Bring Your Own ACM to Work

Yesterday’s post was about workers will use personal clouds to organize their information, their personal devices, for both home and work life.   This is a general trend I am seeing toward personal services in the Internet that represent a given person.   Let me propose an even more radical idea, one of managing your projects out of such a personal cloud.  I left that post with an unsolved problem: how to manage data retention properly.   The replicated, federated paradigm proposed solves this problem neatly.

Adaptive Case Management is all about getting work done. Initially these will be shared ACM servers that people run their cases on.  In the long run, I am predicting that these will evolve to being run out of personal ACM spaces, for the exact same reason that personal repositories for you data are appearing today.  Here is the progression:

Step 1: Closed global or corporate case servers. People will place their project on the company server, and all the people working on the project will be at some level members of that server.  This is where we are today with on-premises deployments.

Step 2: Open organizational case servers. Similar to step one, but anyone can be involved in any project simply by entering their global ID (email address usually). All the projects for an organization will be on one server. As a user, this means that I tend to use the case server from my organization, but when I am involved in projects started by other organizations I will use theirs … wherever the project is.  The cloud based ACM offering allow for this today.

Step 3: Open personal case spaces. This is where each person has a space for creating and managing projects. I will always create projects in my space, but projects that I participate in from others will always be in another space. In this case the personal space appears to its own unique space, like a facebook page, but of course a physical server will support many personal spaces.  This is available today by representing a single person as an organization, but the practice is not common today.

Step 4: Personal Replicated Project Spaces. People create projects in their own space, but when it comes to participating in another project, you create a copy of that project in your own space as well. There is a continuous connection between your copy and the original project, so changes on either side can be replicated to each other and kept in sync.  Not possible today with any system I have reviewed … and I have been looking.  Maybe available in 3 to 5 years.

Step 5: Widespread deployment of replicated “Case Networks.”  Like social networks, but oriented to accomplish specific goals, and with sharing of the case folder to all the right people.  Long term future: 2020+.

Why make a replicated copy?

After all, the point of putting a service in the cloud is that it is always on, and always available.Having a copy might make it a little faster and a little more reliable, but that is not the reason.

The real reason is trust.  Imagine people collaborating on a project who do not work for the same organization i.e. someone one is hiring you as a consultant.  If the project has a description of the work you are being asked to do, you will want to be sure that you have your own copy of the work description.  It is like a contract.  If there is a dispute, you want able to show that you did what you were asked.  A team all working for a single employer can use a single case server, but when you cross an organizational boundary both parties can not (necessarily) trust a server controlled by one party.

Today, when project information of any type crosses an organization boundary it is usually sent by email (or even more conservative means).  That means that a person has to receive it, and store it someplace.  If there is a bunch of documents for a project, then there can be quite some effort to keep things together.  If you are missing a document, or something gets misfiled, it is hard to know.  This kind of email sending of documents is what ACM is supposed to eliminate in the first place.  Imagine how much easier it is simply open a case folder, and let the system transfer all the documents back and forth automatically in both directions. Notifications can tell you when things changes.  The full history of changes are there just like in the original case folder.  Think of the replicated case folder as a way of communicating the entire folder to others working on the project in other organizations.  It is a kind of document channel.

The replication does not have to be (and probably isn’t) symmetric.  This is a form of access control. Your copy of the case folder may not be a complete copy: obviously, it will only have the parts of the project that you are allowed to access. Additionally, you will be able to place notes and documents in your copy of the project, that are NOT replicated back to the original. There is a big benefit in keeping your working notes associated with the project, and yet still private to yourself. It will be possible to delegate work or subtasks to coworkers, again without necessarily sharing this.

While trust was the original motivation for replication of case folders, but imagine what happens when you combine this idea with a personal cloud.  The case folder in your personal cloud allows the case information to be integrated into your normal information handling practices.  Documents will be automatically replicated to your favorite devices.  Your searches will work to find that information.  And everything is backed up.

Retention Practices

Remember I said that organizations want and need the ability to be assured that information is deleted properly.  The biggest problem is that any information that arrives via email has to be manually segregated into the right buckets, but even then there is no policy in place to control the documents.

Instead of sending such documents by email, if they are sent through a replicated project, then it is possible to include retention policies as part of the linkage.  The two ACM server, when they first make contact, they can exchange a bit of information about their capabilities for supporting a retention policy.  Then, the original case folder might allow the copy only if the server doing the copy agrees to a particular policy.  For example, it might require that the information is deleted 6 months after the project finished.  It might require that the project documentation be transferred on an encrypted line, and stored on an encrypted disk.  This would be enforced by audit, so it is not secure enough for truely secret documents, but it is far far better than sending the document by email.  By automating the compliance, an upstanding consulting firm would find it easy to ensure compliance.


So my prediction is that workers will bring their own case management system, their own workspace, to work.  The reason is simply because once a professional is used to a particular environment, and they have learned how to be effective, they will be far more productive.  Just like workers are bringing their personal cloud, they will bring their personal project management system to work.

This concept is probably frightening or shocking to many IT professionals because it is copying corporate information. It is, but we can’t put our heads in the sand. Instead, we need to work quickly to understand the agreements that need to be in place.  By moving proactively, it is possible to design such systems to be able to comply with corporate handling requirements.

2 thoughts on “Bring Your Own ACM to Work

  1. Pingback: links for 2011-09-26 « steinarcarlsen

  2. Pingback: BPM Quotes of the week « Adam Deane

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