What’s your approach ?

I’ve been relatively quiet since the launch of “Mastering the Unpredictable,” not because I haven’t had anything to say (I’ve always got an opinion), but rather because work and life have kept me focused on things other than writing / blogging.  One upside to writing less is the chance to read more (it takes me more time to write than read, go figure).  One of the more interesting posts I read was Scott Francis’ take on Gartner’s new definition of BPMS.  I smiled when I read the following statement from Phil Gilbert (of Lombardi fame):

And 2) ACM… Arrgghhhh. Again, you won’t hear real business people say “wait, this is a case management problem.” They simply want their processes to be easy and transparent…

Actually Phil, yes, I do hear that, in multiple contexts.  I hear it in the legal and care management arenas, I hear it in the justice systems (ok, that’s an easy one), and I hear it in customer service situations.  But what I think you’re is getting at is the more general business world where people manage claims, correspondence, loans and employees.  And guess what?  I hear it there too now, although it’s sort of like “Horton Hears a Who” at the moment, a whispering that very few people seem to be able to hear, or maybe that few are listening to.

Now, before you go running off saying “it’s that crazy Adaptive Case Management guy trying to drive up sales of the book he contributed to,” bear with me. 

If I step back a paragraph in that very same comment stream, Scott says:

A lot of the processes I’ve worked on over the years would best be described as case management processes. To me, ACM describes a problem set or domain, not a technology set (so far). BPM also appears to describe a domain.”

Scott, I couldn’t agree with you more.  In fact, I just posted my presentation from Process.gov called “Adapting to Case Management” here.  In it I talk about shifting not just technology but the way we approach solving problems that we’ve traditionally looked at as BPM problems.

Reading between the lines, Scott’s point is that we need to be clear on the difference between the acronyms BPM and BPMS, as that ‘S’ makes the difference.  BPM is the discipline, BPMS the technology solution companies like Global 360, Lombardi, Pegasystems, etc., etc. offer.  Gartner’s definition of what is in a BPMS keeps evolving and expanding, and again, that’s to be expected.  BPM may also expand, contract, morph, and do other funky things, but it’s not a technology issue.

There’s a parallel (in my opinion) in what has recently been described as Adaptive Case Management.  Yes, there are solutions that could be described as ACM solutions.  But there’s also a theory, practice and approach here as well.  I won’t take up space here describing the methodology at the moment, you’ll have to take a look at the slidecast above.  But what I’ll say is that the concept of managing something as a “case folder” and only pulling in structured processes where it makes sense seems to resonate with the business people I know.  There’s a place for structure and there’s a time for flexibility, in the ideal world we get both those from our solution provider.

 Putting on my Carnac hat, I’d say that there’s a lot more of these kinds of discussions to be had over the next year.  There will be much gnashing of teeth over “BPM does it this way” and “ACM does it that way” but in the end my hope is that we’ll emerge better equipped to support the businesses we all operate and support.


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