Case Management. Like most people new to this topic, you probably have a lot of questions: What exactly is Case Management? How is a case different from a workflow or business process? Are case management and business process management complementary?

Business Process Management (BPM) and Case Management solutions involve processes, business rules, forms, data models, document manipulation and system integration. They also usually share the same infrastructure and general architecture. As a result, there is some confusion in the marketplace over which product to implement to optimize workflows. This confusion with respect to technology is due to the difficulty in understanding certain concepts. For this reason, it is important to understand the differences.

What is BPM?

BPM is a term used to describe general process and workflow management in a company, regardless of its business area. Generally speaking, it focuses on individual workflow processes and how they function. Each workflow process is independent of other workflow processes, but they can be grouped together in a relationship on a timeline. For example, in HR, a process might be hiring a new employee. There is a specific set of documents to be completed for each employee to conclude the process. Although there may be sub-steps, once all items have been completed and approved, the file and process are complete.

Business process management analyzes processes like this to develop more efficiency, systematize practices, automate steps and properly archive records for quick retrieval. This is all possible with BPM software.

With traditional BPM, processes, although they may have sub-processes, are not connected to each other. Thus, in this HR example, each employee will undergo the process at different times. The timeline is tied to the employee, so with every new employee, the process is executed, sometimes in parallel with another employee who is going through the same process. The BPM model assumes that the processes will be consistent.

What is Case Management?

First, you have to understand what a case is.

The fundamental unit of work is also an activity, which may or may not be identical to a BPMN activity, that is, an action performed repeatedly with a well-defined beginning and end in each instance.

A case is a set of activities that are interrelated in some way, but the logic of the activity flow is not necessarily an orchestration and combination of steps and rules.

Cases usually involve the actions of different people and/or departments, and case management seeks to organize, compile and track cases. While BPM focuses on single processes, case management emphasizes the complete and complex unit of processes that make up a case. In short, BPM focuses on structured processes and case management focuses on less structured processes.

Although cases usually follow a general plan, the path to conclusion is generally less defined. We can use the analogy of finding the route to a destination as an example. With BPM, you define your flowchart to leave home, the route you will take, and some possible conditions along the way that could change your route, such as traffic. BPM will get you to your destination, but it is often inadequate when confronted with unplanned events such as a problem with the car or your partner asking you to stop at the supermarket on the way home!

With case management, you set your goal: to reach a definite destination within a certain timeframe. While there may be steps in a case management solution, the direction of these steps is often varied. And it’s not just the goal or the results that make it a case, but the process itself is not consistent, as it would be with BPM. Case management, therefore, allows you to react to changes such as a mechanical problem with your car, and re-plan your goal, potentially letting your customer know that you will be late.

BPM vs. Case Management

Questions regarding “BPM vs. Case Management” and “Process vs. Case” often arise. Arguing whether BPM is part of case management, or whether case management is part of BPM, has proven to be futile.

Understanding the differences is necessary to properly evaluate the situations in which they can be applied and take advantage the flexibility of these models to promote a healthy dialogue that can provide results.

When we talk about technology solutions, the features and functions to satisfy both needs are already part of the features offered. Do you want to automate a process to achieve maximum efficiency? Or do you want to solve a complex problem, having the flexibility of ad hoc activities, gathering and taking advantage of relevant data to attain your goal?

You can do both of these things with SoftExpert BPM. If you are not yet familiar with the solution, click here or on the button below to learn more about what it can do for you.

Learn more about SoftExpert BPM


Tobias Schroeder


Tobias Schroeder

MBA in Strategic Management from UFPR. Business and market analyst at SoftExpert, a software provider for enterprise-wide business processes automation, improvement, compliance management and corporate governance.

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