Remember the Business Process Reengineering (BPR) management and technology wave that aimed to transform large organizations? It started in the early 1990′s and thrived for about ten years, through the Enterprise Resource Planning and eBusiness movements, until the dot-com collapse of the economy.
We’re on the cusp of the next BPR wave, fueled by the Internet of Things and cloud, mobile and social technologies. Only, this time, the goal won’t just be redesigning cross-departmental workflows within large organizations. The focus will be expanded to address management of dynamic, emergent business processes, including those that span entire business networks.
Currently, the predictability of business processes inside of and between companies is breaking down. The exceptions encountered during the execution of a business process often render as nearly useless the defined events and rules-based decisions that have been built into heavily-automated workflows managed by existing business process management (BPM) tools. Furthermore, the end-to-end processes that characterize both intra- and inter-company business today are actually composed of so many sub-processes that the complexity created is overwhelming BPM. While there will be a continuing need for traditional BPR practices and technologies, these must be augmented with new styles of process management that better support the increasingly complex, dynamic and fragmented nature of work.
Adaptive Case Management
One promising model is called Adaptive Case Management (ACM). Rather than putting the responsibility for process design in the hands of a business analyst, who models and simulates (tests) the process before it is executed, ACM enables any knowledge worker to simultaneously create and act on the process – there is no separation of design and run time. There may be events and rules that guide the process, as in traditional BPM, but ACM places decision-making where it belongs – in the hands of business people, not the IT staff.
In fact, it is the overarching goal of ACM to enable dynamic decision-making by providing the needed information at the right time or enabling the knowledge worker to quickly find it. ACM does this by surrounding a fundamental business transaction, opportunity or challenge (the case) with a set of capabilities that support effective and efficient decision-making and action-taking, as depicted below.
Notice that ACM blends systems of record and those of engagement. Enterprise software has done the opposite in the past, creating transactional systems and interactive environments that are siloed from each other, unless each is integrated into an enterprise portal or social software application. Case management also brings information into a common access point, whereas other computer-supported work models force people to shift between applications to find information, make decisions and complete tasks.
Fujitsu America’s Keith Swenson noted in his presentation last week at the BPM and Case Management Global Summit that no work is completely unstructured. It may be unpredictable, but structure emerges as dynamic processes unfold. As the following slide from Swenson shows, ACM is an ideal framework in which to manage tasks and get work done, because it has the right blend of structure and emergence. ACM fits between Production Case Management (PCM), which begins with structure, but provides for process exception handling, and working out loud on enterprise social networks and using them to discover and interact with expertise needed to resolve issues. Traditional BPM and other process technologies are too inflexible, while social software and other communication tools lack sufficient structure and context. ACM enables knowledge workers to choose which tools and information sources to use to best complete tasks and project milestones, as well as to meet the end goals of specific processes.
In ACM, the tasks themselves, and their order of completion, may be changed by data generated during the process. Today, data is typically presented, often in a visual summary, to the knowledge worker, who can then effect change to individual tasks and the overall process. Over time, patterns may reveal themselves during analysis. These patterns may be deployed as standard processes, while still allowing for ad-hoc variability, as PCM does by definition.
In the future, business processes will use historical and real-time data to predict variables that will automatically alter a running process. At that point, we will have moved beyond ACM and into the realm of intelligent business processes. Recently-retired Gartner Research VP Jim Sinur said last week that “ACM is a great first step toward intelligent process”.
Networked Business and ACM
In my second post on Forbes.com, I defined ‘Networked Business’ both as a noun and an adjective. The latter definition reads,
Networked Business (a.) – a state in which an interconnected system of organizations and their value-producing assets are working toward one or more common objectives
This definition could very easily serve as one for Adaptive Case Management as well. ACM facilitates work within and between organizations by organizing value-creating assets (people, information, process) around a common objective (completion of a case). As a work model, ACM enables the kind of agile, dynamic, purpose-driven connection that is the hallmark of networked business. ACM, along with the agile software development methodology (which is also goal-oriented, driven by milestones and heavily dependent on frequent, effective communication), could very well serve as a foundation for how networked business is conducted. Hopefully, ACM will also encompass and augment current digital business-to-business integration platforms, such as Ariba, Hubwoo and OpenText Trading Grid, in the near future.
Adaptive Case Management Learning Resources
adaptivecasemanagement.org – The Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) annually grants Global Excellence Award for Case Management. This website, in addition to serving as the digital interface to the WfMC awards information, submission and announcement processes, has some great articles on ACM in the ‘About ACM’ section.
BPM.com – This website is rich with articles, white papers, case studies, vendor profiles and other information about Business Process Management and case management. BPM.com also organized the BPM and Case Management Global Summit referenced above and has made most of the conference’s presentations available for free online.
futstrat.com – Future Strategies, Inc. offers print and digital versions of insightful books on workflow, BPM and case management. These books are written by some of the leading thinkers in these areas and several are focused on ACM.
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