Smart Process Apps

So I missed the document last year from Forrester titled “Smart Process Applications Fill A Big Business Gap” but I have just read the Forrester Wave for Smart Process Apps. My overriding impression is one of the creation of another solution paradigm to confuse an already crowded marketplace. It is not that long ago that I blogged about the difference between ACM and DCM, just over two years to be precise, and the interesting thing is that the technology world in this space has evolved a little during that time but there certainly has not been change enough to warrant the creation of yet another term. I will go back to the document from August 2012 which passed me by but some of the content is reproduced in the Wave and I want to focus on the Key Attributes of a Smart Process App:

1. Imported or embedded awareness of data relevant to the business activity. So what we are saying here is that there must be data associated with the business activity which is captured at some stage of the business process, right? Anything new here?

2. Document capture, document output, and document management. So these are the basic capture, manage and output stages of Document Management.

3. Embedded analytical tools designed for the business activity. So this will provide the reporting and data analytics on the specific business activity which has been created.

4. A collaboration platform for people to create content needed for the activity. An interesting pattern here as it deviates a little from the first three which are slightly more prescriptive. This is much less predictable and much more aligned with the Adaptive Case Management pattern which I have previously described. A good example of a solution incorporating a collaboration platform could be Grants Management where the Grant application would be subjected to a number of reviews where the reviewers provide a number of comments and share opinions on the Grant application.

5. BPM tools for executing the steps involved in the activity. This would involve classic BPM including workflow, tasking and potentially a rules engine.

I look back at the posts on ACM and DCM, which were already addressing a confused market and review the features above and there is very little difference. In fact some of the products which address the DCM or ACM market will be the same for the Smart Process Apps, typically the likes of EMC, OpenText, Kofax and IBM.

One of the comments in a previous post was:

My advice, don’t implement based on the label. Understand what you’re trying to achieve and assess the solutions and options which are available to you. Its not rocket science!

I don’t see any difference here. You need to understand the core business and technical capabilities which you need to address and evaluate the products which can help you achieve those. It is true that it is not rocket science but the sheer number of players in this space means it is getting harder as there is convergence. Two years ago we would not have been comparing and EMC as players in this space but the products are moving closer. The one thing I would recommend, and it is something I will comment on more, is the growth of already built applications or accelerators within the products. Companies such as IBM and EMC are adding an increasing number of solutions to their portfolio, addressing problem domains in multiple industries such as Life Sciences and Energy and Utilities. These solutions provide much more predictable results for customers and the solution providers themselves.

So while there is a lot in the report which is confusing and repeated from previous reports there is an underlying message which is important and which is driving change in this area of technology. Solutions and Solution Accelerators are increasing, call them Case Management or Smart Process Apps, and there is an increasing amount of choice in the market. Ultimately this can only be a good thing for consumers and we should see an increase in successful projects based on these technologies as a result.

Information Management Trends

I was asked this question in a meeting the other day and to be honest it caught me on the back foot a little, I’ve probably been too close to detail over the past few months to really take a step back and think. The question was ‘What do you see are the current trends or hot topics in the Information Management world?’. Whilst I gave an answer which I believe was acceptable I decided it was time to take a few moments to reflect on what I am seeing in the market. I’m sure there are other things going on out there but I thought I would share some of my views:

SharePoint 2010 – there is no doubt that this continues to be the product with the biggest influence over the market. More and more customers are starting to explore the features which SP2010 delivers and it is starting to find its home within the overall market. It won’t, in fact can’t, do everything that everyone wants but there is a strong discussion to be had on why not SharePoint!

SharePoint 2010 – this time I am considering the impact the product has had on the other vendors in this space. Whilst I think it is too far to suggest that the likes of OpenText, EMC, Oracle and IBM have given up on their core Document Management solutions they have realised that this is a difficult fight for them if they go toe-to-toe on the basic content services when compared to SharePoint. As a result they are all trying their utmost to find their space in the market. IBM and EMC appear to be placing their bets on the Case Management style solutions and OpenText appear to be focussing on the Social Media and Web 2.0 space.

Convergence of Data and Content – this is happening in so many different ways. Top of the tree is Big Data as more and more people are seeing that Big Data is not just about Big Databases but about the amount of information, structured and unstructured, which is generated. Furthermore we’re seeing an increase in the world of Content Analytics and the desire to look into the unstructured world to get more intelligence from this information. This also leads to a desire to act on this information – moving us to the area of BPM which is embedded into the IM world.

Cloud – well everyone talks about it! Its still early days but we’re starting to see more and more moves towards consuming IT as a service and Content is an obvious choice to play in this space. The big vendors are still getting their heads around this area but as this progresses and the customers start to demand this more and more then we will see a change. Whilst the change will be interesting in itself I also think there will be a future challenge in how customers govern this information.

The New User – As per a recent post from Pie I don’t think this is Mobile but I also don’t think it is BYOD as we’re not seeing that happen widely enough…just yet! But there is an increased expectation from users on the IT service they receive, the way they interact with IT and the devices on which they can do this.

Demise of Portals – Strong and I don’t mean all Portals but the traditional JSR Portals are on the way out. They’re either being replace by SharePoint, see above, or more flexible architecture models. I’ve delivered a couple of programmes using the JSR Portals and they can work but its just too hard.

BPM/ACM/DCM – I don’t care what you call it but its out there. I’m of the opinion that the process is not so important but the information is the key. The need to use information to make decisions, the creation of information during the life of a ‘Case’ and the dissemination or retention of information once the process or case has been completed (I’m sure Max would say this is when the Goal(s) has been reached). The way people access, create or process this information will change but the information itself will typically remain the constant. Their is a bit of tension between the pure BPM camps and the ECM camps but we’re also seeing convergence, e.g. Kofax purchasing Singularity.

Changes in WCM – This has been coming for a while and I think the change has happened. Not so long ago the traditional ECM vendors tried to do WCM as well, the best example being EMC. Their product was suitable for only a small number of WCM Use Cases. We’re now seeing the specialist products take a firm hold in the market such as SDL, CQ5 and Fatwire. Interestingly two of those have been acquired in the past 2 years. Adobe have made a big bet on CQ5, it will be interesting to see what Oracle do with Fatwire, I would recommend keeping it separate from their UCM products.

I’m sure there are more, these are just my personal views but it just shows what happens when you take that step back to look at what is going on. There’s lots going on and the pace of change is quick.

OpenText and Global 360

The recently announced acquisition of Global 360 by OpenText has raised a number of eyebrows and prompted quite a reaction in the blogosphere. I tweeted that I would be worried as a customer of both, especially given the acquisition of Metastorm. However to put this all into perspective I thought I would post an article which put down 3 potential positives from the deal and 3 potential negatives.

On the Plus Side

  1. By purchasing Metastorm and Global 360 OpenText are making a major play into the BPM part of the SharePoint world. This could be viewed as a disruptive or defensive tactic. It is well known that one of the weaknesses of the SharePoint platform is its BPM capability. By purchasing two of the leading BPM vendors who integrate well with SharePoint OpenText could be seen to be putting down a marker to defend their market which is being moved onto the SharePoint platform. Either of the two companies were potential targets for Microsoft themselves so OpenText have moved to stop this.
  2. Both Metastorm and Global 360 are leading BPM technologies, albeit with overlapping capabilities. If OpenText can take the best bits of both and incorporate them into a Case Management Framework with their LiveLink repository as the back-end document store then it could be a very compelling proposition.
  3. OpenText already have a strong relationship and this could strengthen that relationship and move OpenText away from being an ECM player to being the BPM product vendor of choice for SharePoint, given the weakness of SharePoint in this space it could be a very shrewd move for OpenText to diversify from their traditional ECM roots.

Looking for the negatives

  1. OpenText have not traditionally been good at integrating new products into their stack. The typical approach is to rebrand the product as an OpenText product. If this is the case then why would they continue to invest in two overlapping products, it would make financial sense for them to move customers of one on to the other at some stage. Even if they do try and integrate then there will be a need for customers to move to the new solution at some stage in the future.
  2. The timing of the acquisition is strange given the recent Metastorm acquisition. Its hard enough integrating one fundamental component into an existing technology stack, taking on two will be an interesting experience.
  3. Whilst Point 1 of my positives could be seen as a positive for OpenText as they cling on to defend their market share I cannot really justify it as a positive for either Metastorm or Global 360 customers. If it is a defensive or disruptive move then it does not exactly promote OpenText’s willingness for long term investment in the two products. At some stage Microsoft will plug the gap in SharePoint on BPM so this possible tactic would only act to delay this.


All of the above is pure speculation and I would say even OpenText are probably a little unsure of what the future holds. There is the possibility they could make an excellent move into the Case Management market through a fully integrated solution but on past experience this is not how they have operated. The speculation is fun, watching what happens next will be interesting.

ACM and DCM again

I’ve been prompted to post this by some very kind and positive comments on a statement I made on a LinkedIn discussion on the difference between Adaptive Case Management (ACM) and Dynamic Case Management (DCM).

Given the positive comments I thought I would repost my comment on this blog:

DCM sets out a sequence of steps to achieve a goal, the dynamic nature is met through business rules which are understood at the time of modelling the process. ACM is much less prescriptive on the sequence of activities but is much more focussed on achieving the end goal, it understands that there are unknowns in the business process which will change and allows for these changes.

David was the first to comment on this on his blog and then I received a positive note back from a former colleague on Twitter. Niall made an interesting point that my comment demonstrated the difference between the order of DCM and the entropy of ACM.

It is a shame that the original LinkedIn discussion degenerated into a personal conflict and the comments I made above were somewhat lost in the discussion. I would though point you at a follow up discussion which attempts to bring clarity to the discussion. However I feel this later discussion just adds further fud to the matter and is likely to drive potential consumers to distraction. Take for example the description of ACM as an UN-solution!

Why do I think this? Customers don’t care whether they buy ACM or DCM, they care about how the solution will meet their needs. From the typically prescriptive process of Claims Management in Insurance to the more ad-hoc and unpredictable nature of Criminal Investigations (admittedly with specific business goals within the life of the Case).

My advice, don’t implement based on the label. Understand what you’re trying to achieve and assess the solutions and options which are available to you. Its not rocket science!


Well I started writing a post on Dynamic Case Management about a week ago and I have to admit after a bit of research I found some of the ideas were not strong enough for it to be published. However the research I did opened a few other avenues of interest. Not least prompted by an excellent series of articles written by Joe Shepley on his research into Adaptive Case Management.

The first question I had is around the definition of Adaptive Case Management, and specifically in relation to the Forrester Wave which has been published on Dynamic Case Management. There is quite a lot of interest and information on the web about ACM, most notably led by the likes of Sandy Kemsley and Max J. Pucher, so it is interesting that one of the leading Analyst firms have chosen a different term for their recent Wave report. Having said that one of the authors is quoted in the this article on ACM. Now I am not saying one term is more correct than the other but the differences highlight the immaturity in this space, something which I will come back to. We can also throw into the pot the term Advanced Case Management, but this is more of a product name for the IBM products. Interestingly I think there is an important difference to be made in the term Advanced compared to Adaptive and Dynamic, both of these suggest a strong element of change. Max also wrote an excellent article about the difference between ACM and DCM, however I wonder if the statement below from the Forrester report blurs the differences which Max identifies?

It was the Forrester Wave which prompted the interest in the first place, and more specifically the products which they had chosen to appear in the report. When you read through Joe’s posts, and I would recommend them as an excellent way to get an understanding of this space from an abstract perspective, you get a picture of a paradigm which does indeed allow for the user driven change in activities which achieve the business goal. Reading the Forrester report I got the same ideas, in fact one of the four tenets of DCM as suggested by Forrester is:

Accessible mechanisms that allow end users to handle variation

One of the reasons for my initial interest was my scepticism of the ability of products to handle this level of variation; how many of us have been part of a project that seeks to define the business process to the nth degree as part of the implementation of a solution only to find some time later that the process has changed and that change requires a technical change to the solution?

My scepticism remains and I know some of the products in the Forrester report would either require this change to be implemented as a technical solution or would require the level of flexibility to be built into the solution from the start (of course the main problem is no-one knew this flexibility would be required when the solution was built!). However there are products in the report who claim to contain the ability to handle variation. When I say claim I am not saying they do not, all I am saying is that I like to see how this feature has been implemented as I have seen it promised before and it has meant the end users having to use the process definition tools of the product which in turn requires a technical deployment.

I really need to dig deeper into these products to see how they would allow for this, and in fact I think it would be a natural extension for the posts from Joe. I am sure many of us who have implemented ECM/BPM/ACM/DCM solutions have set out to achieve this flexibility but when the crunch has come we have been disappointed with the detail in which this flexibility is achieved. Going back to Max’s post there is a very clear difference between Goal orientation and Process centric solutions, it seems a shame that the Forrester Report does not really help with this distinction.

Such an exercise may take some time and is, in all honesty, probably not something I am going to actually get done so if you have experience in delivering ACM solutions then I would love to hear your thoughts on how the products get going when the going gets tough. Any time I do get to spend looking at how products provide these features will be discussed.