Posted on Jan 17,2022


It is a dilemma faced often by customers. What to buy; Business Process Management or Adaptive Case Management (BPM or ACM)? This is an extremely important decision to make and to make such a decision the customer needs to understand what she is paying for and what she can expect to get in return. Vendors and consultants often add to the confusion as they would want the product or technology they are endorsing to be at the top of the selection list. And in many situations even they don?t quite understand how one is differentiated from the other.
There are plenty of articles written already on the differences between BPM and Case Management and Google will be more than happy to fetch you a few hundred articles on the topic. It is essential to understand the difference. What is more important is to understand what would suit your organization better.
Let us lay some ground rules to begin with.
BPM and ACM are not technologies by themselves. These are methods of streamlining and improving the way your organization works. ACM is not content enabled BPM. Since ACM often comes from the stables of companies playing in the ECM domain, there is a popular misconception that it is so. BPM and ACM are very different concepts. You need to decide between the two approaches before choosing a technology solution. No approach is superior to the other on. The difference is only in how a particular approach fits your organization at the current moment. And it doesn?t matter that the other one is an inferior approach. Practicing one approach may lead to the other in the long run. When one tries to make an informed choice between BPM and ACM, the first and foremost consideration will be the underlying principles. While BPM is process oriented, ACM is outcome oriented. Pretty simple, huh? Let me elaborate.
BPM is about optimizing the process and managing and coordinating action points within a business activity in a streamlined manner. The focus is squarely on the process. This means a well-defined process should exist for performing the business actions. The process then get refined as time goes and optimized for maximum efficiency. Many business functions would fall into categories where there are defined and documented processes and such business functions are handled by the process users. Business processes such as employee reimbursements, vacation or leave approvals, or accounts payables mandates a well-defined set of steps. Processing of such functions often involves following laid out processes and guidelines and does not quite require user judgments. BPM will be a perfect fit for such scenarios where the activities can be sequenced upfront by the process experts and carried out by following the well-established path.
In a scenario where such activities are being automated using a technology solution, acquiring a pure BPM platform makes quite a lot of sense. The process designers will be able to map the well documented business process to the system and create the necessary workflow definitions and other related constructs in the software. When there are process changes the designers can update the workflows and other related components. The users will have to process tasks that are pushed to them by the BPM system.
To take full advantage of a BPM technology investment, the organization should have a high level of process maturity.
ACM is about coordinating a series of activities by using relevant information and other artifacts to achieve a stated outcome. This can be best illustrated with an example. A detective working on a crime investigation does not follow a rigid to process to attain the desired outcome, which is the identification and subsequent capture of the culprit with all necessary evidences. The detective performs a set of coordinated activities, analyses the outcome of each of the activities, coordinates with many other resources or agencies, and finally managed to reach the outcome. At every point in he collects information and adds to his case folder. He may perform a set of pre-defined activities or more likely perform activities that are ad-hoc based on the current situation. Such a scenario is a perfect fit for ACM.
The ACM users are knowledge workers and they enjoy a level of independence and flexibility in carrying out their activities. The organization should have the engagement maturity to put a specific emphasis for the outcome of a business transaction.
What suits my organization?
Even within the same organization and in the same business groups, we could identify functions that are process centric or outcome centric. In an organization the accounts payable could be process centric whereas customer support could be outcome centric.
Two identical organizations could approach the exact same process way differently. Assume there are two banks with a credit card application process. Bank A could choose a process centric approach whereas Bank B could choose an outcome centric approach.
Bank A will then have a pre-defined credit card application process where the application will be processed based on a defined process and set of business rules. Any application that falls within the defined parameters will get approved and the rest of them will get rejected. The process workers assigned to a case may not have the knowledge or freedom to apply their judgments on the case.
Bank B will have knowledge workers at various stages of the application process. These workers could look at each case subjectively and make a decision based on the available business rules and guidelines. They will even have the option of overruling a pre-defined approval criteria if necessary. Both approaches will have its merits and demerits. The selection of one concept over the other depends on the organization?s principles and resources ultimately.