Posted by: Adam Deane | 16/06/2010

Case Management is ECM, not BPM

Case ManagementLet me start by stating my view on Case Management.

Those who read last week’s post “BPM and ECM – The War Begins” could read between the lines my criticism on the market trend.

My view is that Case Management should be implemented by ECM vendors, not BPM vendors.
Case Management revolves around data, documents and data therefore should be dealt by ECM professionals.
ECM requires a different set of skills than BPM.
It would be in the customer’s best interests to have separate systems for BPM and ECM.

The bottom line of that post was that, like it or not, the future will bring BPM and ECM to integrate into one system. It’s already happening.
Is it good – No. Can we stop it? – No. Once a new technology starts rolling, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.

Case Management is already being marketed as part of BPM suites.
I’m not an authority on Case Management, or on ECM, but I am a bit surprised that we are not hearing any protest on the BPM incursions into their territory.

Why is it happening?
1. Customers are already looking for an integrated BPM/ECM system
2. Analysts are pushing it as a must-have functionality
3. BPMS vendors are looking for an edge on their competitors

What will the future bring?
Expect more acquisitions in the future to bring these together.
BPM and ECM will integrate. BPM will include Case Management.
My only hope is that BPM vendors will learn proper ECM skills.


  1. Adam,

    I’m not sure that I agree with your assertion that Case Management should be implemented by ECM vendors, not BPM vendors.

    Every customer scenario is different and we have customers with very document/information centric businesses whose starting point to build a Case Management solution has been an ECM tool, others who have very citizen centric businesses who have started with a CRM solution and others with very process heavy businesses whose starting point was a BPM tool.

    The key thing for me is the integration of these approaches end to end across a large enterprise that ensures we can delivery all of the services required in a complete Case Management solution and integrate them with the rest of the business.

  2. I’ve worked for ECM and BPM companies that both claimed to offer Case Management solutions. My opinion is that Case Management software is just another phrase to describe a generic platform on which (BPM or ECM) vendors can build meaningful solutions for clients. If it has the features to support the end business objectives of the client, great. If not, leave it to the other guys.

    The fact is that there are some combined BPM/ECM suites out there. They are not great at doing either in a pure-play sense, but for many businesses that do sufficiently well to meet the requirements with a lot less hassle than having to integrate disparate software products.

    I agree – I hope BPM vendors learn proper ECM skills, otherwise we are going to see a lot of companies with worthless records and very upset regulators…

    • Phil, pure play is an arbitrary choice of functionality. Even ECM and BPM is not enough. Business do not look for ECM or BPM because that is simply what analysts chose to define some products to belong to. Papyrus was never considered either and we always did both … AND CRM AND business rules AND portal ….

      So let’s focus on what businesses and their customers need and stop wasting time with TLAs. Max

      • Max, I agree that the TLAs are arbitrary choices of functionality, although they have evolved in their buckets based on the experience of certain visionary companies with a need for those functionalities over the last 25 years or more (you know that, I’m just reminding myself of the fact).

        The fact is that if you want to sell stuff, sometimes you need to use the buckets to help buyers quickly understand what it is you are selling (yeah, sell on business value – I’ve heard that a million times). Technology savvy people in the business and IT have managed to compartmentalize many of the capabilities required for addressing business problems. And frankly the rest of us are now fighting the perceptions of acceptable components they already have, because we’ve seen these perceptions making business improvement in other companies more difficult than it should have been.
        We all have a story that goes like this: “the business improvement in Company A would have been so much easier if they’d not used BPM+ECM+portal and just used Papyrus, or Consected, or whatever…”

        Of course, these latter two are just company names that we have put around capabilities sets, and nobody outside you, me and the wall know what the hell they represent (unfortunately!). Until Papyrus and Consected are as synonymous with some for of valuable business improvement software as SAP is with ERP, then we are fighting an uphill battle.

        Tell me you don’t agree… (red rag to a bull?)

        Great discussion.

  3. Adam, is it ok if we were not a BPM vendor before but to make case management adaptive we added BPMN capability (about 3 months worth of effort).

    That makes us now a BPM vendor who implements case management. To our rescue I have to say that we did ECM before, albeit always with a process focus.

    I hope that this finds therefore your approval. Thanks. Max.

  4. Phil, I have no problem at all to sell Papyrus and it would be a hell of a lot easier without the constant silly chattering on senseless market fragments.

    I wonder why you put a company name around capability sets, because I certainly haven’t. Papyrus is a synonym for helping businesses to focus on customer service and communication.

    Even if you say ‘SAP’ nobody knows what it means until you explain in detail which of their components you mean. But yes, some vendors have spent billions in advertizing to create illusions of brands and perceptions. That is life …

    It doesn’t mean I have to follow along. Since 2003 I can no longer be brainwashed by TV and radio. Social networking might produce independent, and realistic perceptions, but not as E20 in the business, but as a information channel outside.

    It is not uphill, because I am simply sidestepping the blunt force of marketing billions and let them fall on their face. So I won’t follow in their footsteps, I am on a completely different track …

    Catch Me, If You Can!

  5. Adam,

    I had to smile at reading the statement “incursions into their territory.” What about the ECM vendors buying process tools and incurring into the BPM vendors territories? 🙂

    The space shaping up as adaptive / dynamic case management is going to require capabilities that have been inherent in many different kinds of TLAs. Content is indeed a large component of it, but so to is the ability to understand how business processes flow. Analytics also plays heavily, as do business rules and capabilities previously thought of as the domain of CRM systems. My point is that this isn’t an “ECM vs BPM” discussion, it is a business solution discussion as Norman points out above.

    My feeling is that as the analyst community gets more involved in case management space (again), we’ll see a wide range of players including ECM, BPM and many other vendors as part of those evaluations.

    Not only will vendors of software solutions have to evolve to meet these requirements the market presents, but so to will the folks implementing them as part of the premise of ACM is “run time change”, something traditional software implementation approaches don’t really handle well.

    • Tom, I had to smile at that one. Don’t tell me they’ve brainwashed you into believing that many BPM ‘execution’ engines weren’t originally imaging and workflow tools! I guess we all have the same fundamental DNA, even if a bunch of us have tried to claim that we’re better than our predecessors.

      So it seems that BPM, ECM and MJP (hey Max, I didn’t realize you were a TLA all of your own) all have a pretty good chance of offering customer value with ‘case management’ solutions.

      • You mean that BPM products weren’t started as a completely green field software development project?!? The shock and horror! 🙂

        My point was that Case Management isn’t ECM, nor is it BPM, nor is it CRM. It’s all of those and more in many ways. I do think the marketing side of case management is going to be a challenge for the consumer to wade through because of this. That’s part of the motivation behind Mastering the Unpredictable (, to help educate in a *somewhat* vendor neutral way. Of course we all have our day jobs!

    • “You mean that BPM products weren’t started as a completely green field software development project?” – Nope, not the ones we work(ed) on, anyway!

      No, I was responding more to your thinking that ECM vendors are buying process tools, when they really had them all along. But you are right, back in the day even FileNet licensed Cape Visions workflow analysis. I guess they didn’t have the foresight of others to make themselves into a BPM company and got rich instead.

      You’re doing a good job pushing the case management story ahead. Keep up the good work.

  6. Gents,

    Thanks for your comments today.
    Phil and Max – Glad that you two are getting along nicely…

    I’m not an expert on ECM (far from it…)
    The view I raised was just my personal take on the subject.

    Especially happy to hear Tom’s view on it, as he probably has the most experience in Case Management (from a BPMS point of view at least).

    Regarding ACM, I’ll be doing a bit of homework on the subject and publishing a post on it in the coming weeks.


  7. […] at Adam Deane’s blog, “Case Management is ECM not BPM” with comments from Phil Ayres of Consected and Max J Pucher of […]

  8. Essentially I agree, it would be fair to say that an ECM system is more similar to an ACM system, than a BPMS.

    My nit that I want to pick is that BPM should not be used as a label on technology. BPM is a “management practice” which could be done with pencil and paper if you choose to (see wikipedia). The BPM management practice is pretty clearly about defining processes, measuring their suitability to a set of past situations, in the hope of using the process in future, similar situations. That is the purpose and meaning of BPM.

    Similarly, I can do content management with a bookshelf. Case management can be accomplished with manila folders. See:

    A BPM Suite is a product that gives you box of tool which you might use for a number of different practices. Clearly it is supposed to support BPM, but it might also support purely ad-hoc communications, and some content management to boot. Content management systems have been adding process support for years, and one might easily claim in certain situations to be doing proper BPM. It would be false to say that you *can’t* do BPM with a ECM system. Even so, a system designed speficially to support BPM is likely to do a better job of it.

    It is important to note that BPM (the practice) is still distinct from ECM (the practice) and also from case management (the practice). But I agree that the systems to support them are getting more powerful, possibly to the point that people will insist that one system support all these management practices – which I think is what you meant to say.

    • Hi Keith,

      I absolutely agree with you. We tend to forget that BPM is a management practice, not a technology.
      Maybe I should have rephrased it differently:

      “My only hope is that BPM suite vendors will learn proper ECM practice skills as BPM (the practice) is still distinct from ECM (the practice) and also from case management (the practice).“


  9. Phil, thanks.

    I always wanted to be a TLA … I hope some analyst will pick it up!


  10. […] Case Management is ECM, not BPM Makes a really good point: why is everyone getting ACM and BPM confused, when ACM is really a lot closer to Enterprise Content Management. I feel that ECM is a big part of ACM — the situation and status must be represented and this is often done with documents and other artifacts — but there is additional aspects not normally included: representation of goals to be achieved. Also, a case is not necessarily itself an artifact (like a book, report, message, white paper, etc), but it is a project which is exists in many cases purely as a concept until use a CM system to represent and track the project. Adam is correct though: it is pretty easy to add this to an ECM system. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The Shack Book Review by Trevin WaxGuest Post: Author Pam Jenoff on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Reviewing…NYTBR 14 March 2010: A Not So Short List […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: