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Can BPM meet Enterprise 2.0 over Adaptive Case Management?

by alexandra on maj 2nd, 2010

The project that I am running at JCDEC involves a lot of internal ”marketing” targeting both at end users and people in charge of our IT-projects. Lately I have found myself explaning the difference between Workflow processes using Documentum Process Engine and Taskspace and what EMC’s new clients Centerstage Pro and Media Workspace. My best argument so far has been that BPM/Workflow is well suited for formal repeatable process in the HQ while Enterprise 2.0 clients takes care of ad-hoc and informal processess. Keith Swensson explains the Taylorism-based Scientific Management-concept as the foundation of Business Process Management in this blogpost in a good way. He continues to provide a bridge over to ad-hoc work that nowadays is done by what is called Knowledge Worker. Documentum Centerstage is a tool that is intended for the Knowledge Worker which also can be seen as the Enterprise 2.0 way of working.

However, Keith continues to steer us over to a concept called Adaptive Case Management which is supposed to address those more agile and dynamic ways of working as a contrast to slow-changing well-defined business processess that is deployed in traditional BPM-systems. To my understanding this focuses a lot on the fact that the user itself (instead of a Process designer) needs to be able to control templates, process steps and various other things in order to be able to support more dynamic work such as criminal investigations or medical care.

However, Adaptive Case Management is also a concept (I understand) in the book called ”Mastering the Unpredictable”. The idea is to focus on the unpredictable nature of some work situations but also reflect a bit over to what degree things are unpredictable or not. In this presentation by Jacob Ulkeson the argument is that the main bulk of work is unpredictable and therefore also means that Process Modeling using traditional BPM most likely won’t work.

Some people have opinions that there is no need to redefine BPM and that all these three letter acronyms does not contribute much to the understanding of the problem and the solutions. I think I disagree and the reason for that is that there are no silver bullet products that covers everything that you need. Most organisations start somewhere and rolls out systems based on their most pressing needs. I believe that these systems have some similarities in what they are good and bad at. Having bought an ECM, BI, CRM or ERP-system usually says something about what business problems have been addressed. As SOA-architectures matures and the ambition to reduce stove-pipes increases it actually means that the complementary character of these systems matter. It also matters which of these vendors you choose because the consolidation efforts into a few larger vendors means choosing from different approaches.

To me all of this means an opportunity to leverage the strong points of different kind of platforms. Complex sure but if you have the business requirements it is probably better than building it from scratch. So I think when companies quickly rolls out Enterprise 2.0 platforms from smaller startup vendors they soon discover that they risk creating yet another stove-pipe but in this case consisting of social information. Putting E 2.0 capabilties on top of an ECM-platform than makes a lot of sense in order to be able to integrate social features with existing enterprise information. The same most likely goes for BI, CRM etc.

When it comes to BPM the potential lies in extending formal processess with social and informal aspects. However, it is likely that the E 2.0-style capabilities make new ways of working evolve and emerge. Sooner or later they need to be formalised maybe into a project or a community of interest. Being able to leverage the capabilties of the BPM-platform in terms of monitoring and some kind of best practice in form of templates is not far-fetched. To some degree I believe that Adaptive Case Management-solutions sometimes should be used instead of just a shared Centerstage Space because you need this added formal aspects but still want to retain some flexibility. Knowledge Worker-style work can then be done on top of a BPM-infrastructure while at the same time utilising the ECM-infrastructure for all content objects involved in the process. Having a system like Documentum that is good at content-centric human workflow processes makes a lot of sense.

So is the Documentum xCP a way to adress this middle-ground between Process Modeling-based processes and Knowledge Worker-style support in CenterStage? The mantra is ”configure instead of coding” which implies a much more dynamic process. I have not played around with xCP yet – we have so far only deployed processes developed from scratch instead of trying out the case management templates that comes with the download.

Not all companies want to do this but I think some will soon see the merits of integrating ECM, BI, E.2.0 and BPM/ACM-solutions using SOA. The hard part I belive is to find software and business methods support for the agile and dynamic change management of these systems. The key to achieve this is to be able to support various degrees of ad-hoc work where on one the user does everything herself and on the other way a more traditional developer coding modules. Being able to more dynamically change/model/remodel not only processess but also the data model for content types in Documentum is a vital capability to be able to respond to business needs in a way that maintains trust in the system. This is not a task by IT but something done by some kind of Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) specialist. They can get some proper means of doing their work using this SOA-based integration of different sets of products.

So employ E 2.0-style features in Task Management clients and make sure that E 2.0 style clients include tasks from BPM/ACM in their activity streams or unified inboxes. Make sure that all of this is stored in an ECM-platform with full auditing capabilities which needs to be off-loaded to a data warehouse so it can be dynamically analysed using interactive data visualisation, statistics and data mining. I hope we can show a solutions for that in our lab soon.


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  1. Alexandra, thanks for referencing my post. I seriously doubt the validity of your proposition that linking 5 different environments (ECM, BPM, CCM, CRM, and E2.0) with SOA is effective. The integration cost and total cost of ownership will be substantial. The one thing you still dont get is a common data model and you still have five different GUIs. If you would try to link them under CenterStage (which is a lot of custom coding too) then the SOA canonical data models require substantial data mapping and conversion and continuous adaptation. Basically you have to code-freeze all five products to get to a stable envrionment as they are not change managed in the same place. A nightmare …

    You are absolutely right that the hard part is to find support for change management across all these systems! Very true. And there is no way to do that with distinct ‘bes of breed’ systems, which are therefore no longer best of breed. They suddenly lack the core feature of interoperability and agility that they promise.

    Our Papyrus Platform provides support for all processes (ECM, BPM, CCM, CRM, and E2.0) in a fully consolidated manner because the central metadata repository manages the five elements of adaptive processes: data entities, business content, business rules, activities, and user presentation. These standalone silos will eventually disappear. Ok, we may disagree on that but we just have to wait and see. Evolution favors efficiency and maintaining FIVE systems is not efficient.

  2. Hi Alexandra,

    Your readers using Atlassian Confluence might like to take a look at Comalatech’s Ad hoc Workflows for Confluence. – we think it’s a great way to accomplish adaptiveness and agility using Confluence.


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