To have a meaningful discussion, you must start with a set of words with clear definitions.  Below you will find the glossary that we put together for the book Mastering the Unpredictable so that we could discuss the various technology options clearly. So we can discuss what is important, and not just spinning jargon.  My goal is to maintain this as a useful reference, and to remain consistent with these meanings when possible.

  • ACM solution – A collection of templates created on adaptive case management (ACM) technology designed to meet the needs of a particular business unit. You can think of this as an “application” to meet a particular need.
  • activity – A description of a piece of work that forms one logical step within a process. It is the basic unit of work within a process. Presumably, work could be subdivided into units smaller than a given activity, but it is not meaningful for the organization to track the work to that level of detail. Synonyms include goal, step, and task.
  • adaptive case management (ACM) – An approach to manage work and teams centered around gathering and organizing the information needed for knowledge workers to accomplish goals, without a strong focus on enforcing a particular process.  ACM differs from business process management (BPM) in that the case information is the focus and the thing around which the other artifacts are organized. And it is the case information that persists for the long term.  ACM differs from BPM in that BPM has a focus on process, and it uses the process as an organizing paradigm around which data, roles, and communication are organized. In ACM, process models are usually not prepared in advance, but instead are assembled on the fly for particular situations.
  • adaptive case management system (ACMS) – A productive system that deploys not only the organization and process structure, but it becomes the system of record for the business data entities and content involved. All processes are completely transparent, as per access authorization, and fully auditable. It enables nontechnical business users in virtual organizations to seamlessly create/consolidate structured and unstructured processes from basic predefined business entities, content, social interactions, and business rules. It moves the process knowledge gathering from the template analysis/modeling/ simulation phase into the process execution phase in the lifecycle. It collects actionable knowledge—without an intermediate analysis phase—based on process patterns created by business users. An ACMS differs from a BPMS in that the case information is the focus and the thing around which the other artifacts are organized, and that case information persists for the long term.
  • ad hoc process – See emergent process.
  • agile methodology – To move quickly and lightly. In reference to solution development, it is a method where many short iterations are used, with many quick (internal) releases, so that the nontechnical customer of a solution can be more actively involved in guiding the course of development. The agile approach to development is known to produce solutions that better meet the needs of the customer, and it also allows for greater responsiveness to external changes in requirements.
  • analytics- A mechanism for collecting and processing statistics. Process analytics will gather and process statistics about the running of processes in such a way that it is useful for evaluating how well the process is running.
  • best practice – An approach to achieving a particular outcome that is believed to be more effective than any other approach in a particular condition or circumstance.
  • business operations platform (BOP)— A next-generation technology platform oriented toward continuously designing, executing, monitoring, changing, and optimizing critical business processes proposed by Fingar (2009).
  • business process— A set of one or more linked activities which collectively realize a business objective or policy goal, normally within the context of an organizational structure defining functional roles and relationships.
  • business process execution language (BPEL) - A standard executable language, based on XML, for describing a process that uses web service calls to communicate with the outside world.
  • business process management (BPM) - the discipline to model, automate, execute, control, measure and optimize the flows of business activities that span the enterprise’s systems, employees, customers and partners within and beyond the enterprise boundaries.
  • business process management suite/soft ware/system (BPMS) - A soft ware system designed to support business process management. The acronym BPMS is used to distinguish the technology product from the management practice of BPM.
  • business process modeling notation (BPMN) – A standard set of graphical shapes and conventions with associated meanings that can be used in modeling a business process.
  • business process orientation (BPO) - A concept that suggests that organizations could enhance their overall performance by viewing all the activities as linked together into a process that ultimately produces a good or service.
  • business rules engine (BRE) – A soft ware system for managing and evaluating a complex set of rules in a business processing environment. A business rule is a small piece of logic that is separated from the application logic so that it may be managed separately from the application code. Rules are oft en expressed in a language that is more accessible to non-programmers.
  • case – The name given to the specific situation, set of circumstances, or initiative that requires a set of actions to achieve an acceptable outcome or objective. Each case has a subject that is the focus of the actions—such as a person, a lawsuit, or an insurance claim—and is driven by the evolving circumstances of the subject.
  • case file – Contains all of the case information and processes, and it coordinates communications necessary to accomplish the goal for a particular case. A case file can contain information of any type including documents, images, video, etc.
  • case management - A method or practice of coordinating work by organizing all of the relevant information into one place—called a case. The case becomes the focal point for assessing the situation, initiating activities and processes, as well as keeping a history record of what has transpired. Beyond this generic definition, case management has specific meanings in the medical care, legal, and social services fields. For this book, we see case management as a technique that could be used in any field of human endeavor.
  • case owner - A person (or group of people) who is responsible for the outcome of a case. The case owner can change any aspect of a case and is actively involved in achieving the goals of the case.
  • commercial off -the-shelf (COTS) - Describes soft ware or hardware products that are ready-made and available for sale to the general public. This term is used to distinguish such product from custom soft ware and hardware made specifically for a purpose that are presumed to be more expensive to produce and maintain.
  • customer relationship management (CRM) - Technology to manage a company’s interactions with customers and sales prospects.
  • emergent process - A process that is not predictable.  Emergent processes have a sensitive dependence upon external factors outside of the control of the process context, which is why they cannot be fixed according to their internal state. Workers involved in an emergent process will experience it as planning and working alternately or at the same time, such that the plan is evolved as the work evolves. Synonyms include ad hoc process and unstructured process.
  • enterprise content management (ECM) – Strategies, methods, and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM strategies and tools allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.
  • enterprise resource planning (ERP) – Computer system used to manage resources including tangible assets, financial resources, materials, and human resources.
  • goal – a statement or definition of what is to be accomplished.  Functionally equivalent to a task, activity or step —  goals can be tasks and tasks can be goals — however a goal is usually considered to be a higher level with focus on the end result and omitting details on how to accomplish the goal.
  • knowledge work – A type of work where the course of events is decided on a case-by-case basis. It normally requires a person with detailed knowledge who can weigh many factors and anticipate potential outcomes to determine the course for a specific case. Knowledge work almost always involves an emergent process.
  • knowledge workers - People who have a high degree of expertise, education, or experience and the primary purpose of their job involves the creation, distribution, or application of knowledge. Knowledge workers do not necessarily work in knowledge intensive industries.
  • lifecycle – This book uses lifecycle only in regard to the work of creating a solution. The development lifecycle of a solution might start with definition of requirements, development of a process definition, development of forms, testing, deployment of the solution into production, use of the solution by many people, and finally the shutting down of the solution. The lifecycle of a solution may involve monitoring the running process instances and improving those process definitions over time. Note: A solution has a lifecycle that takes it from start to finish; a case has a process or processes that take it from start to finish.
  • model - A simplified summary of reality designed to aid further study. In the business process field, a process model is a simplified or complete process definition created to study the proposed process before execution time.
  • node – See activity.
  • online transaction processing (OLTP) - A class of systems where time-sensitive, transaction-related data are processed immediately and are always kept current.
  • organizational agility – That quality of an organization associated with sensing opportunity or threat, prioritizing its potential responses, and acting efficiently and effectively.
  • predictable process - process that is repeatable and is run the same way a number of times. Synonyms include definable process, repeatable process, and structured process.
  • process definition – A representation of a business process in a form that supports automated manipulation, such as modeling or enactment by a process management system. The process definition consists of a network of activities and their relationships, criteria to indicate the start and termination of the process, and information about the individual activities, such as participants, associated IT applications, and data. Synonyms include process diagram and workflow.
  • process diagram – A visual explanation of a process definition. Synonyms include process definition, process model, process map, and process flowchart.
  • process flowchart - See process diagram.
  • process instance – A data structure that represents a particular instance of running of a process. It has associated context information that can be used and manipulated by the process. A process instance plays a role in a business process management suite (BPMS) that is very similar to but not exactly the same as a case in a case management system. A particular case may have more than one process instance associated with it.
  • process model – A simplified or complete process definition created to study the proposed process before execution time. Synonyms include process diagram.
  • records management – Management of the information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business.
  • reductionism – The practice of analyzing the behavior of an entire system as a product of the behavior of its components.
  • role – An association of particular a user, or users, with a particular set of responsibilities in a particular context. In this case, responsibility means the expectation to perform particular activities for that context. routine work— Work that is predictable and usually repeatable. Its predictability allows routine work to be planned to a large extent before the work is started. As the name implies, routine work is considered normal, regular, and it is not exceptional.
  • scientific management— An early twentieth century school of management that aimed to improve the physical efficiency of an individual worker by carefully recording precisely what must be done for a particular task, and then training workers to replicate that precisely. It is based on the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915).
  • Scrum – An agile soft ware development methodology emphasizing iteration and incremental development.
  • service-oriented architecture (SOA) – An approach to system design where the software functionality is deployed to a specific logical location (a service) and programs requiring that soft ware functionality make use of communications protocols to access the service remotely. SOA has oft en been discussed together with business process management (BPM), but this connection is coincidental. While BPM might benefit from SOA the way that any program/system would, there is no inherent connection between managing business processes and the system architecture that supports them.
  • social software – A class of soft ware systems that allows users to communicate, collaborate, and interact in many flexible ways. Generally, such soft ware allows users to form their own relationships with other users and then exchange messages, write notes, and share media in different ways.
  • solution - A package of artifacts (configurations, forms, process definitions, templates, and information) that have been prepared in advance to help users address particular kinds of recurring situations. A solution may embody best practices for a particular kind of situation.
  • step - See activity.
  • straight-through processing (STP) – The practice of completely automating a process and eliminating all manual human tasks. This term is typically used in the financial industry.
  • subject (of a case) – An entity that is the focus of actions performed in the context of a case. For example, a person, a lawsuit, or an insurance claim.
  • task – See activity and goal.
  • template – The general concept of something that is prepared in advance approximately for a particular purpose with the anticipation that it will be modified during use to more exactly fit the situation. A process template does not define a process in the way that a process definition does.
  • unstructured process – See emergent process.
  • work - Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something. Organizations exist to achieve goals and work is the means to achieve those goals. The smallest recorded unit of work is an activity. Activities are combined into procedures and processes.
  • workflow - The automation of a business process, in whole or part, during which documents, information, or tasks are passed from one participant to another for action according to a set of procedural rules. Synonyms include process definition.

These definitions are licensed under Creative Commons – you are free to copy and use them in any way that helps the pursuit of knowledge.  It is not strictly necessary to reference back to this page, but if it is convenient I would appreciate a link back to, thanks.

4 Responses to Glossary

  1. Pingback: For Each Blog: A Glossary « Thoughts on Collaborative Planning

  2. John says:

    Keith, great idea with the glossary – I just read about it on your post “For Each Blog A Glossary”.

    Here’s an idea for organizing your glossary which might make it a little more flexible: Create a blog category called “Glossary” and create a post for each glossary term (the title being the work you are defining, and the body of the post being the proposed definition). Lots of potential benefits:

    - Another person can easily link directly to your definition of the term when they use the term themselves on another site.
    - The comments can be used to foster discussion/debate on a term by term basis.
    - It’s easy to add a new term. Instead of editing a large page, you can simply create a new “post” in the glossary category.
    - People can subscribe to a feed of glossary terms.

    Just an idea.

  3. kswenson says:


    That is actually a great idea. Only, it seems like so much work, and I am feeling very preoccupied with other things.

    It got me thinking about how one could build a “matrix” with one dimension being terms, and another people, and the cells would be definitions. It would give one a chance to compare different terms, and for each person’s definition, it would allow you to see the other definitions from that person as context. Ahh… if we only have infinite time to develop such concepts to fruition.

    But … wanted to let you know I appreciated the good suggestion.

  4. Pingback: Nexus of forces hits Adaptive Case Management Systems: Information | dagloraas

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