Adaptive Case Management (ACM) has been an evolving topic in recent years as the definition, methodology and tools in this space have been maturing.  This article will help you identify some key areas where ACM might be a candidate to solve a process problem.  With the Oracle BPM Patch Set 6 release and recent updates from Oracle, the ACM functionality is a key player in the overall Oracle BPM Suite.

While I will not be providing a deep overview of ACM here (check out the links below or a google search), a little background on ACM is in order.  A simple, formal definition from the Workflow Management Coalition is this:

Adaptive Case Management (ACM) is information technology that exposes structured and unstructured business information (business data and content) and allows structured (business) and unstructured (social) organizations to execute work (routine and emergent processes) in a secure but transparent manner.  Source

In a nutshell, ACM targets unstructured processes where the exact steps and behaviors are not always known ahead of time.  ACM represents a great solution for areas that have traditionally been hard within a traditional BPM approach.  It focuses on the knowledge worker and process actor involved to make decisions and react to external events like customer calls.  Instead of rigorous, formal definition upfront, ACM allows the user to leverage various tasks and artifacts to accomplish to goal of the case.

Look for these types of scenarios to signal a possible ACM candidate:

  1. Heavy focus on knowledge workers.  Look for this in industries where knowledge workers and highly paid staff are engaged and managing processes (think medical/healthcare, law, engineering, professional services).  ACM can be a great solution, even in situations where regulatory and compliance pressures exist.  
  2. Incidents.  Examples in this space are customer complaints or service requests.  The path to resolve these can be hard to predict and have many interactions with customers or internal stakeholders to resolve thing correctly.
  3. Use of tools “outside” the process.  If you have staff working in systems that can’t or will never be tightly integrated (“swivel chair”) and the these process steps are more unpredictable and unstructured, ACM could be a great solution.  Examples include creative tasks like designing a website or creating a graphic in Photoshop and physical tasks that require using an isolated system or tool that requires multiple steps.
  4. Heavy flexibility or exception management needs.  If the proposed process has many actors and it would be too difficult to capture every scenario, consider use a case management approach.  I would have loved to have ACM five years ago on a key project where we invested months and months on trying to predict every exception scenario!
  5. Unknown or new projects.  ACM can be leveraged to define the key milestones and then let a process mature.  Once things are more well understood, you can mature into process “snippets” and business rules.

Have you seen any scenarios outside the list above?

Bonus: here are a few links for further reading and background: