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Convergence and Case Management

March 16th, 2010 6 comments

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?

Dynamic, Unstructured, Collaborative, Adaptive?

September 4th, 2009 No comments

Like everyone else, I have a perception bias, and that leads me to see the world of BPM through the looking glass of Case Management. Maybe it’s because I’m a slightly unstructured sort of person and because I tend to do multiple tasks in parallel. Whatever the case (no pun intended), I see significant value in capturing many business processes through a CM style of BPM. Despite that bias, I can objectively say that there’s been a lot of interest in Case Management lately (see Connie Moore’s post here as one example).

But it hasn’t been limited to Case Management. There’s also been a lot of talk about Dynamic Business Applications and Unstructured Business Processes. And before all that there was Collaborative BPM. Clay Richardson makes some great points about the intersection of Social Media and BPM here. His example of Google Wave tied to a process instance is fantastic.

So what?

I believe we’re hitting a point where companies are becoming more interested in improving business processes that aren’t quite as straightforward and well defined. Further, I believe that whatever name you choose to describe those processes, dynamic, unstructured, collaborative, adaptive, etc., companies are looking for solutions that can solve those problems. I for one am excited, because it means that we’re getting to the “hard stuff”.

Think of all those meetings you’ve sat in arguing about how a process should behave. Did you have to compromise in the end, sacrificing everyone’s position to find a common ground? I’d bet in many cases you did. I’d argue that having to compromise like that just creates more problems. It forces people to find workarounds because the solution isn’t really a solution at all. And I’d say that in many cases, that compromise was unnecessary, because the right solution would have let you deal with the “art inside the science”. For some types of business problems, specifically those that involve human judgement, we need to trust in the people that do the work, more often than not they know what they’re doing. Provide them with guidelines and best practices, sure, and provide a mechanism to see how they’re doing (performance metrics, reports, etc). But give them the flexibility to adapt to the real world as it happens.

It’s an dynamic world out there, and life happens. Don’t you think we should accept that the same can be true of the processes our companies follow?

Categories: Case Management

Connie Moore on Case Management

August 20th, 2009 No comments

Ok, I’m biased, I love Case Management. I think that’s why I’m able to overlook that Connie Moore of Forrester was writing for EMC in this post on Case Management. :)

In all seriousness though, Connie does a great job of providing a clear, one paragraph description of what defines case management, one that I agree with, as does Bruce Silver. I also like the tie back to Lean, I think she’s onto something there.

Connie makes a point that I’ve struggled with throughout my tenure here at Global 360, which is the name “Case Management”. It really doesn’t do the discipline any justice and certainly confuses companies who would otherwise benefit from the application of a case management soluton. Maybe we should start by changing the name?

And LOVE the photo of Clay Richardson of Forrester as well!

Categories: Case Management