This week I have found myself talking to a couple of clients about why their particular system cannot do quite what they thought it could. Basically, these clients had made investments in what they thought was workflow or BPM solutions. However, what they actually have is a Case Management solution. This solution is working fine for them at the moment, however, their ideas for future expansion of the system, incorporating more complex processes simply cannot happen with their chosen platform…
So what has happened? Well far too often vendors (especially those who do not specialise in ECM or BPM) claim their solution provides workflow or BPM facilities. Now I am not saying this is done on purpose to mislead customers, rather I believe it is done because they don’t know the difference between BPM and Case Management, and nor does the customer.
Most people I have spoken to about this agree with me, that Case Management isn’t BPM and shouldn’t be confused with it. This has caused some discussion out there in Twitter world. If you want to engage, why not chat to me on Twitter http://twitter.com/AndrewOneDegree) or some of these people about it @sfracisatx, @JohnBJansen, @skemsley and @DevilsRefugee
So what is the difference?
BPM is about control, and good BPM solutions provide you with great flexibility to go along with that control. So you have the flexibility to take control of any process within your business, no matter how complex it may be. However, Case Management doesn’t allow you to do this, rather it provides a solid one fit framework in which an item of work (Case) can be controlled and completed.
Let’s look at how Case Management can work. Typically you will have a number of “Queues” which contain work within them. Richer Case Management solutions will allow a “Case” of work to be split into smaller pieces of work, probably with each bit of work being allocated to one of those queues. Now it is up to a user agent to then open up that queue, and pull a particular piece of work (though they could be given the first one in the queue). The agent then completes the tasks and the work, and it’s then done. I know they can “hold”, “refer”, “suspend” etc but the point is, the piece of work doesn’t go anywhere, (it stays on the same logical step / activity) it isn’t moving along a logical process. Once the individual pieces of work are done, the case is in effect completed. Hence you have managed the case fully.
Now for me this is pure Case Management, it simply does what it says on the tin…
Is it BPM still though?
Now this particular way of working can be argued to be a business process, and you are correct, many BPM systems provide Case Management, and can provide it because of what else they can do. However, let’s take the same Case Management system and ask it to do some of the following tasks:
- Automatically route the work to a particular skilled group of individuals
- Identify and complete tasks / smaller processes that do not need human interaction
- Automatically hold items at a particular stage and wait for other processes to complete
- Split a task down into a smaller business processes
- With the process needing to allocate work, move work to a different department
If it can do all these things, then you don’t have a Case Management system, rather you have a BPM system. Now the next question is, does your chosen BPM system deliver all that is expected of a BPM platform, the flexibility to use the same system across any business process?
Essentially BPM provides us with steps (activities) along the business process and provides the intelligence to be able to move work through these different multiple steps to completion. Case Management provides, if you like, a single step (activity) business process, as work isn’t being moved along to different stages, departments, etc…
When Case Management over BPM
Well it’s all down to requirements, and that’s how it should be. If your requirements don’t warrant a BPM platform or the ability to map out multiple business processes, then look at a Case Management solution. Case Management solutions should always be a cheaper option to BPM, because they aren’t so flexible nor complex.
Let’s ensure there is always a clear distinction between Case Management and BPM. It is confusing, but there is a logical and procedural difference between the two, and this should always be made clear by vendors to customers. Use Case Management for single step type processes and BPM for anything else that requires “movement” along a process…