Presenting Case Management Benefits in Plain English

Ann All

Earlier this month I interviewed Forrester Research's Connie Moore and Craig Le Clair, who did an admirable job of explaining to this business process management rookie the concept of case management and how it is becoming more flexible to encompass not only documents and their related workflows but more tacit interactions such as phone calls. Said Le Clair:

 

If you think of the way process management and the technology to support it has been developed, it's been around very production-oriented flows. The idea was to get the tacit and the human elements almost out of the process. Every exception was scripted, and you don't really want people to think. But the number of jobs that are left today are requiring more diversity of skills. One of the distinctions with dynamic case management is a blended set of controls, human driven and system driven. The previous world of process management and automation was focused on controlling system-driven automation and really ignored the tacit and more human elements ...

 

Moore and Le Clair refer to this emerging variant of case management as dynamic case management. The Workflow Management Coalition uses the term adaptive case management, Moore pointed out.

 

Though some kind of term is obviously needed, Andrew Smith, the managing director of IT services provider One Degree, opines on his Andrew One Degree's Blog that BPM providers focus too much on jargon and in the process alienate everyone but geeks. (I think this is a problem with vendors of most technology solutions, not just BPM.) There's a lesson here for CIOs as well, who are responsible for "selling" technology to line-of-business executives and users.

 

Smith's suggestion? Keep things simple and drill down to how case management can make folks' jobs easier and improve performance. His four key points:

  • With case management, users won't lose sight of cases. Things are always visible.
  • Case management allows you to track who is working on a case and when.
  • Case management ensures all required tasks are completed for each case.
  • Case management helps users process more cases easily.

 


Moore touched upon all of these points with this comment from our interview:

 

In an un-automated world, the person has to keep track of all of this stuff, and there is literally a case file. People have files that are five or six inches thick, and lots of knowledge in their head, and lots of undocumented things like phone conversations. In case management, the automation is not as much about flows as it is about synchronization and coordination and information management.

 

Smith's post generated some great reader comments, including this one from Tom Shepherd:

 

... But herein lies a problem; some folks who would really benefit from the discipline and technology of case management don't even think in terms of "cases." There are any number of aspects of a business that can be run more effectively with a case management solution, simply because of the ability to deal with business as it happens. Think of a spectrum of "processes" that encompasses insurance claims, policy management, appeals and grievances, talent acquisition and ongoing performance management of employees, and customer service. ...

 

Again, this came out in my interview with Moore and Le Clair. While the case management concept is best known in the medical and legal verticals, it's now also winning fans in the government and financial services sectors. You can see why when you consider Le Clair's three primary categories of case management:

  • Investigative, which centers around satisfying regulatory and compliance requirements. Le Clair expects to see even more interest as the regulatory framework moves toward more decentralized decision-making. He said: "It's mainly due to the Bernie Madoff case, that requirement for a central decision to open an investigation. I think you'll see more random, ad-hoc requests so the regulators can better see what's going on. It's a movement away from the documentation-centric processes we've had."
  • Incident management, which comes into play with incidents that involve lots of event tracking and coordination of multiple related activities. As an example, Le Clair mentioned an adverse drug event that would require not only regulatory filings but also coordination of public relations and other areas.
  • Service request, which revolves around customer service issues. Said Le Clair: "We're moving toward differentiation based more on personality and experience and away from commoditization of core services. The top companies are going to focus on a case where you can personalize experiences and understand the multi-channel experience of where a customer is."

 

As Le Clair told me: "I haven't found a market it doesn't apply to."

 

Both Smith and Shepherd, in the comment string following Smith's post, stress that case management can't be contained in a traditional software application. Le Clair agreed, calling it a "framework" and mentioning that dynamic case management will include elements of BPM, enterprise content management, analytics and social technologies. (That's for techies. Business users will care about the capabilities, but not what they are called.)

 

Among the specific capabilities that will be required, Le Clair told me:

  • Rules that change in context based on events that occur
  • A progressive and incremental approach of adding different states to cases as they evolve
  • Ability to adjust the guidance

 

Le Clair would also like to see prebuilt program process templates that can be assembled by users and tweaked for specific use cases. "So you can pull in the content you need, and the process templates will be associated with business applications like ERP and CRM and so forth," he explained.

 

A reader of Smith's blog named Jacob Ukelson adds what I think is an essential requirement: usability. It's especially important, he writes, since most users are pretty comfortable with existing tools like e-mail and may resist a change that takes them out of their comfort zone, even if it ultimately makes it easier to do their jobs.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 30, 2010 11:03 AM Tex Tex  says:

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Mar 31, 2010 3:12 AM Jacob Ukelson Jacob Ukelson  says:

Ann,

  Thanks for the mention. One intuitive way we use to describe these types of processes is "all the processes that people tend to do in email and documents". The Hotmail folks just released a survey that shows that email is still today's tool of choice for managing and sharing documents, interacting with businesses, tracking online activities...

If they would have looked at business email, the results would have been even more pronounced.

That just strengthen's Craig's statement that it is hard to find a domain that it doesn't apply.

Jacob Ukelson - CTO ActionBase

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Mar 31, 2010 10:23 AM Ann All Ann All  says: in response to Tex

Gee thanks, Tex, for staying on topic.

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Mar 31, 2010 10:29 AM Ann All Ann All  says: in response to Jacob Ukelson

Jacob,

Sorry I didn't do a Web search on your name, as I would have been happy to include your affiliation w/ ActionBase. I also belatedly discovered that Tom Shepherd is a blogger and authority on BPM and related topics. I hope to do some follow-up posts on case management. It's a fascinating area, though I fear it may be a hard sell to organizations due to its nebulous nature, as noted above. Folks are more comfortable simply buying software and hoping it will solve their problems, though it rarely works out that way.

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Mar 31, 2010 10:48 AM Tom Shepherd Tom Shepherd  says:

Ann-

Thanks for the mention and for bringing further visibility to this topic.  As Craig pointed out, the applications of this style of solution are pretty extensive.  I too believe there isn't really an industry where a company couldn't benefit from case management.

For your readers who are interested in learning more, the Workflow Management Coalition will be launching a book titled, "Mastering the Unpredictable" that is intended to help clarify in business terms how Adaptive Case Management can be used to better deal with knowledge work.  Early copies should be available in April with wider spread distribution shortly thereafter.

Thanks

Tom Shepherd

Director, Case Management

Global 360, Inc.

Reply
Oct 17, 2012 1:24 PM Mike Mike  says:
I'd disagree that Case Management is only just winning fans in the financial services sector. I have worked at a UK retail bank where Case Management has been a core concept since at least 2000. I also know that at least 2 competitors were also embracing the Case concept. In fact if you look at systems generally used across retail banking most of them will have the concept of Case due to the fact that it has been within their eco systems for at least 10 years. Other sectors I have worked in that use the Case paradigm have been telcos and rights agencies. These were around 98 and also 2002. Reply

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