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Processes without Process. Part I: The TIBCO BPM Approach (a.k.a. Case Management)

Last updated:
11:47am Nov 30, 2020

Introduction

The goal of this article is to discuss the change in approach between traditional business process management and case management: two styles of requirements that you can easily implement with TIBCO BPM. 

First, why not take a step back on what both terms are trying to help to solve?

Automation vs. Digitalization

Typically business process management technologies have been very successful in helping programs such as Back-Office optimization and industrialization. And the business outcomes really were around those 4 things:

  • Efficiency: do more with less
  • Agility: be able to change processes or rules without touching your core business applications
  • Compliance: adapt to regulations
  • Transparency: you can’t improve something you can’t measure. And you can’t measure something that’s not transparent.

The approach is: take an existing business process and improve (automate) it.

That's all good and still valid.  But the world has changed and there are 4 aspects of it that I would like to consider here, that are summarized in the following image:

#1: A lot of what used to be managed in the Back Office is now in the hands-on the customer from his mobile: book a seat, make purchase, check inventory, transfer money etc.

#2: Customer expectations are high: if the service doesn’t work, or doesn’t meet a particular need, or maybe is just slow … then the customer can walk away in 30 seconds because there are 10’s other applications and providers that are at hand and he can switch to.

#3: Why? Because Anyone has the ability to invent new and disruptive business models; Uber is the most famous example but today this happens in all industries. One example we see at our customers is innovative e-KYC and e-Onboarding programs with the ability to onboard a customer in minutes.

#4: in that kind of digital context where the customer is key…. The focus is on differentiation. Doing “just enough like the others do” is not an option. So customers buy BPM Platforms rather than COTS applications.

You can see that in a Digital context, the days of seeking stable and repeatable processes are over. This is what I mean by Processes without (predefined | end-to-end) Process.

Digitalizing your processes is about addressing those new challenges, using the technology in the front-office, and putting your customer interactions at the center.

  • Innovate: disrupt your market (before others do)
  • Do it Rapidly: Prototype your business strategies and fail fast
  • Differentiate: either your services or your customer interaction
  • The last thing is important: grow over time as you learn your customer journey and adapt to it.

The approach becomes:

reinvent your process around the customer. Keep the rules and constraints as guide rails but improvise your contextual process around the customer journey.

The Process Journey 

Let's go a little further and look at what it means to your daily operations processes. To do that I'd like to take the analogy with a journey.

In the picture above, we can compare two journeys: A daily commute, vs a road trip.

- The "Daily Commute" is an example of an individual going to work every morning. The customer's aspiration is that his experience should be a nice routine journey: efficient, predictable, and repeatable every morning. The destinations are known and fixed, and the customer is happy to follow the routes and schedules that the transport company provides. In return, the customer expects a high-quality service including punctuality. From the transport company perspective, the focus is on refining an ideal standard repeatable process that will meet those criteria, and make it as stable as possible and cost-effective.

We can think of the daily commute much like automation or structured process we might see in the back office. It is:

  • Pretty structured/static
  • A finite set of destinations
  • Well defined/known
  • Pretty routine
  • We can optimize it over time (we may learn new routes)
  • There may be exceptions sometimes,
  • It may occasionally change (diversions, new timetables) but its generally stable

The user is really a passenger on this journey – he gets on the train and is taken to his destination. There's not much deviation from that pattern once he's on board the train.

A great fit for TIBCO BPM.

- On the other hand, "Road Trip" is a different journey. An individual has a destination in mind and probably a certain limited time to reach it, but he's the driver. That means, he's going to have multiple itinerary options, and which one he will take depends on each driver (preference, mood, agenda) but also on the events or things that he will find on his way. He might find a new interesting place to stop, take hitch-hikers, be involved in an incident, ..., or even just change his mind and switch to a different destination.

The road trip is much more unstructured, somewhat like a digitized process or a case handling process. We know the goal, where we want to head, and perhaps some milestones along the way. But we aren’t exactly sure how we will get there. In fact, it’s likely we will change our plans along the way depending on what we encounter and how long it takes.

The road trip is much more:

  • Goal Orientated
  • Less predictable
  • Each journey is different
  • Every driver is different

A better fit for Case Management. 

In this case, we have a driver rather than a passenger – in case management this is the knowledge worker. Now a driver – if he is to make the right decisions, really needs a tool to help him… in the old days that might have been a map – now it is more likely to be a GPS. Something that will tell him where he is, where he is going, stops along the way, and lots of contextual information about events as they occur and affect the journey. The GPS is really the contextual guidance that the driver will use to help him make the right decisions.

In the same way, a knowledge worker in a digitized process can use tools to guide them, help them to make the right decisions as they “compose their journey” towards the goal.

The complex Process approach 

We could attempt to model the road trip as a structured process. But it is pretty clear what would happen. With so many options, paths, routes – it would be very difficult to see where we need to go. For a long road trip, navigating a map can be complex and confusing. GPS makes it much simpler right? In contrast for a commute, the subway map is perfect!

Just like a GPS, a contextual knowledge worker UI can make progressing a case much easier for a user to progress a case to a better business outcome.

Digital Business is very knowledge worker-centric – the roles of these users are very different from a traditional back-office persona. By automating lots in the back office we have freed resources to become more skilled and make a real difference to customer experience using their – well – knowledge – to make important decisions!

The Data-Centric Approach

TIBCO BPM takes a data-centric approach to digital processes. Pretty much anything can become a context – or “case”. Case Data is really a way of defining a container for data that you want to manage towards a goal. So that could be a claim, a complaint, an alert, or an incident.

The case data has its own lifecycle outside any process, it likely has stages or states and will eventually reach a goal or final state. The case data may store information as it is collected by a knowledge worker, or it may reference external data such as customer information in CRM or data in other systems.

The knowledge worker will then supplement and review this information to help them drive the case towards the goal – typically by running small fragments of process or “micro-flows”. This is how the knowledge worker can compose the journey on the fly, by reviewing data at each stage and selecting the chosen process fragment from those available (based on who they are, what they can do, and the current case “context”).

The case structure is the thing that holds all the process artifacts together – it is all still very traceable, audited, and can be easily analyzed – but it is also much more agile allowing changes such as dropping in new micro-flows. All the process artifacts are still composed as models in TIBCO ActiveMatrix BPM – but now they are very loosely coupled – just referencing the common case instance, and hence changes and additions become much more manageable.

For example – if there is a storm forecast – I can easily drop in a new micro-flow overnight that will then be available for my agents to collect the relevant data – or initiate an expedited visit from an assessor. Once the incident is over the micro-flow can just as easily be removed. Another important aspect of this approach is to start simple and grow over time.

A knowledge worker based app can be created very quickly by just defining a data model and a few micro-flows to help collect data + some tools for unstructured data (comments, documents, etc). This can then deliver immediate ROI by tracking and managing cases. Then we can use this data + analytic tools to help understand the best way to progress a case in a given scenario – then drop in new micro-flows or automation as we discover it. This is clearly a much more attractive approach than a long investigation/process mapping/build cycle.

In summary, The benefits of that approach are 

  • Time to Market: it is quick to build: model your case, your milestones, your actions and run it!
  • Evolve over time: you build incrementally in Agile mode. Add milestones and actions as your customer journey changes. Analyze and refine the routes over time. 
  • Innovate: Put your customer at the center of the interactions. Combine different components of the Fast Data Platform to include events, things, and analytics.
  • Differentiate Experiment: Try, Fail fast, Try again, and compose the right solution for your need in order to differentiate and reach your goals.

Business Process Management or Case Management?

Business process management and case management tools are complementary. Case management brings the flexibility of dynamically composing the flow and let your customer or knowledge worker drive the process, while business process management brings structured and repeatable processes where it applies.  

And the good news is ... they are all in one single solution: TIBCO® BPM!

Building a Case application with TIBCO BPM 

Below is a sample incident management application that was built with TIBCO BPM.

Please read Processes without Process. Part II: Anatomy of a Case Management application with TIBCO BPM that will continue your journey to understand case management with TIBCO products.