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Convergence and Case Management

Consolidation is a fact of life in the software industry. Large companies buy small companies to round out their capabilities, medium companies merge with other medium companies to provide a more financially stable combined entity, and small players, well, they either get acquired or go out of business. So it comes as no surprise to the business process management (BPM) world that companies like Lombardi and Savvion were acquired by IBM and Progress Software respectively, regardless of whether the suitors were expected or not.

The same could be said of the most recent acquisition in the space, that of Chordiant by Pegasystems. Pega is a powerhouse player who has traditionally been very strong in the Customer Service arena. In hindsight, Chordiant is a very natural extension of that experience and presents a very compelling combined platform for customer experience.

Fascinating times in the BPM market for sure. But the title of this post references convergence, not consolidation, and while the two concepts are related, I’m not talking about acquisitions here. I’m more interested in how several previously distinct markets are coming together around a single new (old) concept called Case Management. Theo Priestly of BPM Redux tweeted today about the blurring of the lines between customer relationship management (CRM), BPM, master data model (MDM) and case management (CM). I’d personally add enterprise content management (ECM), knowledge management (KM) and an emerging category called business process guidance (BPG) to that list as well.

The venn diagram-ish graphic is one that Dana Khoyi of Global 360 and I used during our presentation to the WfMC Case Management Summit in November 2009. The premise is that CM encompasses capabilities from many other traditionally separate disciplines. The relative size of the outer boxes indicates the importance of each of those to our definition of case management. For example, ECM plays a more central role to CM than Rules, although both are critically important. The examples outside the case management box represents aspects of the other disciplines that are either not important or simply less critical to case management.

Case Management Ecosystem

Case Management Ecosystem

While attending the Gartner Portal Content and Collaboration conference (#gartnerpcc on Twitter) last week, I witnessed the “life mimics art” of this diagram coming to life. No matter whether you call it collaboration, knowledge management, social networking, or case management, the ultimate topic of many of the sessions last week revolved around the central tenet of enabling knowledge work and workers. The fascinating aspect of this was that the messages were coming not just from the analysts in attendance but from the vendors, most of whom were in enterprise content management, companies like EMC Documentum, Autonomy and Microsoft (Sharepoint). These are the same concepts we’re hearing from the business process management and customer relationship management communities as well. Combine this vendor side with what we’re seeing from analysts like Toby Bell of Gartner (long time supporter of CEVAs and Composite Content Applications) and Craig LeClair of Forrester (recently writing a paper titled “Case Management – An old idea catches fire”, and it feels like we’re going to see a collision of many different software segments (ECM, CRM, BPM, KM) in the space referred to as Adaptive Case Management (or Dynamic Case Management by Forrester).

I think it’s a great time to be part of this industry. It feels like a new generation of solutions will drive huge value for companies that recognize that they need to embrace the chaos that is knowledge work and provide their employees to help sort through it all. What are your thoughts?

  1. March 16th, 2010 at 14:40 | #1

    I also look at the Chordiant acquisition as a sign of Case Management and BPM convergence. Good post.

    In fact coincides with my post on a similar theme, just that I have attempted to cover the convergence from BPM standpoint. (http://wp.me/pN8i1-30)

    – same wordpress theme too 🙂 so our thoughts are alike on not only this!) –

  2. March 16th, 2010 at 14:44 | #2

    Thanks Ashish! I read your post this morning, your diagram of the world is substantially more refined than mine, but generally speaking I think we’re on the same page.

  3. March 23rd, 2010 at 03:25 | #3

    Tom, we are very much on the same page in what businesses need. There are however not too many people who can grasp it. Mybe with all the analysts jumping on the bandwagon that will change. I opened a XING group with the title BPM, ECM, CRM consolidation in 2008. I think I managed to attract 5 interested people? The Venn-ish diagram looks like the one I used (as we noticed at WfMC) to introduce Papyrus to analysts in 2007. They were VERY sceptical of the need for that. No one wanted to believe that businesses would see it as possible to drop the silos for something new.

    I do not think we are talking about a blurring of lines, we are talking about a serious business need, particularly if it is used to empower the business user. I also feel that simply buying software components is not simply bringing suddenly both benefits to users of the different software packs. You are talking about 3 years of integration and a couple of new software releases. In most cases the new software is not compatible enough, meaning that the business can just as well step onto a new platform and dump the old. Especially if they get with it a new paradigm that drops much of the complex analysis, design and implementation issues associated with ECM, BPM and CRM today.

    Yes, these are finally exciting times again!

  4. March 23rd, 2010 at 06:17 | #4

    Thanks Max. When I think of blurring of lines between these technologies, what I think of is that it is not as clear cut as most people have assumed, analysts, customers and vendors alike. So where people once could have said “oh, you manage customer information, use a CRM system. Oh, you have documents, use an ECM system,” they can no longer as easily say that. In one of my earlier posts on this blog I talked about the type of solution we need to solve problems like what the financial services and insurance industries face. That solution IS Case Management, but it is only recently that I believe that people are starting to want to hear about CM. As it is, people are still very skeptical of anything like the diagram above, the one Ashish references, or the one that you present.

    I think what is uniquely different about this point in time is that there is not only a desire to solve more complex business problems, but some publicity that Case Management is the right solution. To your point, even 2 years ago was too early for your XING group. Maybe we just needed a way to really publicize the value of case management more broadly, something that tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have enabled. Whatever the reason I’m glad it’s happening!

  5. March 23rd, 2010 at 08:54 | #5


    Great post. It is an exciting time to be part of the Case Management “re-revolution”. The concept of case management has been around for such a long time and now all of the components of your Venn diagram above have reached a maturity level where adaptive case management solutions can truly generate tremendous business value.

    I agree with your inclusion of Knowledge Management as an important component of the case management ecosystem. I view KM as the foundation on which businesses should build their Process Centers of Excellence. That knowledge can include process models, documented procedures, job aids and policies. Companies can use that foundation to ensure that all employees are doing their job the same way every time. Once that foundation is in place, then they can focus on the better way. In the context of a Casefolder, that knowledge (or guidance) ultimately needs to be delivered to the case worker in a format that digestible at the “moment of need”. As you mentioned above, the emerging space of Business Process Guidance (BPG) can address that requirement.

  6. April 16th, 2011 at 10:44 | #6

    Great post, Tom. I am seeing lot of convergence in area of crm, bpm, mdm and bi and organizations will do real good if they accept and orient thmeselves towards this trend. Please read my post http://partha2chat.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/convergence-of-crm-bpm-mdm-bi-four-forces-one-motto/

    let me know what are your thoughts.

  1. March 21st, 2010 at 15:04 | #1
  2. March 23rd, 2010 at 11:19 | #2