BPM plus CM is not Adaptive Case Management

My previous blog post caused once again quite some stir with various BPM proponents who feel deeply insulted that I do not accept their expertize in optimizing businesses. I am simply not into superstition. I am ok with Astrology though.

But as it happens there is a lot less uproar than there used to be. One of the reasons is — as I predicted five years ago — that the BPM community has assimilated the ACM vocabulary and now claims that one can do Case Management (CM) — adaptive and mostly not — applications with their BPM suites. Even analysts run ACM studies based on that premise. A BPM suite can mimic case-like functionality by renaming some parts accordingly. While some work performed in a case can be sub-processes or ad-hoc tasks thats where the similarities end. For me an ACM environment has to support explicit goal-orientation and validation linked to embedded data and content. ACM embeds the ability to design flow-diagram processes too. Most of all, ACM is a solution that supports a modern business and people management paradigm and is not stuck in 1910 and Taylorism.

In difference, the focus of case management is to provide containers of information for particular coordination requirements. As work progresses certain information content is gathered and can be used to make decisions. But case management systems require substantial coding to provide guidance to the user. Some types of case work such as investigative cases do not have any pre-configurable progression but they still would have clearly defined goals.

I do not want to get into a technical hair-splitting of differences but stay at the larger issues of running a business. Adding case management to BPM does not improve what BPM does for a business as it continues to ignore essential people management aspects. It is not making the creation and innovation of work any easier. Businesses solely thrive on continuous innovation and not through performing old approaches faster and cheaper. Faster and cheaper means less people and less knowledge and thus a reduction of the ability to change work in accordance with changes in the market. Even while you exploit process knowledge you need to be able to explore the new. And that is not achieved by CM functionality that exists somewhere outside a currently rigid process.

Is continuous innovation through failure really necessary?

Rather than scientific studies on workplace psychology and expert papers I have used the example of the Apple Appstore social network in the past. It is a verifiable proof of the success-through-failure approach. It provides an ecosystem of autonomous innovators who thrive through the power of evolution. The best apps will succeed, while many won’t. Steve Jobs himself failed multiple times until he succeeded. But when Apple was run by bean counters it went from an innovator to the verge of bankruptcy within a few years.

Quite obviously, innovation is not just inventing new successful products, but much rather a focus on customer value. Innovation must happen continuously on all levels, in the small and in the large, while not all innovation efforts will succeed. Soichiro Honda said: “Success represents the ONE percent of your work that results from the 99 percent that is called failure.” Tom Watson Jr. put it differently: “If you want to succeed faster, double your failure rate.” As an executive and manager you have to allow and moreover promote the opportunity to fail, which is diametrically opposed to perfect business processes as demanded by BPM or SixSigma. James March linked already in 1991 company politics and decision theory to knowledge exploration and exploitation. You most certainly won’t get your BPM bureaucracy to change from the idea of ‘the one perfect process’ to supporting innovation through failure just because you added CM functionality to BPM. I say that your only chance is to get rid of the BPM-optimization mindset in your business.

Knowing what does not work is often more important than what works. Often the difference between success and failure is minute. But nobody likes to share his failures, right? ACM enables large organizations to fail and innovate faster by ensuring that gained knowledge becomes transparent and reusable without needing a bureaucracy. It can even happen anonymously. An employee producing a failure is possibly doing your business a larger service than the one who did it right.

How to deal with complexity and the speed of change?

BPM, Six Sigma or Lean will not support, promote or provide true knowledge-from-failure innovation. Perfect and cheap processes designed by an outside consultant are stale and dead. Standardized processes in code-freeze kill the germs of infectious innovation! Giving the process owner authority to pursue assigned goals any way he wants as long as he achieves outcomes, operational targets and handovers is Appstore-like social empowerment needed for success. Autonomy is further a key element in employee (and thus customer) satisfation. Allow for a variety of processes and tasks to fail or succeed until the best ones sustain. For effectiveness you need to allow processes to be improved by the people who perform them. That is additionally the most natural and efficient approach to optimization. Governance should at most define the high-level business entities and ontology to reduce ambiguity but not nail down low-level processes.

Outside manufacturing, we deal today with a business complexity and higher speed of change, which makes it near impossible to ensure a business delivers customer value through rigid work instructions. However, knowledge workers — or small teams with an embedded process owner — listen to customers, translate goals into needed activities, and then execute based on their intuition, skill and experience. In the larger focus of customer experience they improve outcomes without flow-diagrams, Boolean if/then/else logic or Big-Data statistical predictions.

Yes, many people in large organizations don’t care today about outcomes because they are jaded by bureaucracy. But that is not their fault and the worst reaction is to kill the business dynamics even further in a spiral to mediocrity or worse bankruptcy. The ability to ADAPT (change future process execution through learning by doing) is very different to Ad-Hoc or Dynamic processes. Therefore adding CM to a BPM platform is simply a smoke screen and a ruse.

ACM is about empowering people to deliver autonomously value to customers while making effectiveness and efficiency transparent to management.

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of ISIS Papyrus Software, a medium size software company specializing in communications and process management. I wrote several books and hold a number of patents. My quest is to bring common sense to IT, mostly by focusing in human quality issues rather than cost saving, outsourcing and automation. I am also Chief Architect at VIPorbit software which provides mobile relationship management.

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Posted in Adaptive Case Management, BPM
10 comments on “BPM plus CM is not Adaptive Case Management
  1. Amir Bahmanyari says:

    Its the other way around in reality :-)
    Intelligent BPM due to leveraging ACM.
    AB

    Like

    • Hi Amir, thanks for the comment. Yes, absolutely. There is some BPM functionality that is useful in an ACM approach and platform, but only if it is fully adaptable too. Process management starts to make sense in the real world of human interaction with ACM.

      Like

  2. Interesting article, indeed.

    A good article for anyone to read who is looking for ways and means to build competitive advantage within a corporation.

    I agree with “Therefore adding CM to a BPM platform is simply a smoke screen and a ruse.”

    Adding BPM to CM, on the other hand works, with the proviso that users gain the ability to deviate (or in the extreme, with justification, not follow a “best practice” at all ).

    It’s my understanding that the ISIS Papyrus solution set has the ability to coalesce ad hoc interventions at Cases into Process Fragments via “learning”.

    This means if you provide your users with a menu of services, you could see a new line item appear or you could see a change to an existing line item.

    Like

    • Karl-Walter, thanks for your comment. Yes, one can create sub-processes to achieve case goals, but as you say they must be optional and fully adaptable.

      We offer two solutions for learning. One is via the route of saving goal-fulfilling ad-hoc processes as templates and the other one is via our machine learning agent who will make reccommendations for user actions in repeatable situations. New items will appear as optional actions if they have been used a few times. If the performers accepts or rejects such actions their confidence level is adjusted.

      Like

  3. Max
    I have always seen “BPM” as a principle/discipline and as such there should be no limits in thinking and that includes in delivering “ACM” as a product. However you have been right to suggest the deliver by traditional “BPM” players has just not been able to “ADAPT” as you articulate.

    However this is part of the evolutionary step, the ultimate goal is to deliver all that and more! For example you rightly say “change future process execution through learning by doing” Well we are already touching on the “process” learning which can dynamically “adapt” for future actions? It is opening a new door and that “Adaptive” capability will apply to all future operational applications

    We have spent 20 years of R&D working on this and like you we were ridiculed by incumbent players and their friends in the analyst community for daring to deliver a different message! So we wait until the market is ready….and sound financing; nearly there and I never give up!

    Like

    • David, BPM started out as a discipline/methodology but in these times it makes no sense to see it as just that. ACM is what BPM methodology originally intended: a focus on a well structured organization to deliver on goals. But unfortunately BPM software focuses today purely on the automation aspect of BPM. So it got to the point where BPM is synonym with automation. Yes, many methodologists disagree and keep saying what I say, that the focus has to be the goal and outcome, but much of their work is then to turn those goals into rigid, low cost processes.

      Creating and delivering these rigid processes is so complex and expensive that it can only be done economially if as many processes as possible are standardized and automated. So the limitation of BPM software has corrupted the intent behind BPM. The idea that all processes can be nailed down to their minute detail and then automated and enforced is ridiculous. That doing so is more flexible than people doing what needs to be done is a lie.

      Adding a CM-lookalike functionality to an otherwise rigid BPMS is not bringing the benefits promised. It simply allows the BPM proponents to mitigate concerns and do even more damage with rigid process design.

      There are most likely many ways to achieve what I propose for process management, but most of it interfers with current IT and management approaches. We do see more and more businesses being interested, but there is a irrational fear of losing control if processes are not enforced.

      That an analyst would create a selection criteria for an ACM study that favors incumbent BPM vendors by only rating BPMS suites with add-on CM is astounding. There is no rational reason to be found but obviously there are the billions of BPM marketing dollars at work.

      Evolution of products is not the same as the evolution of sales pitches …

      Like

  4. AS says:

    My comments below are based on the following basics (sorry, but I have to repeat them again and again):

    B1. BPM is a trio of discipline, tools and practices/architecture
    B2. BPM as a discipline does allow various variants of working (or process dynamics) – see http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2010/12/illustrations-for-bpm-acm-case.html
    For example, variant 1 is a classic workflow and variant 3 is an “extreme” case management (CM).
    B3. There are many coordination techniques which are used – see http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2014/03/coordination-techniques-in-bpm.html
    For example, classic flow-diagram is only one of them.
    B4. An enterprise can be presented as a system of processes – http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2014/03/enterprise-as-system-of-processes.html

    From these basics I can say that the Max’ post title should be “BPM [tools] plus CM [capabilities] is not ACM [tools]”.

    “In difference, the focus of case management is to provide containers of information for particular coordination requirements.” – from EA point of view, it is not recommended to embed ECM tool into BPM tool and ACM tool – just keep it separately. Thanks to the CMIS standard, this “difference” will vanish soon.

    “For me an ACM environment has to support explicit goal-orientation and validation linked to embedded data and content.” – goal-orientation is only one of many coordination techniques; more and more of them are implemented in modern BPM tools and ACM tools.

    “Businesses solely thrive on continuous innovation and not through performing old approaches faster and cheaper.” – Removing routine work actually liberates information workers to concentrate on their business challenges and bring innovations. In the digital age innovations depends on process automation.

    “Even while you exploit process knowledge you need to be able to explore the new. And that is not achieved by CM functionality that exists somewhere outside a currently rigid process.” – BPM as a discipline is not “rigid process” by definition. I think Max refers to some BPM tools. I also not happy with some of them.

    “You most certainly won’t get your BPM bureaucracy to change from the idea of ‘the one perfect process’ to supporting innovation through failure just because you added CM functionality to BPM.” – Actually, a proper BPM (as a trio) enables quick experimentation with business processes which is very appreciated by the business. Use of BPM also reduces deployment bureaucracy (in connection with microservices see http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/search/label/%23microservice ).

    “Perfect and cheap processes designed by an outside consultant are stale and dead. Standardized processes in code-freeze kill the germs of infectious innovation!” – Perfect + cheap commodities and standardized performing of compliance-critical issues are very helpful for businesses because, again, they will allow the business to concentrate on unique business challenges.

    “In the larger focus of customer experience they improve outcomes without flow-diagrams, Boolean if/then/else logic or Big-Data statistical predictions.” – I would recommend to consider customer experience as a process (http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2013/06/practical-process-patterns-cxaap.html ) and use various coordination techniques in addition to mentioned ones. Customer-experience-as-a-process and your enterprise-as-a-system-processes should be working together!

    “The ability to ADAPT (change future process execution through learning by doing) is very different to Ad-Hoc or Dynamic processes.” – “Learning by doing” sounds very reactive. I would not like my doctor and my lawyer working for me like that.

    Fundamentally, doctors and lawyers are working primarily with knowledge and examples from others professionals. More formal and more comprehensive knowledge is better. Treatment procedures, court cases, diagnostics methods, laws (as a process) are examples of their knowledge which is formalised, ideally, as processes. Actually, many of these professionals are modifying implicit processes “someone else drew” for their own needs.
    Our role, as “process professionals”, is to make the capture, expliciting (or normalising), validation and re-use of knowledge EASIER for other knowledge professionals. For example, stop talking about “flow-diagrams” as only the coordination technique in BPM – bring more coordination techniques together.

    Again, removing routine work with existing knowledge liberates other professionals to concentrate on their business challenges and bring innovations.

    Again, in the digital age innovations depends on process automation.

    Thanks,
    AS

    Like

    • Alexander, excuse me for my bluntness because there is no personal attack intended but let me get straight to the point. You just reiterate absolutely non-sensical BPM platitudes and panaceas. They have lost their credibility no matter how often you repeat them. Where is the proof after all these years? There is not a single independent study that proofs what you claim!

      You are making it quite obvious why BPM (regardless whether tools, discipline or practice) will not help a business to do better. You present a convoluted list of blanket directives without any basis and request that businesses need to hire huge amounts of BPM consultancy to make it work. And looking at your list of subjects it is clear that without such ‘expertize’ about stuff that a business does NOT NEED they would be lost in the maze that people like you create!!!

      Plus ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is usually something totally different than CM (Case Management) and therein (using lots of acronyms lies one of the huge drawbacks of what BPM does. I propose to create an environment for the business people that works in THEIR NATIVE business terminology and allows THEM to create and support the work they need and reuse whatever they want.

      You talk about quick experimentation with BPM tools that need a huge amount of time especially when IT and BPM experts get involved and want put ‘a project’ or ‘a methodology’ or even worse ‘an architecture’ into place. All of that does not help the business. It just might help IT/BPM to get a hold on the mess they created.

      Customer experience as a process is no longer customer experience. It is: ‘this is what you get regardless of what you want’! All that is wrong with medicine today has to do with standardized treatments for symptoms that looks similar and a dreadful disregard for the human and the individual. Bad example! Coordination techniques aside: It does not matter if you use rules or flows or state/event driven processes if they are not goal-oriented and adaptable through the performer. You still end up with the prescriptive rigidity and thats what is wrong with BPM (tool, discpline or practice).

      And you are absolutely wrong with your last statement: In the digital age the largest progress has not been with process automation but by EMPOWERING people through Mobile, Social and Cloud environments. Again my observation and opinions contain no personal offense, but I still think you are way off what the business world really needs.

      The current BPM market covers just an application development and automation need. Nothing else.

      Like

  5. AS says:

    Sure, Max.

    Nothing personal – just business, i.e. helping people to achieve their goals better, faster, cheaper, greener and in a more innovative. Let’s go to details.

    “You just reiterate absolutely non-sensical BPM platitudes and panaceas.”
    Please clarify, do you mean “BPM discipline”, “BPM tools” or “BPM practices/architecture”? Considering that all of these three parts have different evolution paths, your statement is difficult to discuss.

    “You present a convoluted list of blanket directives without any basis and request that businesses need to hire huge amounts of BPM consultancy to make it work.” – interesting how did you conclude about “huge amounts of BPM consultancy”? In a few cases, people who looked at my materials concluded that they do not need extra consultancy to employ BPM. By the way, what is “huge” for you?

    “Plus ECM (Enterprise Content Management) is usually something totally different than CM (Case Management) and therein (using lots of acronyms lies one of the huge drawbacks of what BPM does. I propose to create an environment for the business people that works in THEIR NATIVE business terminology and allows THEM to create and support the work they need and reuse whatever they want.” – So far, ECM (if used correctly) is a standard enterprise-wide capability to collect information around user’s needs in a scope of activity, case, process instance, project, etc. ECM provides some kind of information container. Obviously, BPM, CM and ACM need such a capability. Again, I don’t see any logic why you think that ECM and CM are mixed in my comment.

    “You talk about quick experimentation with BPM tools that need a huge amount of time especially when IT and BPM experts get involved and want put ‘a project’ or ‘a methodology’ or even worse ‘an architecture’ into place. All of that does not help the business. It just might help IT/BPM to get a hold on the mess they created.” – Gland that you mentioned “an architecture”; fortunately my experience is different – a proper architecture is only a way to enable agility which allows quick experimentation thus helping the business a lot.

    “Customer experience as a process is no longer customer experience. It is: ‘this is what you get regardless of what you want’!” – As far as I know some people plan their lives and execute such a plan as a process. Please consider the following related definitions http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2014/01/definition-of-bpm-and-related-terms.html

    “All that is wrong with medicine today has to do with standardized treatments for symptoms that looks similar and a dreadful disregard for the human and the individual. Bad example!” – your comment is a good example that in addition to having comprehensive knowledge available it is necessary to follow some good business practices (again, as explicit process fragments).

    “Coordination techniques aside: It does not matter if you use rules or flows or state/event driven processes if they are not goal-oriented and adaptable through the performer. You still end up with the prescriptive rigidity and thats what is wrong with BPM (tool, discpline or practice).” – As far as I remember, I mentioned explicitly that “goal-based” coordination technique is one of the coordination techniques and all of them should be used together. Again, I don’t see a logic in your reply.

    I understand that we have different point of views and therefore I value that such discussions as a place for non-emotional, objective, productive and professional way to improve our common understanding.

    Thanks,
    AS

    Like

    • Alexander, yes such discussion are interesting but quite pointless nevertheless. It quite easy to see why. But the last thing it is is non-emotional. If so it would be utterly dumb. All human decisions are done through emotional weighting.

      Some points before I let it be:

      Alone that businesses have to consider three different evolution paths when thinking about BPM is enough to make one shudder …

      I would say that your materials are quite unrealistic if there is no consultancy necessary when employing BPM. Huge means a number of man-years and 25 has not been an unusual number.

      I have always promoted that there is no process without content. But that’s not how the BPM community sees it. If we say that one has to plan content alongside the process, we are told that we are not a ‘pure-play BPM vendor’ but a content vendor with some process capabilities. It shows the irrational market frgamentation that goes on and is part of the confusion that businesses have to deal with.

      LOL! Lives are not processes and there are no people who plan theirs according to a BPM principle … if yes, they are mentally ill and obsessive compulsive.

      Yes, I said process fragment make sense as part of a larger case. Surely, there ought be a count of tissues and tools before sowing up a patient. So that supports what I proposed. But you can’t have the whole treatment as a rigid flow-diagram (or otherwise coordinated) process. And current BPM suites neither support adaptive functionality nor do they support goal-orientation.

      Enough. I focus on getting adoption from the business and the performer and clearly what BPM experts think of it is thus fortunately irrelevant …

      Thanks for the discussion.

      Like

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Max J. Pucher
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