Exploring ACM and BPM

Q: Can someone explain how to use Adaptive Case Management (ACM) and how to incorporate it in a process diagram?

A: First, let’s take a look at Business Process Management (BPM), which approaches the problem of improving an organization’s work from a strongly process centric point of view.  The first thing you think about is the process.  In a certain way, it is the process which defines whether two instances are similar or not.

Data flows into and out of a process. The process represents the goal of a particular sequence of actions, but that goal is not itself an information resource.  The process instance contains process relevant data, as well as application data, but it generally assumes that the data duplicates data that has its source elsewhere. This is the main point about “integration” of the process into other information resources.

 BPM might be visualized as in this diagram:

 Adaptive Case Management (ACM) also tries to improve the performance of an organization, but instead of considering the process to be primary, it is the case information that is primary. This case information is an information resource which will be accessed over the duration of use, and in many situations will become the official record (system of record) for that work.

There can be processes, but the processes are brought to the case, and run in the context of the case, rather than the other way around.

 An ACM system might be envisioned as in this diagram:

Both approaches deal with:

  • Process relevant data
  • Allowing for process requirements
  • Producing historical information that can be analyzed to determine the efficiency of the group involved
  • Availability to multiple people
  • People who are notified of tasks
  • Capturing the results of tasks

At a technical level, these are similar or perhaps even identical. But at a methodological level, i.e., how you approach a given problem, they are at the opposite ends of a spectrum.

In BPM, the process is primary.  Thus, it is predetermined and static, while the data flows through it.  However, with ACM it is the data that is primary.  This tends to persist for a long period of time, but the processes are brought to the data. In many cases with ACM, the processes are not even fully predefined, but must be defined on the fly.

The net result is that BPM and ACM are useful for different kinds of business situations. For example:

  • Highly predictable and highly repeatable business situations are best supported with BPM, e.g., signing up for cell phone service: it happens thousands of times a day, and the process is essentially fixed.
  • Unpredictable and unrepeatable business situations are best handled with ACM, e.g., investigation of a crime requires following up on various clues, going down various paths which are not predictable in advance.   There are various tests and procedures to use, but they will be called upon only when required.

Jack B. ReVelle, Ph.D.
A Consulting Statistician
ReVelle Solutions, LLC
Santa Ana, CA