Comparison: ACM vs. BPM


What is the difference between Adaptive Case Management (ACM), and Business Process Management (BPM)?

Abstract: ACM and BPM

  • both used to help workers within organization to coordinate better, to achive goals more efficient, and to better meet the needs of their customers.
  • both involve data, process, roles, communications, integration and analytics.
  • however, they take very different approaches to doing this which are effective in different business situations.

Business process management approaches the problem of improving the work of an organization from a strongly process centric point of view.

The first thing you think about is the process. In a certain way, it is the process which defines whether two instances are similar or not.

Data flow into and out from the process. The process represent the goal of a particular sequence of actions, but that goal is not itself an information resource.

The process instance contains process relevant data, as well as application data, but it is generally assumes that that data is a copy of data that has its source elsewhere. This is the main point about “integration” of the process into other information resources.

BPM might be visualizeD AS in this diagram:

Adaptive Case Management (also known as Advanced Case Management) also tries to improve the performance of an organization, but instead of considering the process primary, it is the case information that is primary. This information is an information resource, which will be accessed over the length of use, and in many situations will become the official record (system of record) for that work.

There can be processes, but the processes are brought to the case, and run in the context of the case, rather than the other way around.

An ACM system might be envisioned as this:

Both approaches deal with

  • process relevant data,
  • allow for processes.
  • produce history information that can be analyzed to determine the efficiency of the group involved.
  • available to multiple people
  • people are notified of tasks
  • cature the results of tasks

At a technical level these are similar or even identical. But at a methodological level, how you approach a given problem, they are opposite ends of a spectrum.

In BPM, the process is primary, and so normally the process is predetermined and static, while the data flow through it. With ACM, it is the data that is primary, which tends to remain persistent for a long time, possibly forever, but it is processes which are brought to it. In many cases with ACM the processes are not even fully predefined, but can be defined on the fly.

The net result is that BMS and ACM are useful for different kinds of business situations.

  •  Highly predictable and highly repeatable business situations are best supported with BPM.
    • For example signing up for cell phone service: it happens thousands of times a day, and the process is essentially fixed.
  • Unpredictable and unrepeatable business situations are best handled with ACM.
    • For example investigation of a crime will require following up on various clues, down various paths, which are not predictable before hand. The are various tests and procedures to use, but they will be called only when needed.
The above text borrowed heavily from The WORKFLOW MANAGEMENT COALITION site – Public Notes
  • Apparently BPM Died Again
  • Adaptive Case Management Could Be The Foundation For Networked Business
  • Is Case Management and BPM the same? ” Thoughts on Collaborative Planning
  • Adaptive Case Management ” Welcome to the Real (IT) World!

0 thoughts on “Comparison: ACM vs. BPM

  1. Hi Mark,

    Found this blog entry when Google’ing for “acm vs bpm”.

    How does pure collaboration between humans relate to ACM? Would that be an onion where data is in the center and humans around it? How does process fit into collaboration? Can collaboration be expressed using process flow notations? Are there any notations to describe unpredictable, collaborative work?

    • Jonas, ACM also supports pure collaboration. A goal-oriented collaboration might use some process elements to reach its goals. Therefore ACM supports the whole spectrum from rigid processes to free collaboration and can mix them as needed. It makes no sense for people in organizations to switch between collaboration tools, ACM tools and BPM software. When and why would they do that? How would they connect them and how would they pass the data. A business needs one System of Engagement and not many different silos.

      There is the CMMN standard notation for case work, but it once again produces another silo and it is not goal-oriented either. If you have no rigid process you must have clearly defined and achievable goals.

      What is further missing is that processes not only need data but also content. Most ACM and BPM systems have no functionality to support content and only can call external functionality. Lots of programming needed. Additionally the data and content are mingled in business documents and they have to be both merged and extracted at certain times in the process. MOre often than not the core information needed to reach a goal is within content and NOT available as business data.

  2. Mark, there are obviously different approachs to ACM. From my perspective ACM only makes sense on a ölarger scale if the it encompasses all the functionality that BPM offers. Whiel the more promiment perspective on data is relevant you are not pointing out the key difference, which is how the processes are created. BPM is flow-oriented and processes that cover all possibilities have to be created upfront, while ACM is goal-oriented and the processes are created at time of execution by the performers. That requires quite different software techology and it requires anorganiization that can benefit from such worker empowerment.

    Even if a telephone service process seems to be always the same it isn’t, simply because it involves humans and their unpredictability. It is a wrong assumption that they should be the same and the quality is higher if they are all handled the same way. The opposite is the case. The process is complete when the customer is satisfied and not when the flow-diagram reaches its endpoint. Standardized processes are one of the ley reasons for the drop in service quality in larger corporations.

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