Conversations and Adaptive Case Management

(Adaptive) Case Management and how it relates to BPM (and ECM) seems to be getting a lot of attention lately (from Scott Francis, Adam Deane, Lee Dallas, David Mitchell). All worth a read if the topic interests you. Some serious, some funny  – they show that something new is stirring in the process management community.

One important part of the puzzle that everyone seems to be ignoring  are the sidebar  human conversations that go on with respect to a process or a case. For me linking those sidebar conversations to the process (or case) is a key aspect of how Social BPM and Adaptive Case Management are different from traditional BPM and Case Management. 

  • Traditional BPM – structured processes usually should not generate a lot of sidebar conversations (if they aren’t being used to handle an exception). The process has been modeled and tasks assigned – so what is there to talk about?  So most traditional BPM systems tend to ignore sidebar conversations, and for most instances of a process, that is OK.
  • Traditional Case Management – here too sidebar conversations are ignored.  Mostly for the same reasons they are ignored by traditional BPM –  since the case flow is predefined and rigid, and any important information should be included in case folder – so these sidebar conversations aren’t relevant to result. I think this is a bigger issue here than for traditional BPM – since case management is a human activity, and human activities by their very nature generate conversations. A lot of learning is wasted by having participants use external mechanisms for these sidebar conversations.
  • Social BPM – Here the BPM community noticed (at least for the process of understanding and modeling a process) that sidebar conversations are an important part of the process (and may be the main part of the process), and need to be supported as part of the tooling.
  • Adaptive Case Management – Since these are unpredictable, ad-hoc, human processes – conversational human-to-human sidebars around the process being handled are VERY important and need to be considered part of the process. They play a large role in  defining how the process will flow. I believe these are what enable unpredictable  processes to actually work and a generate successful outcomes. Not making them part of the ACM tool – will cause the tool to fail.

So I guess what I am saying is that lets not forget the need to include human-to-human sidebar conversations (and enabling them to be done efficiently and effectively) is a key component of Adaptive Case Management (and Social BPM)

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4 Responses to “Conversations and Adaptive Case Management”

  1. Scott Says:

    Assuming these sidebars are not literally at the water cooler, but are happening electronically/digitally on laptops or desktops or phones or tablets – it turns out that this sidebar feature isn’t differentiating for ACM vs. BPM – several BPM tools provide such annotation via comment threads, conversations, and documents.

    So – if we’re talking technical capabilities, this is not differentiating. But if you’re talking about philosophically – it can be quite different. In a sense, ActionBase makes the conversation potentially the center of the “process” (insert your favorite noun) instead of the sidebar 🙂

    I think that stylistic difference or difference in emphasis is significant, but if you just say “sidebar conversations” lots of vendors can check that checkbox, for better or worse.

  2. Jacob Ukelson Says:

    Scott,
    As always, good points.
    Yes, many BPM tools have mechanisms for the sidebars – but from my experience people don’t tend to use them – for various reasons – they aren’t familiar with capabilities, a limited choice of who can participate, varying functionality. So yes, many vendors can put a checkbox – but they aren’t really used. People revert to the standard mechanism they use for electronic interaction. So in theory you are right, in practice things work differently.
    But I was more on your second point – how central are the sidebars to the process – with ACM they are central – in BPM, not really.

  3. Scott Says:

    Jacob-
    this is what I like about your approach. Explaining both the technical details of how you approach the problem (which some call ACM, but for the moment the label doesn’t matter), and then also communicating that it isn’t just the fact that the technical detail exists, but the HOW you’ve addressed it that makes the solutions interesting.

    Too many of the conversations in this area are too theoretical. For example, there is nothing particularly preventing a BPM player from making these conversations central to a solution, but they don’t (unless you consider ActionBase one of the BPM players).

    I can very easily understand how to pitch the advantages of ActionBase because it is clear on both the details and the philosophy and why the implementation better supports the philosophy. Hope my comment helped clarify (or give you the opportunity to clarify) what I think makes your product really interesting.

    Much like when SOA/integration vendors would say they could do “bpm” but really meant BPEL. To them, process was a checkbox. They’d never really address it because it wasn’t central to their product offering, or at least a central value proposition. BPM vendors made the process the center of the value proposition. You’re making these sidebars central – which might help bring them to light 🙂 – and doesn’t eliminate the possibility of interaction between the processes and the sidebars 😉

  4. Library clips :: Have we been doing Enterprise 2.0 in reverse : Socialising processes and Adaptive Case Management :: July :: 2010 Says:

    […] on ACM or Social BPM, or whatever…lots of links here…and a comparison of […]

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