Even in the rapidly evolving market for Adaptive Case Management technologies, it is still rare to find approaches which address the true goal-driven requirements of case management rather than simply extending the procedural orientation of traditional Business Process Management System (BPMS) technologies to address unanticipated events. IActive IT (Intelligent Technologies) is such a vendor. We first learned of IActive when they won the WfMC Global Award for Excellence in Case Managementin 2012 and then again in 2014, as well as when they received the Gartner Cool Vendor Award in Business Process Management. Among our analyst team it is important that we remain impartial, and as a matter of policy we have never endorsed any single product or vendor (nor are we going to do so today).
Further, given the nascent state of this emerging sector within the broad BPM market, we feel that any anointing of market leadership is premature. Many have claimed the mantle, but far fewer can point to momentum which actually began with ACM, rather than the evolution of existing platforms (with many being more opportunistic than evolutionary) and the re-categorization of existing customers. Yet there are upstarts and breakout players today. We know that the make-up of the market will inevitably be different 5 years from now, just as it was at its very beginning 5 years ago.
Yet although they had been on our radar since first winning the WfMC, it was just recently that we had the opportunity to engage in a full “deep dive” of IActive ACM Suite. What immediately impressed us was that it represents one of, if not the, first truly pure play Adaptive Case Management frameworks on the market.
What “Adaptive” Really Means to Business Software
Adaptive Case Management (or “ACM”) is an approach to support knowledge workers who have unique expertise in the case domain, who are responsible for the handling of cases and the associated outcomes, and need the most flexibility to handle the cases. This is differentiated from previous orientations labeled case management. Previous forms include basic work management and folding (where there may be routing but no true intelligence) to the more contemporary Production Case Management or “PCM”, where intelligence is built into the system to although lesser-skilled workers to perform more effectively by automating decisions and instructing them on what to do.
In contrast, ACM allows the knowledge workers themselves to create and modify all aspects of a case at any time. With ACM there is not the traditional distinction between design-timeand run-time: the designing and running are done at the same time by the same people. With some notable exceptions, most case management tools available today are either traditional BPMS tools that have extended their features set to include case management functionality, or new entrants in the case management space that are principally focused on providing case management functionality. Traditional BPMS solutions generally best address predictable and deterministic processes that execute procedural and transaction processing business logic. Yet is also true that a newer category of BPMS vendors have extended the functionality of their platforms to support case management by incorporating some level of ad hoc and collaborative processing, and by automating the mandatory and optional ordering of predefined activities in the process sequence.
Source: Business Process Management, Inc. (see www.bpm.com)
In this way, ACM is part of the broader continuum of BPM technology, however, the majority of BPMS products on the market today are rooted in an architectural model that is very different than what is required for effective ACM. New case management vendors such as IActive have designed their platforms from the outset to address unpredictable and ad hoc processes that execute declarative and state transition business logic for activities that are not necessarily predefined and are not necessarily pre-ordered in the process sequence. The support for dynamic and adaptive case management is both original and native to the product.
As a consequence, the IActive platform is able to embrace the environmental unpredictability and complexity of the case domain and focus on facilitating goal-driven and outcome-based processes. This places it, somewhat uniquely, within the new market space illustrated to the right, distinct from transactional or procedurally-oriented systems with exception handling capabilities.
Bridging AI and ACM
One of the most notably unique aspects of theIActive’s Intelligent Process Suite, the“secret sauce” if you will, is the artificial intelligence (AI) component that makes explicit the relevant tacit knowledge of the case expert (i.e., the knowledge worker). It is this part of the platform that brings the adaptive power of AI to bear on the management challenges associated with a case domain.
The strength of the AI component is due to the company’s heavy and long term investment in bringing together under one roof the requisite skill sets in case management and AI (e.g., over 50% of all of IActive’s employees have either a PhD or Master’s degree in AI). IActive ACM Suite represents almost twenty years’ worth of advanced AI research conducted at the Intelligent Systems Research Group at the University of Granada in Spain. The technology is domain-agnostic, input-agnostic, output-agnostic, and is compatible with any programming environment.
IActive Knowledge Studiois a highly capable tool for modelling and building AI-based decision-support systems. IActive’s Knowledge Studio empowers any programmer to build an AI application without any knowledge of AI. The Decisoris the engine that creates and drives the case management process at run-time, while the Monitorinspects the execution of the case management process at run-time, dynamically adapting to the changes in information context of the case. (A Learner module is on the roadmap for the suite that will enable the design of smarter systems and the use of collaboration for involving the knowledge workers more completely.)
Source: IActive (see www.IActiveit.com)
This context can be in any form, including databases, XML, and unstructured data (such as documents), and can be communicated through integration points that are supported natively or invoked via application programming interfaces (APIs). In addition, the platform is lightweight, and does not require an underlying application server on which to run and on which to rely for transaction processing control and integrity (as is often the case with traditional BPMS suites). Thus, deployment timeframes are modest.
IActive allows for steps in the process flow to be intelligently defined and enabled on the fly, and are not pre-ordered in how they are supposed to occur. This is a very clear case of an ACM technology. Much of this functionality is the intended by-product of the creative but practical use of AI components at the core of IActive which act to support the automation of the case management workflow. With a minimal amount of definition of the workflow and knowledge terms, the AI components can constantly recalculate the context for a case as it is evaluated at each step. This orientation would also allow it to be integrated into other solution sets or included as an OEM component.
Case management data is captured and supports both the in-flight and post-execution predictive analytics about the case as it flows through the generated process sequences. In addition, the process sequences can be visualized as process models ala the Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN)language from the Object Management Group (OMG), which a well-accepted and widely used language for modelling business processes.
Source: IActive (see www.IActiveit.com)
The natural type of use case for this kind of technology is any situation where the knowledge, skills, and experiences of the knowledge worker cannot be in any practical sense reduced to business logic and rules that directly lead to software code for automating those requirements. Such workers can be found in business processes that rely heavily on the largely ad hoc participation of professional labor types (doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, etc.). This type of work often involves complexity and uncertainty, and the need to make sense of huge volumes of data that require these knowledge workers to simultaneously correlate and personalize outcomes on the fly. This is why doctors in emergency scenarios so often part ways with Evidence-based medicine (EBM), because it’s typically impractical to do so with the required urgency or expediency. In contrast, this is also where decision-support ACM systems can leverage human intelligence to improve not only business process management, but also empower knowledge workers to take more intelligent action.
Modeling Knowledge as a Hierarchical Task Network
IActive’s technology is not rules-based, it does not require or impose a rules engine which would seek to define how to perform work (tasks) according to predefined steps (rules). Instead it presents an AI-based first logic declarative approach that presents to find the steps to achieve the goal (expressed as conditions). This is expressed graphically within a Hierarchical Task Network (below) that allows a domain expert (e.g., not requiring an IA expert) to create complex representations of knowledge, using the GUI-based Knowledge Studio.
Source: IActive (see www.IActiveit.com)
IActive provides an execution platform that supports these knowledge workers and (most importantly) enables the capture of audit data about the workflow as it is realized. All of this is done without boxing the knowledge workers into rigid structures that do not reflect their actual work and responsibilities.
Two notable case studies are in the delivery of oncological health care services and in the fighting of forest fires. In the first, CognoCare was the main product, but it relied on IActive to automate the determination and handling of patients’ treatment regimes, including the scheduling of appointments and diagnostic tests. In the second, Siadex was the solution that leveraged IActive to automate the planning, development, and management of strategies and tactics for fighting forest fires.
As a standalone product, IActive’s product suite is a high-powered, easy to implement case management system that integrates well with other production systems, whether customer facing or back-office. It is setting a high bar for what it means to be an ACM system, and should serve as a superlative example for other vendors in that space.
BPMS excels at supporting environments where responses to events and circumstances can be addressed with best practices, ensuring that work is performed in a way that is compliant, consistent and predictable. But within more complex environments, where the pathways cannot be predetermined, this requires on-the-fly adaptation and emergent processes.
It is in this domain that the ACM is most beneficial, where the process cannot be understood or expressed in terms of a discrete path but rather as defined goals and milestones. IActive Knowledge Studio supports this through goal-oriented automatic generation of processes and automatic adaptation of processes in execution time. Key to this is how the GUI-based modeling environment allows for modeling of expert knowledge by domain experts, without requiring AI expertise.
IActive is based in Granada (Spain) but also offices in Mountain View, Calif. More information can be found at http://www.iactiveit.com/