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ACM ECM BPM WT(bleep)?

March 8, 2011

I’ll own up and admit that my attitude toward Advanced Case Management (ACM) is, shall we say, emerging. It wasn’t helped any by the fact that, depending on who you asked, ACM could stand for Advanced or Adaptive Case Management. The former returned 14.7M hits on Google, the latter 6.83M, for what that’s worth…

Basically, I’ve moved from thinking it was a domain invented by ECM vendors to reignite interest in their products, to thinking it was a domain invented by BPM vendors to reignite interest in their products, to admitting that it’s a legitimate domain in its own right.

And in my travels, when ACM comes up, I’d say nine out of ten people I talk to fall somewhere on my continuing journey to ACM acceptance. So I figured it would be a good topic to dig into a bit here and begin shedding some of my own light (dim though it may be) on the subject.

It’s academic

Although there have been technology solutions to address ACM needs for years (particularly in niche verticals like the criminal justice system), we’re only seeing widespread availability of enterprise ACM solutions in the last 18 months or so. Which means if you want to take a deep dive into the world of ACM, you need to break out your reading glasses and hit the stacks.

To that end, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on the subject, and am currently in the middle of Mastering the Unpredictable: How Adaptive Case Management Will Revolutionize the Way That Knowledge Workers Get Things Done, a collection of essays edited by Keith D. Swenson.

Like any collection of essays, it’s got its ups and downs, its better and worse writers, but on the whole it’s a balanced, detailed introduction to ACM: where it came from, where it is now, and where it may be going in the years ahead.

So far

Although I’m not quite done, it’s already helped me get a better handle on ACM in and of itself as well as in relation to ECM and BPM. Here’s some of my thumbnail takeaways:

  • ACM is BPM for knowledge workers
  • ACM = ECM + BPM + Social Media and Collaboration
  • ACM is real-time BPM

What I want to do in the next post (and maybe the next couple of posts) is to spend some time explaining my understanding of ACM in more detail, both what it is and what it can be used for. I think much of the confusion about ACM stems not only from the fact that folks are unclear about what it is exactly, but more importantly, what it can/should be used for.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from folks out there who have opinions on ACM, experience working with it, or questions for the group—jump in and let’s get the conversation started!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2011 11:46 am

    My ECM, BPM background is 19 years now as a FileNet guy. I say that because I’ve been dealing with a product in that suite for 5-6 years now called “Business Process Framework.” ACM, whether the ‘A’ is for “Adaptive” or “Advanced” is going to be a niche tool in the ECM, BPM space. A bolt-on to an underlying vendor’s ECM or BPM platform, it will not be the panacea many are touting (Remember Knowledge Management circa 1998? ERP circa 2002? BPM circa 2004? SOA circa 2006? The list goes on). I say niche because case management has its applicabilities and, even with heuristics, is not a “one size fits all.” I get to say that after five years on and off experience with clients who shall remain nameless thinking that would (should?) be the case.

    That being said, I have been and am paying close attention to what IBM is doing with ACM, for obvious reasons.

    Like a lot of other technologies it will become part of the stack and will have its place in the IT ecosphere. You heard it here first.

    Cheers, Pat

    • March 9, 2011 5:10 am


      Thanks for jumping in and sharing your deep experience in the ECM space…

      I’ll have to say that for ACM (and anything else) the proof is in the pudding, so until we have a vendor or vendors able to really deliver on the promise of ACM, it’ll be just a domain waiting for a solution to show up. It’ll be interesting to see whether you’re right about ACM going the way of the other technology orphans you mention!



  2. March 9, 2011 3:04 am

    Well, I am product manager of an ECM vendor. Our product offers workflow capabilities as well. And I was astonished about the upcoming new 3 letter acronym ACM, but after a while I must say, that 60-80% percentage of relevant processes which should be supported here are not niche. 4 of 5 our customers do not use workflow because they are working adhoc on their respositories. And if you give some simple task management functionality to them you do have a simple Case Management. But I agree fully with Max J. Pucher requesting more adaptiveness for the system will help the user to be more efficient on his user interface.
    I thiink, that in near time we will no more divide systems into the categories ECM, BPM, or ACM. All systems have to deliver capabilities to handle content, tasks and processes.

    • March 9, 2011 5:20 am


      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience from your perspective on the vendor side of things…

      I agree that it’s fairly easy to provide a “good enough” basic case management with existing tools, but that realizing Pucher’s vision of truly adaptive case management is a ways off. Based on what I’ve read from him, it seems like his vision for ACM requires not only a different approach to creating commercial software products, but to delivering them in our corporate IT departments as well–a tall order!

      And thanks again for jumping in and keeping the conversation going…I appreciate it.



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