboard metaphor

Computas AS from Norway delivers preconfigured ACM solutions to the Norwegian public sector and use the blackboard metaphor to enrich collaborative ACM Systems.

Use Adaptive Case Management to empower your employees

The brainstorming session brought up the importance of communicating the value of innovation enabled by ACM systems, although another term would eventually be needed because “innovation” will not be well accepted by all managers.

What became obvious in the discussion is that the company management paradigms must change first: People should be encouraged to work self-responsibly towards goals without being controlled and micro-managed. When you stop looking only at cost efficiency and start focusing on customer satisfaction and effectiveness, ACM paves the way to empower your employees to achieve this goal.

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.

Posted in Adaptive Case Management
6 comments on “ACM Workshop at EDOC 2014
  1. Dear Max,
    Thanks for your comments about the Adaptive Case Management workshop at EDOC. Sorry you missed it.

    Dynamic Condition Response (DCR) is a declarative way of expressing business processes, as opposed to traditional flow based models. Where flow charts describe how to do the work, declarative models only describe the constraint, i.e. the overall business rules, and leave the decisions to the knowledge worker.

    You claim it is still quite complex as “While flow chart based guidance is more intuitive than BPM style graphs”, and is therefore more suitable for application administrators. I disagree! The aim of DCR is to enable knowledge workers such as lawyers, doctors and engineers to manage their own business processes, just as they are already doing. No matter how well planned a processes is described, change is inevitable but needs to be managed in a proper way. This is what Keith Swenson refers to as predictability – and the uncertainty of knowledge work is high.

    Currently, knowledge workers handle change outside IT systems, simply as these systems cannot handle the need for change and adaptability in modern world. With Dynamic Condition Response we try to enable knowledge workers to add activities to running processes and change rules on the fly. Imagine an engineer which is building a power plant realizes, while planning and building the power plant, a project that can take several years, that if a certain event happen, part of the plant must be re-designed. Currently the engineer would have to put the new knowledge into a project log and review this log on a timely manner. Instead, we suggest to modify the live process with this new knowledge, so the knowledge worker can forget about the knowledge, as the system is now handling the rules and activities, should the event ever happen. Hereby we ensure that knowledge workers focus on their work, rather than having to remember rules and ensuring these rules are followed. This will increase knowledge worker productivity as it removes the burden of the knowledge worker to remember and check everything again and again. The live process has simply taken oven some of the knowledge embedded by the knowledge worker into the system.

    Looking forward to meet you again and present our work to you. We believe ISIS Papyrus could benefit from adopting the ideas behind Dynamic Condition Response to empower knowledge workers to manage processes themselves.


    • Thanks for the comment. Glad to hear that you also see the benefits of ACM. I do not understand your suggestions. I was the one to write the principles behing Adaptive Case Management in 2009. So it is odd to lecture me on how to support knowledgew work. You apparently believe that I think that flow-diagrams are a good way to describe business processes. I have made it more than clear in this blog that I am heavily opposed to flow-diagrams. But as the BPM community is so attached to them that we also offer them to be accepted as a process management tool. There are a few simple process fragments that are ok with flow-diagrams too. We expanded BPM with business rules and explicit goals to support work tasks without flows.

      Everyone has the right to pick a fancy name like Dynamic Condition Response but I fail to understand where the difference and advance to ACM is to justify a new name. The Papyrus ACM functionality fully enables knowledge workers to create and adapt work as tasks and rules as they go along. We also have the so-called User-Trained Agent that will learn the patterns that lead to certain user actions and make recommendations to performers when there are similar case patterns.

      So I do not think that we need to adopt any ideas behind DCR because we were the first to bring a fully featured ACM platform to the market.


  2. Dear Max,

    Morten and I had a friendly and enthusiastic discussion with Christoph Ruhsam at the AdaptiveCM 2014 workshop (where he gave an excellent presentation of your platform and the UTA).

    That is to say, that Morten’s reply to your post should be read in continuations of the enthusiasm felt at the workshop, not as “lecturing you on ACM” (on which you of course by definition is the expert).

    Neither did he of course intend to say, that you think that flow-diagrams are a good way to describe business processes.

    The intend was to correct what seemed like a mis-understanding in your post, when you mention “flow chart based guidance” in the description of DCR Graphs. This seems like you believe that DCR Graphs are similar to flow charts. They are not. The only thing they have in common is that they are graphs – but they do not describe a flow, only dependencies. We fully agree with you that flow-graphs are not suitable for supporting adaptive processes.

    Also, DCR, or Dynamic Condition Response, is of course not a new fancy name for ACM. There is no need for a new name :-) DCR is the name for a new notation used to declaratively describe dependencies between events/task and goals – which has an advantage to previous approaches that it can directly support execution and be adapted during execution (while dynamically verifying if goals still can be met). It was developed by two of my PhD students at IT University of Copenhagen, and co-developed and implemented by Exformatics.

    I greatly acknowledge you were the first to bring a fully featured ACM platform to the market, and that I have a lot to learn about ACM platforms and there use from studying your platform.

    My (and Morten’s, I believe) humble hope as a researcher in this area, is that just as we would like to learn more about your platform, so would you and Christoph find it interesting to learn about and consider the “DCR way” to describe dependencies and goals, (which of course is not done via a blog post).

    best wishes from Copenhagen


    • Thomas, thanks and don’t worry. I am neither upset nor do I see any unproper behavior but I tend to be easily on my toes. Sorry! I just responded to the literal meaning of your comment. I am sure that Christoph will look at DCR and give us feedback as to its applicability. I have nothing against DCR or any other ‘fancy’ naming. As I said it is great that there are more ideas coming into this domain. I am just trying to keep approach steady and not bring continuously new terms and acronyms into it because there is already great confusion.

      I am trying to get the IT and technical aspects hidden under the covers of a business ontology which should be the only thing that the user see and use.

      Thanks again for your comments and your time. Regards, Max


  3. Good to hear, Max, thanks. Looking forward to a continued dialogue. Best, Thomas


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Max J. Pucher
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by Max J. Pucher. All rights reserved.

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