ACM: organizing the chaos and flexing rigid process structures through adaptive case management by Lucas Jellema

My introduction into the world of adaptive case management (ACM) feels like a huge relief. Without having to give up the benefits from structure and organization, ACM allows me to cater for the reality of the world in terms of exceptions, variations and the responsibility of experts to make decisions. ACM is a way of organizing a process - although perhaps the word process could be replaced by flow or conversation or interaction or project or any cluster of activities with a clear start and end. This cluster is called a case. Examples of cases are all around us:

  • a tax payer’s yearly interaction with the tax authorities
  • a hotel booking & stay - an example of this case is described in this follow up article
  • a complaint procedure
  • an organization’s interactions with a potential new employee
  • a complex order
  • a court case - from initial filing of a suit until the final ruling and perhaps the appeal as well
  • a (regular) marketing event
  • a repair job on a car
  • my son’s birthday party

Note that some of these cases can be seen from different perspectives. The tax office will see the case differently from the citizen or the financial adviser. A court case can be seen from the perspective of the parties involved, the lawyers or the courthouse.  Maybe at some point these various parties might share a common unified case instance. For the moment the situation is likely to be that for a specific interaction, there may be multiple case instances, each one living in the ACM engine of a specific party.

ACM acknowledges the fact that even though all instances of a certain case type are similar, they can also be very different. Not just in the content of the case but also in the way it is executed. Depending on the situation, certain steps that are usually executed are sometimes by-passed or the order in which steps are executed is very different from the normal pattern - if there even is such a thing as the normal pattern. Instead of defining upfront for all instances of the process/interaction/project/case how it is to be executed, ACM takes the agile view of the world and embraces change and variation. Without giving up all semblance of organization and coordination.

ACM provides structure. A number of elements that (potentially) play a role in a [type of] case is defined at design time. These elements are used by the ACM engine to guides stakeholders at run time and to ensure that non-optional steps are taken and mandatory rules are followed. Even though may aspects of a case can be flexible and determined to large degree by case workers and the contents of a case, that does not mean that freedom rules supremely and no conditions apply at all.

Elements that define the case include:

  • the milestones that can be reached in a case,
  • the activities that can be executed over the course of the case,
  • data that is associated with the case; in addition to structured data, it is common to also have documents associated with a case instance (that may be structured for human actors, but are less so to the system)
  • stakeholders that are involved with the case and influence it in some way,
  • events that may occur over the lifetime of the case,
  • the possible outcomes of the case.

Read the complete article here.

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