Three initial proposals have been submitted in response to the Object Management Group (OMG) Case Management Process Modeling (CMPM) Request for Proposals. I reported the initiation of this work in a blog entitled “Case Management: The Missing Link in BPM,” in July, 2009.
A recent book, Mastering the Unpredictable, provides a number of perspectives on “adaptive case management.” The emphasis is on a class of business processes that cannot be predefined as in conventional business processes such as those modeled by BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation). The OMG CMPM proposals focus on support for modeling the case file structure and process elements of adaptive processes to support the activities of people planning and performing case management or similar knowledge work.
There are two key trends driving the development of case management automation. First, the Internet has made access to systems available any time, anywhere. People can access and interact with web pages and email from their cell phones. This has a significant impact on the level of automation support that is practical. This development is complemented by a longer-term trend toward a workforce of knowledge workers. Routine, predictable activities have been automated, leaving the unusual and unpredictable activities to humans to make decisions and take appropriate actions. The focus of the OMG specification is to support modeling of aspects of each type of case to enable a knowledge worker—case manager or participant—to productively plan, track and perform work interactively with useful guidance, automated alerts and coordination of activities of multiple participants.
I am one of the developers of the proposal entitled “Case Management Model and Notation (CMMN).” We approached case management as a new process paradigm where the modeler must consider how the case manager and participants will plan and coordinate their work and must anticipate the process elements and case file structure that will be useful for a particular type of case. The other proposals have approached case management as an extension to the BPMN specification. In either case, case management may be initiated by a traditional business process, and case management may initiate traditional business processes to perform prescribed services. However, this integration involves interaction between the processes, not necessarily a single modeling environment designed for modeling both adaptive, unpredictable processes and prescribed, repetitive processes.
However, we recognize that certain groups of activities will emerge as commonly occurring and should be modeled for re-use in an operational environment. We define these as process fragments. In general, the case manager will still have discretion to modify these fragments to suit the particular circumstances. Where these fragments become substantial and stable, they can be specified as BPMN shared sub-processes, to be engaged at appropriate points in a case.
There will be considerable discussion about the potential to extend BPMN. The following are issues to be considered.
· Operational paradigm shift. Case managers and participants actively define what is to be done rather than following a script as defined by a BPMN process.
· Different modeling paradigm. Modelers must think in terms of what is useful for case managers and participants while preserving their flexibility and discretion.
· Event driven. Various events will occur throughout the lifecycle of a case and must be addressed in the current context of the case. A BPMN model cannot anticipate many possible events and their different consequences for subsequent activities under different circumstances.
· Different stage of evolution. BPMN has matured over many years while case management is new and should be influenced by experience that is incorporated in subsequent versions of the specification independent of BPMN.
· Participant collaboration. Participants in a BPMN process are coordinated by following the prescribed process. Participants in case management must collaborate to define their plan and make decisions. Automation should facilitate that collaboration.
· Guidance and controls. The case file represents the state of the case and will be the basis for guidance and controls affecting plans, decisions and actions, whereas data is a minimal concern in modeling a BPMN process.
· Knowledge worker empowerment. Knowledge workers must be able to do what is right, and not be limited by assumptions of the modeler. BPMN is oriented to specification of a defined process that prevents variation.
· Continuous improvement. The repetitive, best practice actions of knowledge workers should be captured and fed back into the case management model to reduce the planning effort and improve outcomes. BPMN feedback is from comments and observations.
· More detailed guidance and tracking. Because of the accessibility of the system, the availability of relevant information and the value of a shared, up-to-date plan, knowledge workers will incorporate case management automation into how they do their work and their record-keeping, resulting in guidance and tracking that are more accurate, timely and complete. BPMN processes tend to be more abstract and less connected to the specific situation.
· Product innovation. Case management is a new, emerging market. The standard should allow new vendors to enter this market with innovative approaches without the burden of also implementing the BPMN specification.
· Language simplicity. Some have complained that BPMN is already too complex. Integration of case management will increase BPMN complexity, potentially acting as a disincentive for possible users of both BPMN and case management technology.
Given these considerations, we will explore the implications of BPMN extension for case management. An ideal solution would enable one vendor to extend a BPMN product while another vendor implements only a case management product.
Below are some links to previous blogs I have posted about case management.
· Case Management for Managers 3-2-10
· Case Management for SOA 1-31-09