Case Management. So what’s it all about?

I stumbled upon this LinkedIn discussion on my favorite topic ‘ Case Management Do you really know what it is? and felt compelled to respond. I know it’s going to get me into trouble, but sometimes you’ve just got to stand up and be counted. I’ve shared my response here for wider viewing and discussion.

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I whole heartedly agree with CEO of CIMtrek and Chairman of the Workflow Management coalition John Pyke, Case Management has been around for donkey’s years. The old workflow tools did a reasonable job (if configured correctly) at Case Management and provided significant improvement to organizational processes.

Case Management is not new, but the tools today are more sophisticated

There is no doubt that the tools we have today are more sophisticated and allow us to deal with ad hoc events within a process. That does not make Case Management new. It means we have better tools available to help us manage the same requirement.

I’m weary of vendors trying to explain how new this is. I constantly have to remind my clients that a case is still just a way of an organization dealing with an event such as an insurance claim, a complaint, customer on-boarding, or a change of address. This must be done in a consistent manner to achieve some specified objective. Processes, after all, are graphical representations of policy and procedure.

A weak argument

Often the customer wants to do something that doesn’t fit prescribed rules and policies. Dynamic capabilities allow us to capture those actions as part of the process. Singularity’s Head of Marketing Olivia Bushe  (http://www.linkedin.com/in/singularitybpm) states that Dynamic Case Management (DCM) is new because we provide knowledge workers with information, or because the DCM solution crosses multiple industry sectors. But I have implemented Case Management in CRM solutions and Knowledge Management systems, and implemented workflow solutions before DCM was available. So in my opinion “we can apply this solution across industries sectors” is a pretty weak argument for DCM being new many of the benefits of DCM are not new simply the traditional benefits of BPM and workflow solutions before them.  Where DCM does get my view is with its ability to manage the adhoc tasks. I have implemented pre-DCM solutions in every sector from central and local government to utilities, oil and gas corporations and in financial services firms, so such a solution has been available for a wide range of sectors for a long time.

Many vendors say that Case Management is best suited to unstructured, ad hoc processes. This is not true! Structured processes like insurance claims have been handled by Business Process Management (BPM) and workflow tools and CRM applications for decades and they do a great job of providing the right information to the right person at the right time. However, I agree that DCM does add the capability to deal with ad hoc situations more elegantly. Nothing else about DCM is really new.

At Capgemini, we have been applying process to cases (i.e. a collection of information about an event) for many years, using all manner of different solutions. So trying to define adding process to a case as a distinction is meaningless.

The requirements for a DCM solution

Vice president of AuraPortal Pabo Trilles  in the same linked in article (http://linkd.in/rCyZSH) lists a number of must-have requirements for a DCM solution:

  • Management by BPM Processes
  • Business Rules Management (not to be confused with Process Rules)
  • Agile management of Documents and Web Content
  • Elements of Information, Communication and Collaboration between employees and with people external to the entity
  • Processes with the ability to deviate the flow at any given time, to other processes (with or without return)
  • Management of mandatory tasks, both planned and unplanned, with Dynamic Forms capable of appearing and being hidden according to the circumstances
  • Agile creation of additional steps for the element control of the cases
  • Tools to observe, control and analyze the execution of each case as a whole, as well as analyze the combined results of terminated cases for continuous process improvement.

The same workflow as in the 1980s

All but two of these (management of mandatory tasks and agile creation of additional steps) is absolutely no different to a workflow solution of the 1980s. For example, at the National Assembly for Wales Capgemini automated the process of rural farm payments with a workflow solution and a rules engine – a long time before Pega Rules Process Commander (Pegasystems’s “SmartBPM” suite). This was an award-winning solution; ground-breaking given that it was one of the earliest use cases using IBM’s business rules management system ILOG with their FileNet.

In older solutions, dealing with ad hoc requests meant routing a task to a “knowledge worker” who was empowered to make a decision. They might have to consult other co-workers and get agreement on the resolution in an email, but it resolved the issue. Today, presumably that knowledge worker would use the BPM solution to create the steps to route the request for the exception to a colleague instead of using email, making it part of the process; visible, auditable and reusable if this event occurs again in the future.

Fusion between BPM and ECM?

I think there’s also some confusion in the market that DCM is a fusion of BPM and Enterprise Content Management (ECM). To clarify this a little, Filenet and Documentum and a host of other products have been fusing workflow with document management for quite some time.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this subject, so please share them below.

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