Is BPM for Process Management, ACM for Best Practice Management?

We had a great panel on Adaptive Case Management at the BPM2010 conference. About 35-40 attendees – and they participated, making it more of a group discussion than a panel. It was great – and it shows that there is a lot of interest in the BPM community about ACM.

One participant (I didn’t get his name) summarized the conversation by the intriguing statement”So BPM is for processes, ACM is for best practices” – from earlier comments he made it was clear he was a management consultant.

I think his statement is a good way of looking at ACM – especially if you come from a management consulting background. According to wikipedia “A best practice is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive, or reward which conventional wisdom regards as more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. when applied to a particular condition or circumstance.” also “A given best practice is only applicable to particular condition or circumstance and may have to be modified or adapted for similar circumstances. In addition, a “best” practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered”.

For business process the wikipedia entry states “A business process or business method is a collection of related, structured activities or tasks that produce a specific service or product (serve a particular goal) for a particular customer or customers. It often can be visualized with a flowchart as a sequence of activities”

They way I read that is that best practices are guidelines about how certain types of human work should get done (or at least a codification of successful ways the work was done in the past) – but it remain a flexible, high-level framework under the control of the participants, not a step by step structured guide (as would be defined in a BPMN model). On the other hand process (though I don’t completely agree with wikipedia)  is always structured (and so perhaps “unstructured process” and “unpredictable process” are oxymorons).

So given those definitions he is certainly right “ACM is for best practices, BPM for process”. The “good news” is then we have BPM (Business Process Management) and bpm (best practice management  🙂

If you are interested I have a previous post on best practices (and how checklists are possibly the right level of modeling for ACM) at “Guidelines, Best Practices and Checklists – the Process Model for Unstructured Processes?“.


One Response to “Is BPM for Process Management, ACM for Best Practice Management?”

  1. Scott Says:

    Jacob – Interesting post. This sounds just like my blog post on the same subject:

    In which I argued ACM seemed to be about improving the outcome for individual “cases” (best practice), whereas bpm was about improving the outcome for the aggregate of all “cases” (or instances or whatever word you prefer).

    So, I find myself in violent agreement with this line of thinking 🙂

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