Case Management Redux

Scott Francis
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Redux Online’s guest blogger Ashish Bhagwat reposted styles of process, distinguished by their attributes… including: Case Management.  Was it posted by Gartner sometime in the last couple months, given all the debate on Case Management?  Nope.  It was posted in 2005.
Recently, we have had few on Case Management and unstructured processes. Those may have been triggered by an acquisition or two, or certain technological developments that made case management easier to achieve ‘technologically’ than earlier. But, most of us know it is not new in terms of problem space, in terms of definition and also in terms of implementation. I have been looking for something to confirm this – Case Management flavor of process management has existed almost all along. And I stumbled across this picture that described the “styles” of processes in June 2005. I thought I’d share it and remind all of us that problem space has not changed by much!
I find myself in violent agreement.

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  • Scott,

    As someone who advocates both the concepts behind and solutions for case management, I too agree that case management isn't “new”. I don't necessarily think that the diagram that Ashish references as it oversimplifies the “what and how” of case management, but the point is valid. Take a look at Forrester's paper on dynamic case management, the subtitle of “an old idea catches fire” makes the same point.

    With that in mind, there is clearly a resurgence of interest in the topic. What do you personally believe is driving this? Do you feel it is driven by vendors, business people, or analysts? Or some combination of any / all of these? I'd like to hear your point of view on the topic as someone “on the ground” in BPM implementations. I certainly have my own beliefs on the topic which I'd be happy to share as well.

  • I think the customer demand for case management scenarios has been pretty consistent (the problem space)- so I don't consider that a *change* factor over the last 6-9 months. I do think vendor consolidation has created opportunities for people to rethink their positioning and how to stand out. I also think that some of the tools wearing a BPM badge were quite brittle with respect to change, and therefore leading others to try to differentiate with titles like “dynamic” BPM. (And then later, dynamic case management)

    There's also a constant effort by analysts to synthesize information into themes that can be communicated to customers (and reports that they can charge for of course!) – and this, too, leads to periodic churn of terminology or focus. The “traditional” pureplay BPM market has been shaken up and it isn't clear that comparing the remaining pureplays to behemoths like IBM and Oracle makes sense. So it makes some sense to try to “refactor” the market and look for different themes to explain it.

    I think there's actually quite a bit of innovation going on in the BPM space right now, perhaps contrary to conventional wisdom circa December/January… maybe I'll write about that in my next post :)

  • I agree with Scott that demand for case management is pretty consistent: I've been doing workflow/EAI/BPM implementations since the mid-1990's and have seen that sort of requirement pop up in almost every instance. Unfortunately, lack of tool capability in the past has meant that either a great deal of customization was required, an industry-specific case management tool was used (very popular in healthcare), or it was just done manually.

  • I agree with Scott and Sandy. And since I already wrote this in my post I think my stance is pretty clear as well – “certain technological developments made case management easier to achieve ‘technologically’ than earlier. But, most of us know it is not new in terms of problem space, in terms of definition and also in terms of implementation.”…

    And Sandy makes a good point on the domain / industry specific tools that have been making the case management functionality available to businesses. I have seen such usage in Fraud and Disputes Management, KYC processes, and even in Project Management stream.

    As for the “resurgence” part, well, the solution space seems to have gotten more advanced, more organized, and it is also natural for more niche areas to get better recognition with BPM shakeout and more mainstream adoption.

  • @Scott – Your comment about BPM solutions being more brittle than they should be is a good one. Certainly there's a spectrum of flexibility in all these tools and some (many?) are at the wrong end of that.

    Not sure I agree on the point about comparing pure-plays to IBM / Oracle, at least as it relates to case management. IBM is clearly putting a lot behind their Advanced Case Management strategy, and I'm sure Oracle by way of Siebel and Universal Content Management will have something to say as well.

    With regards to innovation in the BPM space, also totally agree, there is some great progress being made. My feeling though is that while some BPMS vendors will evolve their products to better handle case management use-cases, many will only “market” to case management. Regardless of whether you believe there is a different approach required to solve case management problems or not, there are capabilities required to truly enable businesses to solve some of the problems that come up in dealing with unpredictable work. As you mentioned in another post, Malcolm Ross has started to take a crack at some of these, as have I just this week.

    @Sandy – Totally agree with your assessment of how case management requirements have been handled in many implementations, especially the “or handled manually” part. I think this is where the evolution of case management solutions becomes important (to be adaptive, dynamic, advanced or whatever). I think people have hit a point in their businesses where they aren't ok with simply doing something manually any longer, or where they don't want to have to compromise on a solution when two different approaches both solve the same problem and allow people to use their best judgement to deal with their work.

    @Ashish – I should have commented on your original post, but now that you're here…. :-)

    I've personally seen increased interest in case management over the past year, and I don't think it's the same folks that would have looked at it back in 2005. In fact, most of the people I've talked to about it recently have significant experience with one BPMS or another and don't manage “cases”. Maybe we're just getting better at talking about why it's important and relating it to a business problem. I'd like to think it's me, but I suspect it's something bigger than that. :-)

    It's certainly going to be interesting to see what happens as the case management market “matures” through evaluations by Forrester and others.

  • I think that sums it up pretty well – solution space getting more organized, etc.

  • I think your point about tool / software support lacking in the past is well-said.

  • Fair points about Oracle/IBM – it may not be the right way to differentiate from those guys, but I think it is some of the motivation behind the positioning lately. Of course the big software firms are quick to pick up the messaging and spin, but it takes more time to pick up the product capabilities and put them together the right way to solve the problem, and I think that's what you were getting at a bit later in your comment.

    I hope the analyst community will evaluate software in terms of how well it addresses the “case management solution space” (or problem space if you like negative phrasing), rather than evaluating “case management 'vendors'”.