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We introduce in this blog series the concept of Case Management Process Modeling (CMPM) - An emerging concept complementary to existing Business Process Management (BPM) concepts. In this first blog entry, we explain why this concept is important, how it differs from BPM, its success in practice and present standardization efforts driven by all major software vendors. This new standard aims at complementing the Object Management Group (OMG) standard Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN). This blog entry is relevant for CIOs, CTOs, enterprise architects and business analysts. CMPM is expected to be the next big thing in BPM for the next 1-5 years.

Why is this important?

BPM has brought and still is bringing a lot of benefits to business users. It allows to map, monitor, control and optimize standardized predictable business processes. The discipline and technology has matured a lot over the past years. However, it focused mainly on processes that can be highly standardized and that should be executed frequently with only minor deviations.  Furthermore, business assets only have been a second-class citizen in these processes. This means they play in BPM only a minor role with respect to modeling or execution of processes.

 This does not cover the whole spectrums of processes as it has been explained by Gartner and McKinsey [1]. There is a need for supporting dynamic processes that evolve over time and where business assets are treated as first class citizens.  Finally, this type of processes makes up more than 50 % of the processes in an enterprise depending on the industry and is of high value. Clearly, we need tools to manage them properly. This is the domain of CMPM tools.

A typical example of these processes can be found in the insurance industry. There, an insurance case governs all insurance contracts, incidents, processes, rules, regulations, data, customer, people related to it. Thus, the insurance case contains important business assets of any insurance company. Other examples can be found in the area of public services, where the police manage crime cases or a public health service manages cases of patients.

What is different from BPM?

The differences can be summarized as follows:

  • Management of cases
  • Focus on business assets and their corresponding data composing a case
  • Emphasis on the lifecycle of business assets and the respective case
  • Evolving (agile/flexible) processes that cannot be fully specified in advance
  • Strong integration with Business Rules Management (BRM)
  • Highly collaborative

I will address these elements in my subsequent blog posts – except the management of cases which is illustrated in the following figure:

Management of Cases

I purposely describe the management of cases not as a cycle: There are no separate phases that happen one after the other. Remember that I told you that the process evolves and it is dynamic - thus, these phases take place simultaneously. We define the management phases as follows:

  • Design: Elements of a case need to be modeled. For example, business assets, customers, activities, rules, lifecycles or data
  • Execute: Activities can be performed on business assets/case data according to business rules
  • Monitor: Generating and managing key performance indicators (KPI) related to the execution of a case (e.g. time required to complete a case, cost generated by case etc.)
  • Mine/Analytics: Long-term activity to continuously improve cases (e.g. change of regulations, new technologies, change of customer behavior, rules etc.) based on KPIs generated by cases over a certain time
  • Governance: Roles and corresponding accountability/responsibility with respect to the management phases

The management of cases is different from the management of repeatable and predictable business processes:

  • There are no sequential management phases, but the management phases can take place simultaneously
  • The roles of the people involved in the management of cases (e.g. case designer/analyst, case worker or rule designer)  are significantly different and require much more collaboration

Experience in Practice

Until now the concept of CMPM sounds interesting, but has it already been applied in practice? Yes! IBM has modeled together with customers successfully their business assets over the last decade [2]. They found out that this approach leads to a measurable reduced time and cost to do business transformations or enable completely new capabilities. The modeling of cases can be easily understood by business users and system support for case management enhances significantly the benefits for them.

SAP has also several years of experience with its Status & Action Management (SAM) approach, where business assets (business objects) can be modeled and transactions changing the state of business assets.

We conclude that the approach has been already applied extremely successful in practice for several years, but a standard for information system support is still missing.

Standardization Efforts

Since the topic is very important, major companies, such as SAP, IBM, Oracle or HP, are currently part of a standardization effort for case management. At the moment, the Object Management Group (OMG) and the industry are working on a common standard: Case Management Process Modeling (CMPM). The standard is probably published in the first half of the next year. Thus, we can expect first products supporting this standard also next year, because similar products exist already. However, no guarantee for that – as always :-) The OMG also has been involved in the development of the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) standard for systems supporting the management of business processes, such as SAP Netweaver BPM.

Conclusion

Clearly, case management has to be on the agenda of any company in the next years to become more flexible and agile in a dynamic economic environment.

What is next?
In the next blog, I will describe what can be the modeling elements of a case in BPCM and the relevant stakeholders/roles involved in CMPM.  This is relevant for enterprise architects and business analysts. I plan further blogs on architectures of case management systems and research challenges.

Acknowledgements

This work results from the collaboration between SAP Research FRANCE and the SCORE group at LORIA-INRIA-CNRS of the Université de Lorraine,  Nancy, France.

References

[1] Olding, E. & Rozwell, C., Expand Your BPM Horizons by Exploring Unstructured Processes, G00172387, Gartner, 2009                

[2] K. Bhattacharya, N. S. Caswell, S. Kumaran, A. Nigam, and F.Y. Wu. "Artifact-centered operational modeling: Lessons from customer engagements." IBM Systems Journal, 46(4):703- 721, 2007

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