Best Practices For Modeling Processes And Rules With @Ronald_G_Ross

Ron Ross presented in the first breakout session of the BPM track, discussing best practices for creating better (and fewer) process models by modeling business rules together with processes. I’ve talked on this subjet quite a bit, although I come at it from the process modeling side whereas Ron is from the rules side. His business partner, Gladys Lam, was also in the audience; their book Building Business Solutions: Business Analysis with Business Rules and Ron’s earlier book Business Rule Concepts covers these concepts in much more detail.

I used to joke that process modelers tend to create process models wherein the business rules are just huge networks of flow logic directly in the process, whereas rules modelers create process models with a single task that just calls a rules engine. Ron isn’t going quite that far, but definitely advocates reducing the modeling of rules directly in a process notation (as BPMN gateways, for example) to create more concise and smarter process models. Rules should be expressed in business language; rules models are fundamentally different than process models, although the decisions made in the rules models can then be used within the process model. In his example, an insurance claim process included a conditional flow path when the claim is valid, but doesn’t explicitly show what rules are applied to determine if a claim is valid – that’s a job for the rules model.

He discussed some different patterns for harvesting rules from processes – conditional flows, maximum inter-task timing, and minimum inter-task timing – and introduced their RuleSpeak guidelines for expressing the resultant business rules in concise business language. He made a distinction between behavioral rules and decision rules; the former relies on a governor to watch for the rules being met or violated (often implemented in processes as an interrupting event of some sort), while the latter is about applying a decision at a point in a process. In short, rules are the embodiment of your business policies that ensure that you get consistently achieve the right results; in the rules world, processes are just a way of connecting the rules.

The key is to externalize the rules from the processes, and (primarily) model the high-volume standardized transactions. Low-volume, specialized processes don’t need to be modeled prior to execution, but can be informed and guided by rules: this is the basis of adaptive case management. This moves the need for agility into business rules – which are typically easier to change on the fly – and both simplify and stabilize business models.

Case Management In AWD 10

Judith Morley presented on their new case management capability; she started from some pretty basic principles explaining knowledge work, so likely a fairly novel capability for most of the audience.

She described case management as a new application or user interface, meaning that the AWD 10 BPM capabilities are there as part of it, but it has additional capabilities such as collaboration, content, ad hoc processes and deadlines. This circles back around the ongoing discussions in the industry about the relationship between BPM and ACM; certainly, process is a part of ACM (even structured process), but it’s more than that. They did research with their own BPO companies and some of their customers spanning retirement, mutual funds, insurance and healthcare industries, and came up with four design imperatives for a case management solution:

  • A humane way of working with files
  • Reorienting yourself to a case: making it easy to pick up where you left off after some time away from the case
  • Immediate responsibility versus ultimate responsibility: understanding ownership and responsibility for meeting milestones
  • A system that suggests rather than dictates: supporting the knowledge worker rather than enforcing a specific process

The primary workspace now for knowledge workers (as defined in their profile) is a dashboard listing their top 10 tasks – as defined by what they own and due date – and a task forecast for the next three weeks, then their top 10 cases and the case workload of all members of the worker’s team. There are two other tabs for cases and tasks; on each of those are interactive filtered views of the cases and tasks in progress. Both cases and tasks are types of AWD work items (with a predefined process model, even if just a single-step user task), with tasks being children of cases; opening a case or a task takes you to a view of that work item with the related data, content and activity. Tasks can be added to a case by the worker, using a template, and content can be added at the case or task level. Messages get passed around between cases and their tasks to allow for processes to be started, paused and rendezvoused appropriately. Cases can be created from templates as well, where a case template contains one or more tasks of any degree of complexity. Both task and case templates are, in fact, templates: if they are changed, work that is already instantiated is not impacted. Furthermore, cases can be organized into folders as a collection mechanism, although folders are not routes as cases and tasks are.

This is not yet a released product: it’s scheduled for the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013, and they are currently researching different representations that they might create of manager and team views, as well as reporting on knowledge work. This latter issue is one that I’ve been talking about a bit lately, and proposed it as one of the “unanswered questions” in my presentation on the nature of work at last year’s academic BPM conference.

ISIS Papyrus Adaptive Case Management

ISIS Papyrus defines (and implements) ACM as the full range (dare I say, a spectrum?) from straight through processes through dynamic processes to completely unstructured process driven by ad hoc content arrival such as email or social media. This, I believe, is at the heart of discussion/argument about BPM versus ACM: this definition has traditional structured BPM as a subset of ACM at the structured end, with ACM covering a much broader range of structure as well as being inherently content (document) centric, and including a number of additional capabilities such as goal orientation and business rules.

At the structured end, this can be fully automated service orchestration, driven by events or by (document) state: this can be modeled as a flow diagram, but the individual tasks are adorned with additional information about state and events that impact that task, such as a task firing when a document reaches a specific state.

At the unstructured end, this provides a collaborative case-oriented environment for a knowledge worker to manage a response to some sort of inbound content, including integrated correspondence management based on the core technology that we saw in detail yesterday.

In any type of application along the spectrum, but especially at the unstructured end, you can have access to social media channels (both inbound and outbound) as well as data from other systems and related documents. External events can impact the case, and business rules created in natural language can be applied to constrain or act upon the case. Tasks within cases are linked to goals, as defined in the business architecture; goals can be linked, and sub-goals defined for more structured dependencies. The system learns as more cases are processed relative to their goals, allowing for the next best action to be suggested to the user on a case based on the history of similar cases; this could, of course, be applied in an automated fashion rather than as a user suggestion, but this level of machine intelligence tends to make some organizations uncomfortable.

Although processes can be represented as flowchart-style models, they can also be represented as Gantt charts (or PERT charts, for that matter) to be able to visualize the critical path through the process and provide some predictions around due dates for various milestones. I’ve seen this representation from other vendors, most noticeably BP Logix, for whom I’m writing a white paper on predictive analytics and the importance of adding a time dimension/representation to processes.

There is a task-specific user interface for the details portion which must be customized for each task type, although the framework includes standard information such as a history of the case activity and resources. The task interfaces are developed using widgets, and a single UI definition can be deployed on any platform (including mobile) without customizing specifically for that platform. A mobile deployment environment is becoming critical in application development, as we saw last week at IBM Impact with their focus on using their Worklight acquisition for mobile development and deployment.

They’ve created the critical round trip between strategy and execution by connecting strategic objectives (in a strategy map) to business architecture (in a capability map) to process goals (balanced scorecard and other KPIs): not only is this top-down, where strategy defines capabilities, which in turn are used to define KPIs, but also feeding back so that the actual performance during execution is compared back to the architecture and strategy.

ISIS Papyrus stresses that ACM is just a capability of their content processing platform, and I think that this is part of the confusion around the definition of ACM: ACM is about how we do work, so requires a combination of activities, content, rules, user interface, and integration with external systems. However, there are a lot of application development environments that provide some or all of that without being defined as ACM, and more traditional BPM products are redefining themselves as ACM by adding some of these capabilities even if it’s not a good fit with their underlying infrastructure.

The ACM market is still emerging and will continue to evolve. Having some good examples of ACM in action through the ACM Awards (for which I’m one of the judges) will help with market understanding, but I anticipate many more discussions on this topic along the way.

Focus on Customer Experience with @maxjpucher

Another week, another conference. Instead of 9,500 people in Las Vegas at IBM Impact, however, this week I’m amongst a group of about 200 in the outskirts of Vienna for the ISIS Papyrus open house and user conference. Last night’s conference event included Lipizzan stallions doing dressage set to music, dinner in a palace, and Viennese waltzing to a string quartet. The conference itself is held in the ISIS Papyrus offices, full of natural light and greenery. About the only thing in common with Impact and Vegas is that the wifi is misbehaving, bumping me offline for most of the morning.

The first day opened with Max Pucher, CTO of ISIS Papyrus, talking about the necessity for a focus on customer experience, and you need to invest in technology to empower your workers, not replace them. Customer experience – and brand loyalty – is heavily influenced by the customers’ interactions with your people, not just your products. Understanding how systems of engagement work with systems of record is key, and brings focus on the number of different systems that you use in order to conduct business; this array of technology actually makes it harder to enable change, since there are often very rigid interfaces between them.

He maintains that you can’t start transforming your business with the process: you start with people, then planning, then programs, then projects and finally process. In understanding the systems of record, it’s important to start with business architecture to define objectives, map those to capabilities and end-to-end processes: the business language of process. Then, business information can be mapped to the underlying systems, and business transactions can be modeled as services against those systems. The true flexibility, however, needs to be in the systems of engagement: this is where business people need to be able to adapt processes to meet the needs of the customers.

He finished up with a bit about their product: the Papyrus platform started as inbound/outbound content management, including content-centric process management, and has expanded to include capabilities for adaptive case management (ACM), business process management (BPM), process analytics and more. The product positioning is as an integrated system of engagement, interfacing with systems of record, but providing adaptive processes that can be defined and modified by the business. Although initial projects to establish the infrastructure and environment require IT, the idea is that once it is set up, the business can work within the case structure to define their own customer engagement models.

The core functionality, and what seems to be the sweet spot for many of their customers, is inbound and outbound document processing, although this is much more than just scanning paper documents and generating correspondence: it’s ingestion of content from a wide variety of sources, the case management capabilities required to process that content, business rules to constrain and inform the case, and a significant amount of pattern recognition and machine intelligence to provide automated recommendations for the next best action to the user along the way. Work in a case is structured around goals, with activities identified (either up-front or on the fly) that are required to fulfill each goal. The goals, in turn, are linked to strategic objectives in the business architecture as well as tactical targets (KPIs). All of this is within a single integrated system, meaning that you don’t need to worry about integrating content ingestion, case management, business rules, analytics, correspondence generation and other functionality.

Although Max and I have been sparring engaging online for a few years, this is my first real introduction to the ISIS Papyrus product, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it over the next two days.

IBM Case Manager Product Update

The nice thing about IBM Case Manager (shortened to ICM in some of their material, and ACM in others) being so new is that you can show up late to the technical product briefing and not miss anything, since the product managers spend the first 10 15 minutes re-explaining what case management and ICM are to the crowd of legacy FileNet customers. (Yes, it’s been a long day.)

This session with Dave Yockelson and Jake Lavirne discussed some of the customers that they have gained since last year’s initial product release, including banking, insurance, government and energy industry examples. They listed the integrated/bundled products that make up ICM (CM, BPM, ILOG, etc.) plus those things created specifically for ICM (case object model, task object model, case analytics) and the ease with which it is used as a framework for solution construction.

The upcoming release, v5.1, will be available within the next month or so, and includes a number of new features based on feedback from the early customers:

  • Enhanced case design, including improved data integration, enhanced widget customization, solution templates, and separate solution project areas. Specifically, the data integration framework allows data from a third-party system of record to be used directly in the ICM UI or as case metadata.
  • Direct IBM CM8 integration, with the CM8 documents staying in CM8 without requiring repository federation. This means that CM8 content can initiate cases and launch tasks, as well as being used natively in tasks, completely transparently to the case worker.
  • Improved case worker user experience, including integration of IBM Forms (in addition to the existing support for FileNet eForms) in the ICM UI for adding cases, adding tasks, or viewing task details. This provides a relatively easy way to replace the standard UI with a richer forms-based interface for the case worker. There will also be a simplified UI layout, resizing and custom theming, and the ability to email and share direct links to a case. A case can also be split to multiple cases.
  • Improved support for IBM BPM, including tighter design-time integration, universal inbox, and support for Business Space.

The session wrapped up with a review of some of the vertical applications built on ICM by partners or GBS. There are a number of IBM partners working on ICM applications; I’m sure that a lot of partners weren’t thrilled to find out that IBM had essentially made much of their custom work obsolete, but this does provide an opportunity for partners to build vertical solutions much more quickly based on the ICM framework.

What’s New in IBM ECM Products

Feri Clayton gave an update on the ECM product portfolio and roadmap, in a bit more depth than yesterday’s Bisconti/Murphy ECM product strategy session. She reinforced the message that the products are made up of suites of capabilities and components, so that you’re not using different software silos. I’m not sure I completely buy into IBM’s implementation of this message as long as there are still quite different design environments for many of these tools, although they are making strides in consolidating the end user experience.

She showed the roadmap for what has been released in 2011, plus the remainder of this year and 2012: on the BPM side, there will be a 5.1 release of both BPM and Case Manager in Q4, which I’ll be hearing more about in separate BPM and Case Manager product sessions this afternoon. The new Nexus UI will previous in Q4, and be released in Q2 of 2012. There’s another Case Manager release projected for Q4 2012.

There was a question about why BPM didn’t appear in the ECM portfolio diagram, and Clayton stated that “BPM is now considered part of Case Manager”. Unlike the BPM vendors who think of ACM as a part of BPM, I think that she’s right: BPM (that is, structured process management that you would do with IBM FileNet BPM) is a functionality within ACM, not the other way around.

She went through the individual products in the portfolio, and some of the updates:

  • Production Imaging and Capture now includes remote capture, which is nice for organizations that don’t want to centralize their scanning/capture. It’s not clear how much of this is the Datacap platform versus the heritage FileNet Capture, but I imagine that the Datacap technology is going to be driving the capture direction from here on. They’ve integrated the IBM Classification Module for auto recognition and classification of documents.
  • Content Manager OnDemand (CMOD) for report storage and presentment will see a number of enhancements including CMIS integration.
  • Social Content Management uses an integration of IBM Connections with ECM to allow an ECM library to access and manage content from within Connections, display ECM content within a Connections Community and a few other cross-product integrations. There are a couple of product announcements about this, but they seem to be in the area of integration between Connections and ECM as opposed to adding any native social content management to ECM.
  • FileNet P8, the core content management product, had a recent release (August) with such enhancements as bidirectional replication between P8 and Image Services, content encryption, and a new IBM-created search engine (replacing Verity).
  • IBM Content Manager (a.k.a., the product that used to compete with P8) has a laundry list of enhancements, although it still lags far behind P8 in most areas.

We had another short demo of Nexus, pretty much the same as I saw yesterday: the three-pane UI dominated by an activity stream with content-related events, plus panes for favorites and repositories. They highlighted the customizability of Nexus, including lookups and rules applied to metadata field entry during document import, plus some nice enhancements to the content viewer. The new UI also includes a work inbasket for case management tasks; not sure if this also includes other types of tasks such as BPM or even legacy Content Manager content lifecycle tasks (if those are still supported).

Nexus will replace all of the current end-user clients for both content and image servers, providing a rich and flexible user experience that is highly customizable and extensible. They will also be adding more social features to this; it will be interesting to see how this develops as they expand from a simple activity stream to more social capabilities.

Clayton then moved on to talk about ACM and the Case Manager product, which is now coming up to its second release (called v5.1, naturally). Given that much of the audience probably hasn’t seem it before, she wen through some of the use cases for Case Manager across a variety of industries. Even more than the base content management, Case Manager is a combination of a broad portfolio of IBM products within a common framework. She listed some of the new features, but I expect to see these in more detail in this afternoon’s dedicated Case Manager session so will wait to cover them then.

She discussed FileNet P8 BPM version 5.x: now Java-based for significant performance and capacity improvements (also due to a great deal of refactoring to remove old code sludge, as I have heard). As I wrote about last month, it provides Linux and zLinux support, and also allows for multi-tenancy.

With only a few minutes to go, she whipped through information lifecycle governance (records and retention management), including integration of the PSS Atlas product; IBM Content Collector; and search and content analytics. Given the huge focus on analytics in the morning keynote, it’s kind of funny that it gets about 30 seconds at the end of this session.

IBM IOD ECM Keynote: Content In Motion

Content at rest = cost

Content in motion = value

That was the message that kicked off the ECM keynote, then Kevin Painter took the stage to introduce the winners of the four ECM customer innovation awards – Novartis, Tejon Ranch, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Wells Fargo – before turning things over to Doug Hunt.

IBM defines unstructured data, or content, as pretty much everything that doesn’t fit in a database table. Traditionally, this type of information is seen as inaccessible, cumbersome, expensive, unmanageable and risky by business, IT, records managers and legal. However, with the right management of that content, including putting it into motion to augment systems of record, it can become accessible and relevant, providing a competitive advantage.

We heard from Wells Fargo about their ECM implementation, where they are moving from having scanned documents as merely an archival practice to having those documents be an active part of the business transactions. [This sounds just like moving from post-processing scanning to pre-processing scanning and workflow, which we’ve been doing for 30+ years, but maybe it’s more complex than that.] For them, ECM is a fundamental part of their mortgage processing architecture and business transaction enabling, supporting multiple lines of business and processes. This, I think, is meant to represent the “Capture” slice of the pie.

Novartis was on stage next to talk about their records management (the “Govern” slice), particularly around retention management of their records to reduce legal risk across their multi-national organization.

Next, Hunt addressed “Analyze” with content analytics, joined by someone from Seton Healthcare to discuss how they’re using Watson analytics to proactively identify certain high-risk patients with congestive heart failure to allow early treatment that can reduce the rate of hospital readmissions. With 80% of their information being unstructured, they need something beyond standard analytics to address this.

Case management was highlighted as addressing the “Activate” slice, and Hunt was joined by someone from SEB, a Nordic bank, to discuss how they are using IBM Case Manager as an exception handling platform (i.e., for those processes that kick out of the standard straight-through process), replacing their existing workflow engine.

Hunt did briefly address the “Socialize” slice, but he was so clued out about anything to do with social content, it was a bit embarrassing. Seriously, I don’t want to hear the executive in charge of IBM’s ECM strategy talk about social as something that his wife and kids do, but he doesn’t.

He finished up talking about the strength of the IBM ECM industry accelerators and business partners, both of which help to get systems up and running at their customers’ sites as quickly as possible.

Better Together: IBM Case Manager, IBM Content Manager and IBM BPM

Dave Yockelson from ECM product marketing and Amy Dickson from IBM BPM product management talked about something that I’m sure is on the minds of all FileNet customers who are doing anything with process: how do the (FileNet-based) Case Manager and Content Manager fit together with the WebSphere BPM products?

They started with a description of the IBM BPM portfolio – nothing new here – and how ACM requires an integrated approach that addresses repeatable patterns. Hmmmm, not completely sure I agree with that. Yockelson went through the three Forrester divisions of case management from their report on the ACM space, then went through a bit more detail on IBM Case Manager (ICM) and how it knits together functionality from the entire IBM software portfolio: content, collaboration, workflow, rules, events, integration, and monitoring and analytics. He positioned it as a rapid application development environment for case-based solutions, which is probably a good description. Dickson then went through IBM BPM (the amalgam of Lombardi and WebSphere Process Server that I covered at Impact), which she promised would finish up the “background” part and allow them to move on to the “better together” part.

So, in the aforementioned better together area:

  • Extend IBM BPM processes with content, using document and list widgets that can be integrated in a BPM application. This does not include content event processes, e.g., spawning a specific process when a document event such as check-in occurs, so is no different than integrating FileNet content into any BPMS.
  • Extend IBM BPM Advanced (i.e., WPS) processes with content through a WebSphere CMIS adapter into the content repository. Ditto re: any BPMS (or other system) that supports CMIS being able to integrate with FileNet content.
  • Invoke an IBM BPM Advanced process from an ICM case task. Assuming that this is via a web service call (since WPS allows processes to be exposed as web services), not specifically an IBM-to-IBM integration.

Coming up, we’ll see some additional integration points:

  • Invoke an IBM BPM Express/Standard process from an ICM case task. This, interestingly, implies that you can’t expose a BPM Express/Standard process as a web service, or it could have been done without additional integration, doesn’t it? The selection of the process and mapping of case to process variables is built right into the ICM Builder, which is definitely a nice piece of integration to make it relatively seamless to integrate ICM and BPM.
  • Provide a federated inbox for ICM and BPM (there was already an integrated inbox for the different types of BPM processes) so that you see all of your tasks in a single list, based on the Business Space Human Tasks widget. When you click on a task in the list, the appropriate widgets are spawned to handle that type of work.
  • Interact with ICM cases directly from a BPM process through an integration service that allows cases to be created, retrieved and updated (metadata only, it appears) as part of a BPM process.

This definitely fits IBM’s usual modus operandi of integrating rather than combining products with similar functionality; this has a lot of advantages in terms of reducing the time to releasing something that looks (sort of) like a single product, but has some disadvantages in the underlying software complexity as I discussed in my IBM BPM review from Impact. A question from the audience asked about consolidation of the design environment; as expected, the answer is “yes, over time”, which is similar to the answer I received at Impact about consolidation of the process engines. I expect that we’ll see a unified design environment at some point for ICM and both flavors of BPM by pulling ICM design into the Process Center, but there might still be three engines under the covers for the foreseeable future. Given the multi-product mix that makes up ICM, there will also be separate engines (and likely design environments) for non-process functions such as rules, events and analytics, too; the separate engines are inevitable in that case, but there could definitely be some better integration on the design side.

It’s Not About BPM vs. ACM, It’s About A Spectrum Of Process Functionality

From a white paper that I’m working on now:

I think that the whole “BPM versus ACM” debate has completely blown out of all sensible proportion, when we’re really talking about a spectrum of functionality that ranges from structured process management (or what some people think of as BPM) to completely dynamic process management.

The key, to me, is that it’s not an either-or situation: almost every business process that I’ve ever seen lies somewhere in the middle, with both structured and dynamic aspects: in some cases, different workers may perform either highly structured or highly dynamic functions, depending on their role. We need both end of the spectrum – and everything in between – to manage our processes, and we need them to work together in a cohesive environment.

I’ll publish the link to the white paper, which explains this concept in a lot more detail, when it’s complete.

Pega Case Management

I had an update from Pegasystems on their case management offering a while ago, and with the publication of the new Forrester Wave on Dynamic Case Management, the time is right for a quick summary. After last year’s PegaWorld, I published a review of their SmartBPM V6, which was already shipping with Visual Case Manager, but they’ve stepped up the case management functionality since then and have scored a top spot in Forrester’s report (you can see the wave graphic at Pega’s site, and download the report for free after registration).

Pega Case Management - case designerThey have a new portal for case workers and managers, and have improved the ad hoc process design that I saw in last review. There are a number of other enhancements, including some vertical applications, but we focused on the case management core functionality. The Case Designer is used to create the hierarchy of subcases and tasks, including attributes such as which are required versus optional, automatic versus manual start, or have attachments. These Case Type Definitions in the Case Designer are really the heart of defining a case management application: you define the case structure as a hierarchy of subcases, tasks and rules. You can add a new task, and apply rules to the tasks to limit choices or pre-fill information. Creating a new task also creates an empty process associated with it; this can be left completely empty to allow ad hoc process definition at runtime, or a process flow can be defined, which in turn can apply rules at any point in the process. You can specify goals and deadlines at any point in the hierarchy, so SLAs can be nested.

In the insurance claims example that we saw, there was a hierarchy of subcases and tasks: at the top level, a FNOL (first notice of loss) case had subcases for Vehicle Damage and Injury, each of which could be created manually by the user; within the Vehicle Damage subcase, an Adjust task was started automatically when the parent case was created, but an Adjudicate task could be started by the user as required. Case and task definitions can be reused – in the demo, the Adjust and Adjudicate tasks appear in both the Vehicle Damage and Injury cases – which potentially reduces the amount of effort to create similar case types. I’m not really clear on the distinction between (sub)cases and tasks: they both are containers for work and appear to have the same technical functionality, just a different representation on the screen. The terminology is unclear on whether a task is an atomic bit of work done by one user, or if it can have child objects as well. Leaving the subcase/task semantics aside, this definition screen allows you to define all of the activities that might need to be done in the course of a case, and some of their attributes. Although intended for business users/analysts, I think that there’s enough technical information exposed in this environment to make it unsuitable to any but the more technically-minded BAs. Ease of use has long been an issue – or, at least, a perceived issue – for Pega; they’ve made a lot of UI improvements to their modeling suite, but it’s still going to take some technical know-how to get things working. This is true for most BPMS products, in spite of what the vendors might tell you in the demo, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing for setting up frameworks and more complex processes, although it can inhibit agility if required for any change to a process or case structure. The Pega case designer environment might be better served by presenting a perspective for less technical users and a perspective with all the gory technical details so that the non-techies aren’t intimidated by it.

Pega Case Management - case detailsMoving on to the end-user experience, the newly-designed portal has four tabs/views: Cases, Tasks, Events and Reports. The Cases view shows a list of all cases that the user owns (i.e., that this user instantiated) or has an interest in (i.e., where this user has a task or subcase assigned to them). In the demo example, the cases are all claims; over in the Tasks view, we see the list of tasks assigned to this user, although it’s not clear (to me) if this is a combination of subcases and tasks, or just tasks – back to my earlier discussion on the distinction between the two. In both views, you see the start date, urgency, deadline and status of the case or task. In the Cases view, there is also a button to create a new case; this prompts for the required information for the case, such as claimant and vehicles, and creates the case. The Events view shows a snapshot of activity on all cases, including the user and case identifier, plus a calendar of upcoming deadlines for the cases.

Viewing a case/task, the default view shows the case details and the subject details, although this can be customized since each widget on the screen has user-customizable parameters. Most of what we saw was out of the box, with the exception of the data fields in the Details widget, and the meaning of “Subject” (in this case, client and policy) for linking cases to subjects. The case details shows all of this information, plus attachments , subcases and tasks. In the subject details, which will be specific to the case type, information is shown about the subject – in our example, subjects were clients that were claimants on the case – and links provided to any related cases. This view also provides the option to start a new process associated with the open case/task. Information can be aggregated across subcases and tasks within a case, e.g., calculating a total indemnity amount on a claim as an aggregate of damage, injury and other subcases within the claim.

Pega Case Management - add manual case/taskUsers aren’t limited to just executing pre-defined case definitions, however; they can also add subcases and tasks manually to a case from the Cases view, which shows them a hierarchy similar to what they would see in the Case Designer, but without a lot of the technical underpinnings exposed. They can select a known task from a list on the main case windows, or define a completely new one; parameters for the new task allow them to specify assigned resources, a workbasket, start and end dates, whether this task requires manager approval, and whether to suspend the parent case until this task completes. Once the case has been modified, the resulting case can then be saved as a template, providing a “design by doing” approach that allows business users to create their own versions of case definitions, which can be useful for capturing exceptions that may need to be rolled into the main case definition.

The Reports view of the end-user portal shows some basic case statistics such as average duration and throughput per user; some standard reports are provided, and the user can create new reports and share them with others.

Taking a look at the Forrester report on Dynamic Case Management (DCM, or what is known in some circles as adaptive case management, or ACM) from last month, in which Pega scores a top spot, they see this still-volatile market as emerging from the human-centric BPM vendors as well as the ECM vendors, but list a number of key features that DCM requires over BPM:

  • Placing the case at the center of the focus, rather than a particular process, and therefore be able to run multiple processes against a single case. In other words, instead of the usual BPM paradigm of having content (such as a case folder) being an attachment to a single process, the case folder itself is primary, and can have multiple processes and tasks associated with it simultaneously.
  • Associating different types of objects with a case, including documents and other content, but also including structured data and the aforementioned processes.
  • Allow users to handle variations, which allows knowledge workers to decide how a case is managed rather than having to follow a pre-defined process. This may include deciding which of a set of pre-defined tasks may be executed, as well as the ability to create completely new tasks and processes that were not envisioned by the original case designer.
  • Selective restriction of changes to processes, which can manifest in a variety of ways in different DCM products. Basically, this is about compliance, and making sure that some processes and rules are always followed, even though many of the other tasks may be defined and decided by the knowledge worker. This is where structured BPM, BRM and DCM tend to overlap (and where many of the arguments about the distinction between BPM and DCM originate): in practice, many line-of-business processes have some things that just have to be done a certain way, but need to also allow for a lot of flexibility in other areas.