That businesses are interested in automating processes is nothing new. In fact, analyzing processes is a fairly well-developed field, full of terminology and concepts that, in many cases, tends to be used interchangeably when, in reality, we’re talking about different things. This is the case with these three terms: Workflows, BPM and Case Management. Let’s quickly define them from a technological point of view:
- Workflows: Also known as “routing”. These are the most basic work flows and stand out not just for their simplicity (they are fairly linear), but also because the tasks that make up the process do not change. One example of this type of flow would be those related to revising and approving that come as part of ECM platforms and document management systems. Even though they’re simple, using these workflows can be very beneficial to businesses, which gain better control over their documentation and the information contained therein.
- BPM: The initials for Business Process Management. These processes are known for being predictable, but they’re also far more complex than workflows. They don’t tend to be linear: they branch out into distinct paths, depending on certain conditions. This can mean better flexibility; for example, in the case that certain conditions are met, certain tasks within the process can be omitted, or the person in charge can vary the process according to different situations. Automating this type of process requires analyzing the process and, in many cases, re-engineering them. The main advantage of automating these process is, definitely, the improvement in the amount of time needed to resolve processes.
- Case Management: This refers to processes that cannot be predicted. Generally, with these processes, there are usually one or more knowledge workers involved who have to make decisions about the best action to take, or even end up modifying the process, depending on the case. The decisions made by knowledge workers are subject to explicit guidelines, restrictions and might need the involvement of other people.
In each of the three cases, one of the fundamental elements involved in automating the process is counting on correct, specific information. As an example: automatic recognition of a type of document received in the email allows us to automatically initiate a revision work flow. Extracting the date of a complaint helps us put priority on documents that are going to go beyond the date for a response and extract the name of the client who is filing the complaint, or where the client is located; that helps us put the client in touch with a professional of some sort. All of this information is included in documents: the problem is that getting that information manually is a slow, costly process. Document capture software provides the solution to these problems, with its functionalities dedicated to extracting metadata, identifying and classifying documents.