Six Features to Look For in a BPMS to Support Case Management Processes

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Director / owner, Lithe IT Ltd
Anthony is a BCS Chartered IT professional, with over 15 years IT experience, working mostly in Financial Services and the UK Public sector. Having worked as an IT Director, he is passionate about helping businesses successfully use technology to increase agility. He formed Lithe IT to help further this aim.

Implementing new technology brings a range of challenges and this is equally true when the technology in question is a BPMS. These challenges become even greater when the BPMS is to support case management processes. Within this article I outline additional complexities case management processes exhibit, and suggest six features a BPMS should offer before being used to manage these processes.

Challenges of Case Management Processes

Many business processes are linear where each process instances has a predictable flow at each stage of the process. The designer can expect to find definitive answers to what happens next at each stage of the process. An example is modelling a payroll system where each stage has clear inputs, and a finite and predictable set of outcomes. I’ve still to see a BPMS which cannot support linear and predictable processes, accepting that some offer richer functionality than others!

Case management tends to be different. The journey for individual case instances tends to be fluid, long lived and therefore more complex to model and support than linear processes. Process instances often follow non-linear paths, where new information can come to light at any time, requiring the case to revert to an earlier or later stage not directly connected by process flow.

A common feature of case management is the need to support human interaction throughout the process. For instance, some decisions will be automated, most typically when eligibility criteria have not been met, but many will require a final decision from a knowledge worker.

Case management is closely associated with regulatory or legislative compliance, which means that execution of these processes must be managed within a control framework, with clear accountability and detailed audit capabilities.

What specific functionality should your BPMS have?

There are many BPMS available which lay claim to supporting case processes. I’ve listed six features which I believe are important to consider, before being confident that your chosen solution will thrive under the demands of case management.

1.       Importance of State

Spend time in a case management organisation and you will quickly learn how important it is to understand and model case state. Examples of state include “Take-on”, “Ready for First decision” and “Appeal”. They are descriptive text which allows a case worker to understand what is currently happening within a case and are organisation specific. As a case achieves pre-defined milestones it will change state. Your BPMS needs to support assigning and changing state as milestones are achieved.

2.       Ability to restart cases at earlier or later states

Ask a caseworker and they will tell you that it is not unheard of for information to come to light which requires resetting a case to an earlier state. It is not practical to model this by adding decision nodes to each process activity as this only adds confusion to models. The BPMS must provide the ability for the caseworker to restart the process where they need to, ensuring that all appropriate case settings and tasks are modified. Remember that the BPMS needs to support moving the case to later states as well as ones previously completed.

3.       Support ad-hoc case processes

When modelling a case, the typical aim is to automate data gathering requirements and present the case to a knowledge worker at the first potential decision point. If the decision maker requires additional information the BPMS must support this. It needs to support ad-hoc processes being launched and associated to a case which are not on the typical process path. The BPMS must manage the case state and task assignment when one of these processes is initiated.

4.       Manage outliers as special cases without reverting to off-system solutions

With all complex business processes there will be infrequent instances where the implemented process doesn’t fully cope. It is important not to spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to predict and model these scenarios in advance of them occurring as the ROI will be low. Better to know that if such a scenario occurs your BPMS can help you to manage that process instance differently. As a minimum the BPMS must allow manual updating of process data and artefacts, to support an off-system solution. A better approach is being able to modify the process model for that specific instance only. This keeps all work on-system, reducing risk and avoiding manual data change.

5.       Re-use of process across similar case definitions

Most case management organisations are required to operate processes for different products or clients. These processes tend to be similar with only minor differences in service levels, data gathered, and work allocation rules. This is most common for BPO organisations who offer similar services on behalf of different clients with minor variability in how processes are executed. Your BPMS should allow you to re-use processes across different cases and to be able to manage the small variability without maintaining separate copies of all processes. This will greatly reduce the amount of maintenance required when implementing changes which affect multiple cases.

6.       Provide a strong control environment

Case management is often completed against a regulatory or legislative background. Of key importance is being able to demonstrate that only workers with required skill levels can view and complete specific activities. It is also a common requirement to demonstrate how internal compliance checks verify the quality and consistency of decision making. A BPMS should support this by allowing business rules to be defined and implemented, displaying tasks only to workers with the skill level to complete them, and including provision for skill based and random compliance checking. Without this inherent support there will be considerable additional effort required to implement.


It is important to recognise the additional complexities of case management processes. Choosing a BPMS as your technology solution is attractive as it allows great flexibility in modelling the exact processes you want. However it is important to test that your BPMS can support these specific characteristics. If it doesn’t you may find your challenges are too great to succeed.

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