What to choose: Adaptive Case Management or Business Process Management?

The rise of Adaptive Case Management (ACM) solutions – which started somewhere around 2010 – led to a lot of questions about the value of BPM (Business Process Management). But what’s the real debate? Are the two approaches opposed to each other or complementary?

For every organization that wants to do more with less, process automation is without a doubt a very interesting, if not essential approach. A company that automates its processes, reduces the number of tasks and errors, and improves its efficiency. In other words: process automation implies business process modeling or BPM. One of BPM’s objectives is to improve the internal organization of work. With this first goal of process modeling realized, it is possible to automate parts of other activities and improve the availability of the process for the employees, thus maximizing the time they can dedicate to activities with high added value.

Business Process Management can be seen as a modern take on Taylorism, as the processes are divided in small steps, which are in turn assigned to specialized actors: human employees or automated IT solutions. BPM is based on the assumption that processes are written in stone. They follow a tight scheme, including instructions on how to handle exceptional situations. This scheme is prepared in advance and remains stable throughout time.

Adaptive Case Management was introduced as a new way of managing organizational processes, which are by nature not repetitive. The main difference is that ACM doesn’t take the tightness of the process as a starting point. On the contrary, ACM is based on the expertise of the knowledge workers, who are capable of adapting themselves to get to the end result. ACM aims at managing every case in a specific way. How is it possible to work case by case? Well, ACM is based on a set of operational processes or procedures. They are combined in such a way that they deliver a custom solution for every specific situation.

ACM can be viewed as process orchestration on a lower level, aimed at dealing with a situation to achieve a result. Being the opposite of Taylorism, ACM is based on management by objective. What matters is getting the case solved, regardless of the path that was followed through lower-level processes or procedures.

From its introduction, ACM has often been described as the opposite of BPM, especially because it doesn’t follow the assumption of the strict execution sequence. In reality – and in hindsight – both approaches have more common ground than they have differences. In both BPM and ACM, the modeling is done one level of abstraction at a time, each level nested into the other and revealing more precise details when going from one level to the next. At the highest level of abstraction, the processes are brought together in a few macro activities.

Regardless of what is often said about it, everybody who is experienced in this matter knows that these macro activities are stable and almost always constant, from both the ACM or BPM point of view. On the lowest levels, the procedures become work instructions, very sequential in nature and following a fixed execution structure. So where can we find the difference? At the intermediate levels? Yes and no. Yes, because the work logic is located at the intermediate levels, including the rules and conditions that guide the treatment of each situation in one direction or the other. No, because the complexity of one condition doesn’t prevent a description in BPM more than it imposes a description in ACM.

The knowledge and experience that have been developed by Aprico Consultants strengthen our strong conviction that the expertise of the business analyst is at the heart of all this, much more than the choice between two methodologies. The understanding of an organization and its activities, the understanding of the decision making process throughout these activities, the understanding of the information the business needs to make these decisions: those are the true questions for the business analyst.

The complexity of a decision – if correctly understood and modeled – enables the choice between an automated or a manual solution: the choice between the roll-out of a workflow with BPM or the treatment of a case with ACM. “Correctly understood and modeled”, however, doesn’t mean it’s just a matter of model. The organization of work, responsabilities and internal choices all come into play. It’s on that level that the expertise of the Aprico Consultants business analysists makes the difference.

In conclusion, the expertise developed by Aprico Consultants through a wide range of projects tends to prove that there is no real debate, let alone a schism between two dogmas. At Aprico Consultants, we believe that both approaches focus on the same goal: the understanding of the business rules that guide the execution of actions. This field of expertise is at your service.

Would you like to know more about our business analysts? Contact us at sales@aprico-consult.com.

BPM Done Right

What is BPM Done Right? Today, organizations have countless legacy systems and applications that need to be modernized. Their processes are critical for day-to-day business, from customer onboarding and order processing product or service delivery to exception handling and regulatory compliance.

For years, Business Process Management (BPM) technology has been used to address optimization and rationalization issues in work organizations. There’s often a misconception, though, that BPM is mostly about automating workflow in individual processes.

This view falls short of addressing the hottest needs of today’s organizations : achieve wide-ranging business transformation. So how do we strike the right balance between developing efficient, enterprise-wide processes and maximizing their alignment with corporate goals?

First, Get The Big Picture…

BPM is about more than just increasing efficiency or cutting costs in a department, group, or enterprise. At Aprico, we believe that it should serve enterprise goals. To that end, we focus on strategy long before process modeling or automation starts.

That means careful analysis of current processes to understand their related

issues. See what goes on inside a process, for example:

  • What individuals are involved in the process, and what are their respective responsibilities?
  • How do team members work and
  • how do their tasks fit in with their colleagues’ activities?
  • Is the process based on a structured or ad hoc work style?Aprico Consultants
  • Does it require interaction with a wide range of content types?
  • What information do team members need to access and how?

Too often in this exercise, I find that business executives are removed from the staff that’s involved in day-to-day operations. So BPM provides a unique opportunity to bridge this disconnect between executives and staff. And it also provides the foundation you need for business and IT professionals to work more collaboratively.

Align with Strategy

According to the ISO 9001 standard, the primary goal to achieve quality management is to meet or exceed customer expectations. So this calls for aligning business processes to meet customer needs.

To that end, I offer the following tips:

Talk to Domain Experts

To understand an organization’s processes, you can’t beat collecting information by face-to-face interviews with team members.

Ask people to explain what they do. Get the big picture about their knowledge, skills, and connections to each other. Identify their roles and responsibilities carefully. You might find that their roles and responsibilities are ill-defined, or have often changed over time.

In traditional organizations, people still think in terms of individual tasks, rather than streamlined processes. You need to see beyond the biases that can cause inertia or resistance to change.

Assess Task Value

By processes, we mean a set of activities that, taken together, produce an outcome that is of value to a customer. That’s why you need to ascertain:

  • Why each action is performed
  • What value is added by each action
  • Whether an action can be eliminated without negatively impacting the outcome.

Individual tasks handled by multiple people with successive handoffs can cause problems, including inefficiencies, errors or delays.

A process improvement may therefore require coordination, such as aligning activities, tasks, and information among interdependent units in an organization. Achieving the optimal level of coordination will often reduce bottlenecks and cycle times.

Implement the Process

The next step is to translate the insights that you have gathered into action. This will likely require bridging separate silos of activity within the organization. Depending on circumstances, you may :

  • Focus on Organizational Issues: a “culture of collaboration” helps integrate and better leverage existing business processes. You can do this through formal and informal coordination mechanisms, such as coaching, working beside team members, or removing people from functional departments and assigning them to a process or case team. Process definition and documentation play a key role here.
  • Focus on Automation where required: a BPMS platform can play a substantial role in driving efficiency, process automation, and worker productivity. It will provide an integrated environment that can integrate systems, transactions, and data through automation.

A BPM implementation, however, requires integration with your existing infrastructure. Connectivity is critical for linking processes to the resources they control, such as people, system data and event streams.

Pre-built components, such as out-of-the-box interface applets and connectors to legacy that are provided by professional services firms, such as Aprico, can help you configure solutions without extensive custom development, reducing time-to-value. The benefits can include development time and cost savings, increased flexibility of applications, and reduced time-to-market.

Aprico: The BPM Partner

to Get it Done Right

At Aprico, we believe that harnessing business processes is key to remaining competitive in today’s digital age.

With over two decades’ experience helping companies transform their businesses, we can help you implement a consistent and sound Business Process Management. Our process analysis and process improvement skills, combined with domain expertise in key industries, such as financial services, energy, transportation, and government, can go a long way to optimizing business performance.

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