BPM terminology is just different shades of gray

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAWith interest levels quite high in BPM and Case Management, can the three areas where all the attention is being focused, namely Adaptive Case Management, Dynamic Case Management and Social Workflow co-exist or indeed merge to become one concept entirely ? Are they really that different ?

If we look at the simple core of each there is common ground.

Under Social Workflow, process management becomes an increased collaborative effort, sped up by rapid interaction between people, the connections and enterprise community supported by software which in itself is an artifact of being ‘dynamic’. If we harness the dynamism to include both systematic and manual feedback then we become ‘adaptive’, constantly evolving and learning to new situations. I will argue that this cannot be done by intelligent routines alone which is why to become truly adaptive you need a dash of ‘social’ in the mix and the update loop has to be a fundamental piece of the puzzle otherwise you become static again.

I will also argue that the terms ‘adaptive’ and ‘dynamic’ are fairly interchangeable and we should really settle on just the one. I don’t particularly care who wins or gets the grand prize for the name after all it’s just another analyst driven tag. We’ve had enough of that in the last two decades with the BPM definition itself but before vendors and analysts start off on the hype path, can we seek to consolidate the view and terminology so there’s less confusion for the prospective client this time around ?

Is there a view that the emerging trends are really shades of grey or are there really black and white boundaries between them all ?

Over to you.

This article was originally published in April 2010 on BPMredux.com and we’re still no closer to an answer…..


Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: BPM, Process Management, Social / Collaboration

Author:Theo Priestley

"I had more creative ideas from Theo in 6 months than I have had in 6 years from most people." Theo Priestley is one of the most recognised independent technology industry influencers and evangelists, ranking in the Top 100 thought leaders across Virtual/ Augmented Reality, FinTech, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Internet of Things and future trends. Theo has written insights for Forbes, Wired, The European Magazine, Venturebeat to name a few, and has been interviewed for many online publications including the BBC on his thoughts on technology and the future. A regular paid keynote speaker and panelist at conferences and events, Theo is engaged for his forthright views and isn't afraid to challenge conventional thinking and the marketing hype surrounding the industry when presenting, never pulling punches to get the message across on how technology can be applied to improve business and the customer experience. He has also successfully organised and run TEDx and Ignite events. Highly active across social networks, he sits in the Top 1% for social media engagement on Kred and Klout and is constantly sharing articles and his analysis that he feels his audience would be interested in. Theo is also active in the startup community, mentoring within UK and US accelerators and sits on a number of advisory boards. Former VP and Chief Technology Evangelist at a Top 25 European enterprise software company with a career spanning both innovation strategy and delivery of software and business change in Financial Services, and as an independent technology industry analyst. Follow Theo on Twitter @tprstly or connect here directly for constant insights on tech and marketing trends. • Top 1% Influencer on Kred (915) • Top 1% Influencer on Klout (70+) • 12,000+ Followers on LinkedIn • 13,000+ Followers on Twitter • Recognised Top Influencer in AI, Virtual/ Augmented Reality, Fintech, IOT and Wearable Tech, Big Data and Analytics.

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7 Comments on “BPM terminology is just different shades of gray”

  1. January 13, 2013 at 1:42 am #


    Absolutely agree with you. The terms became vague and not understandable for most people in organizations.

    Because of all the hyping, analysting and vendoring it seems ‘managing by process’ drifted more and more away from what it should be about; getting grip on your processes so they help you to deliver what your promise. And that automatically means that a process is a means, never a goal.

    And as every process is unique, getting grip on a process might mean different things for each process. Some may be steered still good old workflow like, others might need more adaptivity. Some need social aspects to perform well.

    So I would always go back to make the core clear; what process are we talking about, what is the result coming out if this process and what do you promise about that result.

    Then we can make a good decision on what process characteristics are needed to keep this process performing. And that might indeed be some of the ‘buzzwords’

    But when ‘case management’, ‘adaptive’ or ‘social’ become a goal in themselves, I’m afraid you’ll get lost in solution.


  2. January 13, 2013 at 3:24 am #

    But do we need the process at all? Is it adding value or even cash to the organisation? Does it contribute to adding value to suppliers, customers, employees or even share/stake holders? Answer these questions before applying ‘solutions’ like EPM, CRM, CASE et al

  3. January 13, 2013 at 3:49 am #


    Asking the question ‘do we need process at all’ is a little strange in my opinion. It assumes like you can switch processes on and off.

    That’s strange because every company just has processes. It is the way products, services are delivered or how problems are solved. So every company has processes, so I think your question could be rephrased into ‘should we use those processes?’

    And of course then you’ll come to the question if you believe that having more grip on your processes is beneficial for your customers and other stakeholders or not.

    For some companies it is, for others less. But if you say ‘yes we want to use our process’ the next question is what using means and how grip can be created. And that may mean all the terms mentioned by Theo and you.

  4. January 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Methodologies confuse clients – they have problems, they want solutions.

    They care more about the track record of a consultant than what particular mix of tools will be used, providing the tools are seamless in that they do not unreasonably require that the organization go through a big cultural change.

    Preaching methodologies to clients is a waste of time. If they ask about methodologies, then, of course, we need to respond to their questions.

    Otherwise, focus on the problem, how you will evolve alternative solutions, help the client pick one that works for the client and then how you and the client will move forward toward a solution,

    Case Management has been around for years.

    Cases have always been adaptive but once you start to put BPM in the background to provide guidelines for the performance of work, many practitioners sense a need to state that what they are proposing is “Adaptive Case Management” because of the reputation of BPM as being ‘rigid’.

    Facts are BPM has never been “rigid” in that there is not difference between a process, a process fragment and an ad hoc intervention, which is just a “process of one step”.

    Case Management has also always been “dynamic” – if you can do what you like, when you like, that is pretty “dynamic”. So, again, we get qualifiers.

    The other day I saw references to “Advanced” Case Management. This presumably means that whatever this is, it’s beyond what we have been working with.

    I propose we all start talking about “Case Management w/ turboencabulation”

    The term has absolutely no meaning so we can look forward to using it as improvements to Case Management are introduced.

    Meanwhile, I will just stick to “Case Management”.

    • January 14, 2013 at 1:03 am #

      As always a very thought provoking piece. But then I looked how we as an organisation had ‘matured’ these past 5 years and I was rather surprised, maybe shocked, to find that our projects, educational material had moved from activity based costing/management, to Six Sigma, to Lean and now to a hybrid of all three but through social media as robust technology had ‘enabled’ us to embrace a wider and a more diverse audience. Therefore the ‘rigidity’ had all but gone and the real solution was more easily found and far more flexible/ adaptive to the needs of the business.

  5. January 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Those no closer to an answer, are those not really seeking one. I will concede that analysts have not converged on shared definitions, but republishing a post saying “that the existing definitions are vague and confused” does not really help. I would love to see you put your best forward.

    I have my attempt at clarifying in Seven Categories to Replace BPM. it is particularly important to note that “adaptive” is not just an arbitrary term (see Production Case Management vs. Adaptive Case Management and Understanding what “Adaptive” means.

    To be specific:

    For case management to be successful, it needs to be adaptive. It needs to be under the control of the case managers to be in a position to sense and respond to the situation.

    Production Case Management (PCM) is programmed by specially trained technical people (programmers) to produce a case management application. That application is deployed for use by knowledge workers to get their work done. The application offers collections of operations that the knowledge worker can decide to use or not use depending on the specifics of the case.

    ACM is used for what I would call true knowledge workers: inventors, creative people, executives, managers, innovators, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, etc. These are people who really do need to decide their course of action every day, and the course of action might be to things that have never been done before. A board of directors does not have a menu of options to pick from when it comes to actions to take. Someone responsible for the merger of two companies will not have a system with all possible actions pre-programmed. A doctor responsible for the survival of a patient may prescribe radical and untested treatment if it seems like the only option.

    PCM is for: knowledge worker for hire – someone is trained in a specific field, and learns to be an expert, but has little or no ownership of the overall process. A car mechanic must make accurate suggestions on how to repair the car, but does not take responsibility for the business, and must work within the constraints set by others.

    ACM is for: knowledge worker with responsibility – someone who can plan and be responsible for the course of events. This is the knowledge worker defined by Peter Drucker as “knowing more about their job than anyone else in the organization.” These are the workers who handle the wicked problems and have to think outside of the box.

  6. January 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Because processes are unique to each business (and sometime each department) people have different needs and expectations that have to met. When people expect different things their definition of what that is changes. I think that accounts for a lot of the grey.

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