Document-centric BPM and the emergence of case management, Part II

Document-centric BPM and the emergence of case management, Part II

By Alan Earls , 12/16/2010

Editor’s Note: In Part I of this special report, technology journalist Alan Earls examines whether document-centric BPM is morphing into case management. Here, in Part II, he describes the power-and the complexity-of case management BPM.

Case management BPM –also sometimes known as dynamic BPM, or, in IBM parlance, advanced case management-has been getting lots of attention lately.

With its roots in document-centric BPM, case management BPM can be a natural evolutionary direction for some organizations. But with its much greater complexity and higher ambitions in terms of what it seeks to accomplish, it’s not for everyone.

One key driver for developing and adopting case management BPM: extremely high payroll costs for knowledge workers in developed countries, according to IDC analyst Maureen Fleming. Knowledge workers tend to work on lots of projects, with the concept of the “case” as an underlying core principal. As a result, organizations interested in understanding processes tied to this often highly unstructured work need to gain a better understanding of case management to better understand how to make their knowledge-centric work more efficient and systematic.

“Case management BPM is expensive from the larger vendors and relatively immature for lower-cost BPM suite vendors,” Fleming warns. Furthermore, there are often skills gaps on the professional services side that present their own set of challenges. “Depending on who you talk to, case management is either huge or just a subset of the BPM software market. In other words, there is a lot of variation in how vendors view this as an opportunity,” she notes.

Customers, of course, view it more in terms of the problem at hand. “Enterprises that view case management as a content-centric problem look for different types of solutions than companies that view this as a process problem,” Fleming says.

In her view, case management is inherently an integration-or a mashup-of multiple content and data types driven by requirements. While that concept is straightforward, getting there isn’t. “With a BPM suite, there is often a discovery phase that helps the process actors articulate linear workflow, but I’m not seeing the same level of sophistication for case management, which is highly process-centric but only partially linear,” she adds.

As with any application, Fleming notes, there are multiple potential pitfalls and risks. One is the possibility of adopting a system that is relatively inflexible, making it difficult to adjust to meet evolving needs. Another is underestimating integration requirements.

Still, Fleming says that IDC expects decision-centric BPM, including case management, to grow faster over the next few years than classical BPMS-based process applications, though from a smaller base. “In general, we believe decision-centric automation will grow faster than most types of applications and middleware over the next five years,” she says.

Automating the right tasks in the right way

ebizQ contributor James Taylor, a specialist in decision management and related areas, also focuses on the complexity of this flavor of BPM. “There was a convergence around the idea that some processes had complex data, multiple documents and lots of people involved,” says Taylor, who is CEO and principal consultant at Decision Management Solutions. “Some approaches are very technology-centric, focused on integration, and some were more focused on people.”

In other words, in its evolution, BPM had already shown that many processes had work activities that could be highly automated. However, those processes still sometimes had exceptions as well as tasks that did not lend themselves to an automated approach.

Now, advanced case management solutions (the term that Taylor prefers to use) can provide automation that prompts for human intervention when needed but then continues to automate for better efficiency. “For instance, you now see insurance companies automating the claims process and banks automating loan origination in a way that integrates straight through processing and complex case/exception management,” he explains.

“These kinds of systems monitor the process, apply rules and predictive analytics to make decisions and know when to escalate an issue for intervention,” he says. “The system does what it is good at and lets people do the things, like talking to other people, that they are good at in a seamless whole.”


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