ECM, BPM, and Case Management

In the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) world, boundaries can overlap and terminology gets tricky.  For example, I often see confusion related to usage of Business Process Management (BPM) and Case Management within enterprises. People often include both these when undertaking ECM evaluations without having a clear idea of how they’ll use these capabilities. Vendors contribute to this confusion when they claim their product can do all of these.

BPM and Case Management

BPM consists of applying management principles to business processes. There are BPM tools that enable you to apply these principles and allow you to model, create, manage, and automate business processes. Those processes may or may not be content-centric. A process that has a credit manager deciding based on credit reports and other documents is an example of content-centric business process, whereas an employee booking tickets for an official travel is an example of process that is not content-centric. In either case though, the processes are often repeatable.

Case Management on the other hand is a specific application, often targeted to a specific use case. It consists of a subject (e.g., a credit card customer) along with associated documents and records that are managed as a unit. Another example of a case is a patient. A health care professional needs awareness of all of the documents related to a particular patient.

These documents and records get sorted and managed through the lifecycle as a “Case,” even though they may reside in different locations, have different owners, other relationships, and different retention policies. Other individuals may also need to interact with these documents for purposes of billing or insurance, or they may be needed for multiple legal and compliancy requirements: same documents, different purpose.

The key point to note about a case is that every instance might be different in terms of what needs to be done with it. Not just every case, but even for one case, every interaction could be different. Again, going back to our credit card example, think of a customer disputing her credit card statement. A credit manager or someone needs to manually consider that dispute and decide an action to be taken. This will of course vary from one customer to another, as well as from one dispute to another. It’s not something you can automate fully because each interaction is sort of an exception. However, depending on specific use cases, you might still be able to automate specific steps in case management.

Do You need BPM or Case Management

Think of BPM as an underlying, horizontal technology and Case Management as a vertical application. For simpler use cases, you can certainly do Case Management without having BPM but for complex use cases, you probably need both. Consider using a solid underlying base consisting of ECM and BPM (+ rules engine) and basing your Case Management application off these.

In our recently updated ECM Evaluations, we call out these capabilities for vendors that we cover. In fact, we have a specific scenario that addresses these.

You can also perform a self assessment using RSG's RealScore Effectiveness Model to understand your current state with respect to business processes and benchmark yourself with industry peers.

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