You take the high road and I’ll take the low road

We all recognize the value of case management systems and there is nothing to prevent some of the recordings at a case from being ad hoc “interventions” whereas others are the result of task status reporting at structured process steps.  No need to worry about what the appropriate environment should be – an ACM/BPM case environment can handle 95/5% structured compared to unstructured or 5/95%.

Management can “encourage” the use of structured flows but individual staff members can do what they like so long as they are “boiling in their own puddings”.

If the nature of the work is such that it can be described in terms of a BPM flowgraph (linear for a straightforward process, a mix of process steps and decision points in a more complex process) then if a flowgraph includes in-line compliance checkpoints, rule sets can grind things to a halt as necessary until instance processing remedies are put in place.

If the nature of work is such that a flowgraph is not appropriate, things become more difficult.  If staff are free to do what they like, when they like, how they like, we have to rely on gap analysis between goals and progress toward goals to guide the processing.

How do we manage work in an organization that needs to manage a mix of structured and unstructured work?

Many clients I have worked with assume that if they provide an ACM/BPM case environment that accommodates any mix of structured/unstructured work, staff will use flowgraphs where these are available and will perform ad hoc interventions in the absence of flowgraphs.

Sadly, this does not work out.  Some staff will follow flowgraphs, taking the view that following flowgraphs is easier, others, in spite of great efforts by the organiztion to accommodate performing process steps out of sequence, skipping over steps, re-visiting steps that have been committed and inserting steps, will not.

Clearly, we want outcomes to be the same regardless of the work approach taken.

The key to consistent outcomes is to have a few background, system-level gatekeeping tasks that “sniff out” activity, consult rule sets and raise red flags when things appear to be starting to go off the rails.

Here are several examples of gatekeeping activity.

–          You cannot get a case charge number  unless/until you open a case and input a few demographics

–          No payments of any consequence will be made by accounting in the absence of an invoice.

–          If you don’t ship via the shipping department, the shipping fee is on your account and QA will start grinding their axes as soon as they hear about this.

Otherwise, do what you like and so will I and we will both arrive at the same outcomes.


Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, connect-the-dots law enforcement investigations, healthcare services delivery, job shop manufacturing and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2018 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions.
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