Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Value of Case Management Today

Case management is popular today as many processes are already in place to handle repetitive work leaving most of the remaining work, about 70%, as unstructured or emergent and hard to put into a crisp process even if the process has some adaptability capabilities. The real value of case management is for work that requires collaboration and various types or levels of knowledge. Cases typically run longer than straight through processes because multiple skill-sets and knowledge bases are necessary to call a case complete.  While individual activities can act in parallel, eventually completion requires multiple parties.Typically the kind of cases that are seen in organizations today fall into five key major categories, but there are variants.

Service Request Cases
Investigative Focused Cases
Incident Focused Cases
Decision Intensive Cases
Hybrid Cases

Case Management Encourages Knowledge Collaboration for Goal Attainment

Case management, particularly adaptive case management, enables knowledge worker collaboration to reach evolving goals as a team. This is needed because work, cases in particular, have become more complex and perfect knowledge is not available in one job role or person to handle a case. There are five kinds of collaboration that I have observed in my work life and are enumerated below

Unstructured Communication:

Most collaboration happens in things like social media, email and through texts. While this gets the job done, sometimes, it doesn't get captured for reuse and future leverage. If we are working together to reach today's goals and really don't intend to help others downstream, this is a great approach. However, in the interest of capturing gems of wisdom, there are additional approaches.

Enabled Conferencing:

Quite often one to one communications, captured or not, are not up to the task of solving complex and complicated cases. This often requires "brain storming" in a group fashion to "noodle through" difficult, event patterns, decisions and appropriate actions in a speedy fashion. This may require "in person", audio and video conferencing where content (images, voice,
image and video) can be shared in a cooperative understanding session. This helps understanding the semantics, semiotics and dimensions of complex work, agree on actions and glean cooperative commitment to the solution.

Coordinated Activity:

While independent activity such as communication and conferencing can solve complex cases, the process is quite haphazard in attaining goals. If this goals are coordinated and driven to in a milestone fashion with proper recording of activity and history, there can be value carried forward for future cases and patterns of success. This is especially true when the milestones are not carved in stone and they can flex as cases progress. This where adaptive case management leverages a technical assist.

Leveraging Community:

Often organizations are only focused on the resources that they directly control with salary and employment contracts. While there is some sense in this practice, sometimes cases need to tap into worlds that the organizations do not have the knowledge or skill. Even if the organization has all the knowledge and resources, they may not have the bandwidth to handle the work. This where stringers, communities and public cognitive surplus can be leveraged to the advantage of case resolution and positive organizational outcomes. This approach usually interjects a new level of security and responsibility, however.

Better Practice Guidance:

Often knowledge workers are left to their own experience and judgement as to how to approach a case that may be growing in complexity over time. While it is good to have experienced resources, there are assists that work for both the uninitiated, the normal knowledge worker and the expert. Identifying better practice patterns should be the goal of organizations where the work varies greatly and the kind of cases are still emerging. By analyzing better practices and rating results in the light of goal attainment can give your knowledge workers several alternative paths for success. This could be at a large grained level or as fine grained as to identify great collaborative patterns between resources.

Organizations will need to practice all five of these collaboration approaches. The wisest organizations will define when and where each style is used. As work gets more complex and as processes aim for larger "end to end" scopes there will be a mixture of knowledge work and routine process actions, so get ready now for guiding these practices.
Processes and cases share great visibility and accountability for the work and all the work participants, case management allows for the dynamic addition of participants and knowledge bases. Case management will also track who is doing what work and track them to milestone events and final completion. Most case management technologies allow for content sharing for collaborations and the transfer of knowledge and data. In addition good case management capabilities include the ability to track conformance and variance to capture better practices, not just rigid best practices.  Often case management styles can be intermixed with crisp processes to create a hybrid.
It's pretty much a given that large scoped, end to end, processes will contain a mixed set of process styles, but it is not clear what style will dominate. Will it be case management as the controlling style or will it be a typical flow. We know that both kinds of processes have a start and a stop, but how they get from one to the other is quite different. The Case approach follows a string of milestone goals, with little concern for the sequence of steps to the reach each milestone. The traditional flow has pre-planned paths and sequence implied in them. So why would one dominate the other?

Where Case Should Dominate:

Case should be the dominate style, with bits of leveraged planned flows or snippets, when the basic goals around investigation and collaboration to obtain  high quality and consensus outcomes. The further away a process is from best and tightened downed practice, the more case makes sense. Over time certain bits of the interaction can be made into min-flows (snippets), but investigative processes are generally dominated by case.

Where Planned Flows Should Dominate: 

Flows should be the dominate style, with bits of collaboration, when the basic goals are around speed and efficiency. The further away a process is from evolving and emergent behavior, the more planned flows make sense. As things become fuzzier and judgement intense, case and collaboration can be interjected, but value and supply chains are generally dominated by

Net; Net:

A general rule of thumb is that case is great for emergent work and process is great for repeatable work, but both deliver great rates of return while they help case / process participants organize and track their work to completion. I will be covering Smart Process and Case Management Frameworks in future blog posts. My top ten key players in Case Management are Newgen, Pegasystems, IBM, Appian, DST, Lexmark/Kofax, Tibco, OpenText, Micropact and Hyland today.