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!

So Who Buys Case Management Anyway?

If there is one term which is creating a buzz in the ECM world, not to mention the BPM world as well, it is Case Management. Lots of different flavours of it, Adaptive Case Management, Advanced Case Management etc…. EMC and IBM are putting their weight behind it as their strategy for the next few years as well as other organisations such as Nuxeo.

So lets go sell and implement Case Management. Who wants to buy one?

Try and get some time with someone from a Financial Services organisation or a Utility company to discuss Case Management and you’re likely to get short shrift. You’ve got an inkling of a chance in places like Legal Firms or in Public Sector, but still the conversation will be short if you’re not willing to talk specifics.

Case Management is not a solution, they tend to be frameworks or platforms upon which solutions can be built. The accelerators (xCelerators in EMC world) tend to lift the platform nearer to business solutions but they still tend to fall short of being the final business solution. So the questions is who will buy one of these frameworks? I cannot see the majority of end users buying such a framework, there is little in the way of ROI which can be identified to justify such a purchase, unless they have the in house capability, and appetite, to take on the establishment and exploitation of such a platform.

Therefore it suggests that the target market for the sale is in fact the implementers, those companies that can build the business solutions on top of these platforms and then sell these on to the end customers. One could argue that this is not too different from previous models for ECM and BPM but I would argue that the increased focus on delivering value in these times of austerity has meant a further move in this direction. The days of selling the platform and then building the solutions are gone; we are now in a time when the first solution to be built on the platform is the one which needs to drive ROI, further exploitation is a nice to have and will no doubt be considered as a factor but if you can deliver a solution and deliver that ROI then you are in pole position.

This is an interesting movement though as it does place more emphasis on the implementers to invest in business solutions, perhaps more so than before. I know of a number of organisations who are going through with this, would be interested to hear if there is an evidence of this model being adopted? Alternatively are you an end user who is looking at evaluating the Case Management platforms which exist? How much time do you spend looking at the platform or is it the solution you buy?

Another interesting consideration from this is the ability of organisations to exploit that platform once the first solution has been deployed. It is possible that the first solution to be deployed on that platform could be architected in such a way which makes it difficult for future solutions to cohabit. Now that may not be good practice but if the customer is buying a solution and not a platform then it should only be expected.

I have said before that it must be easier for ECM solutions to demonstrate business value and this move to solutions will achieve that but it will require some consideration from those involved in the implementation as to whether this is a one off solution or whether this is step 1 in a longer journey.

A word about Case Management

Now I’ve been heavily involved in different aspects of Case Management for some time now, from a number of different perspectives, and one of the things which is being pushed heavily at the moment is putting ECM at the heart of the Case Management solution. CMSWire have posted two articles on this subject, Enterprise CMS Usage Scenario and ECMs that implement Case Management Frameworks.

I would recommend organisations looking at Case Management to be vary wary of jumping into an ECM solution without careful consideration. Why? Well one of the key reasons is embodied in the first article from CMSWire but has not been brought to the surface, early in the article they talk about what a Case is including:

Case Have a Single Location Storage: In a case management system, the information regarding a given client will generally be stored in a single location and in single folder where everyone concerned can access and work on that information. BPMS do not necessarily need all users to have a 360 view, whereas in case management they do.”

Great, and I fully agree it should be possible when looking at the Case to have a complete view of the information related to that Case. However later on there is the following definition of ECM, itself taken from AIIM:

“the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.”

I’ve highlighted the key term in the quote, ECM is about managing unstructured information, such as documents, audio files, pictures and video files. They are not intended to be used as a Database, although each one can be used in such a way it is a far from ideal way in which to use them. So that leaves the question of where to store the structured information?

In many Case Management implementations one will find that a common construct of a Case is a person, e.g. an applicant in a registration process, a claimant in a Claims process or a suspect in a Criminal Case Management process. Even more important is the relationships that this person may have with the information in the Case, e.g. in a Criminal Case Management system a suspect may have a relationship with a victim, or was the subject of a digital interview. A person is something which is best modelled as a structured piece of information (N.B. I am not distinguishing between Relational or Object Oriented in this use of the word Structured). There are other aspects which are best modelled as Structured including Locations and Objects (such as Vehicles).

Therefore we have a situation where we need to model and manage structured and unstructured information.

Another typical requirement of a Case Management solution is the need to be able to manage the information associated with the Case for the relevant time periods, and to dispose of it properly when needed. This, Retention Management, is a common feature in EDRM systems, its even making its way into SharePoint in 2010! At first glance this is great, but a closer inspection we find that the Retention Policies tend to be driven by the Persons involved in the Case, e.g. in Claims Management it could be a defined period after the Case has been completed or may be driven by Data Protection Requirements, again focussed on the person. So if we have a situation where the structured data is not ideally suited to the ECM system but the Retention Policies are applied based on information held within that repository we have a problem to resolve.

Now I don’t suppose to have an answer to this problem but when looking at the Case Management needs it is important for people to really understand the mix of data they hold about a Case as well as the other requirements which need to be met. If the content is primarily unstructured then an ECM could well be the answer, if there is more of a mix then the solution will need to encompass products which can serve both needs….there will still be a need for ECM if there is unstructured content within that case which needs managing, its just a question of how much of a role does it play.  This really backs up some of the points which Pie made in his recent post and which I responded to where the ECM product may just supply some of the platform services but the UI and other services are provided from other products.

EMC Momentum 2009 – xCP Configure not Code

One of the goals I had in Athens was to be convinced about xCP. So far some of the messages I had heard up until the Tuesday afternoon had been positive and I was keen to attend a session about xCP to get more info.

This was being presented by Dan Ciruli the Principal Product Manager for xCP; there does seem to be a large number of people involved in the Product Management for xCP, it did confuse me a little.

Dan started by talking about why xCP is so different and although he did not say it directly the message I got was that it is not that different but an evolution or a change of perspective. There was then some talk about the justification of Case Management as the right direction for EMC to take; I’m already sold on this one.

Dan then went through the products which make up the xCP platform and touched on each briefly.

So what differentiates xCP from the crowd, these are the claims:

– Fully integrated solution from Capture, Process, Dispostion and including Reporting;

– Speed to development is 50% quicker (I’d like someone to back this up with facts, given that xCP is not a new product this does some like a bit of a stretch);

– Agile and Flexible; Easy to Build = Easy to Change.

Finally, and this is the best bit, Dan talked about the future of xCP and gave some ideas about xCP 2.0. There will be two point releases of xCP next year followed by the next major release in 2011 along with D7.

xCP 2.0 will be based on a number of things including:

– Extended Case Capability;

– Improved App Development;

– Vastly improved user experience;

Now my notes started to suffer a bit as Dan unveiled a lot of planned features including more use of Smart Containers, the ability to model relationship between objects, better roles, inherited properties, automatic document generation, increased collaboration and integrated capture. He also unveiled that they would be looking at a single integrated development environment. The new products, including the point releases, will be much more services focussed with proposed support for CMIS in 1.5.

Finally Dan showed a screenshot of xCP 2.0. This is clearly based on the CenterStage UI experience and looked extremely powerful. The screenshot was of a Claims based xCP implementation where claim details were displayed alongside a widget which showed the location of the incident via Google Maps.

All in all this was a presentation which covered a lot of existing ground in the first part but then the last 2-3 slides on the roadmap of xCP and planned features was where things took off. They really gave a flavour of how powerful xCP could become, and yes I was convinced.