Another take on ACM: Feature or Paradigm

Post by
Scott Francis

I missed this post from Keith Swenson the other day, as he responds to Anatoly's post on ACM.

Keith cuts to the chase:

Anatoly Belychook asks the question: ?is ACM a Paradigm or a Feature?? I could not resist responding because I like the post, and his logic is flawless, but it is based on false assumptions.? I think there is a lesson here on why so many BPM experts feel the way he does.

First, his summary of Adaptive Case Management (ACM) is one of the best I have seen.? There is no doubt that Anatoly understand the motivations behind ACM.

What he does next is quite surprising; he analyzes whether ACM meets certain requirements of BPM.? That is the flaw in his thinking: there is no reason to believe that ACM should meet the requirements of BPM.? Many BPM experts? start with an assumption that ACM should have BPM-like features, and then move on to conclude that ACM is really just a type of BPM.? Those wanting to understand the subject should be wary.


Hm.? I would have phrased this differently- it isn't that Anatoly's assumptions are wrong - its just that the exercise Anatoly takes on is looking at how to satisfy BPM-style problems with ACM-style claimed feature-sets.? Anatoly would state it differently: How to satisfy enterprise level problems his customers are asking him to address, with ACM-style claimed feature-sets.? And, to consider whether you can solve enterprise style case management problems without paying attention to key issues of architecture, data entities, process architecture, etc.

The comments section reveal a very interesting discussion between Keith and Anatoly - well worth reading (thankfully BPM and ACM posts do not get cluttered with 100's of comments like tech crunch articles!).

In one of his comments, Keith wraps with:

Hopefully this clarifies my point: while ACM capabilities may be a feature of a BPMS, ACM in general is not JUST a feature of a BPMS. To say the latter would be misleading.


Given that ACM describes an "approach" rather than a technology, of course this is true.? Likewise, BPM capabilities are not just a feature of a BPMS... I'd consider this a tautology.? I think what Anatoly was exploring is whether ACM software will survive as a standalone / separate market, or whether it will be collapsed with BPM software as a market. (Thus, feature vs. paradigm)

I might be projecting my own impressions onto his writing, however.

Interesting conclusions in Keith's post, first this bit:


  • BPM needs process architecture, ACM has no such need
  • In BPM the person who designs the process needs to be a data architect, but in ACM these are different roles.? The person who designes the ?process? does not need to be a data architect.
  • BPM needs strong capabilities for integration, but in ACM there is little or no need for field-level integration.? ACM can work well with documents,? reports, and links to other application user interface.


And Keith asks: isn't this enough to make it different?? Well, in technical terms, no.? But in terms of "approach", yes. You can implement (and I have implemented) processes that required no "architecture", "data architecture", nor "integration".? Typically those aren't the kinds of processes people pay consultants to help them develop however, so I haven't worked on that many of them. But it is definitely a different approach to start with the assumption that you won't do these things.

Keith wraps with:

BPM systems will gain ACM-like features, but few doctors, policemen, and lawyers will use that.

Social Business Software like Jive, SharePoint, Quad, Chatter, and Connections will gain ACM-like features as well, and will be far more successful than the BPM systems, because those are systems that the doctors, policemen, and lawyers will use.

How funny.? I end up agreeing it is a feature of something, just not a feature of BPM.? :-)


I, too, find it ironic that Keith finally agrees ACM is a feature of something else (from a technical perspective)!? I think, by extension, ACM can be considered a (potential) feature of BPM.? And Keith may be right- that doctors, policemen, and lawyers will be using one of these other products (SharePoint? I doubt it) - but I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that they won't see BPM in their lives given all the government investment in process that's happening.

Update: the discussion has moved to ebizQ now, thanks to Peter Schooff.

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