It feels a bit redundant to wax on about how much the world has changed. But the reality is, the world, most certainly including the business world, has changed and continues to change at a rapid pace, and the types of work organizations need to accomplish has changed. Not long ago, a significant amount of the work done within companies was simpler and a higher percentage of it tended to be fairly repetitive. Today, work featuring unstructured decision-making—knowledge work—accounts for 25% to 50% of all work, and this percentage is growing.
A leading challenge for many organizations is that while the work needed today has changed fairly radically, technology solutions had not adapted to the new environment—business process management (BPM) and project management solutions are really good at managing a predictable, repetitive world, but these solutions are not well-suited to business scenarios containing a lot of uncertainty and requiring unstructured decision-making in order to reach positive outcomes.
However, this has changed. The practice of Dynamic Case Management (DCM) is maturing rapidly and is facilitating technology solutions.
Case, Task, Project, Process…What’s the Difference?
A case is a business transaction, opportunity, or challenge with an established outcome that has a definitive beginning and end, but often requires carrying out many processes, some predictable, many unpredictable, between the beginning and end. The precise lifespan of a case is typically unknown.
A legal case is an example we can all relate to. A court case has a definitive beginning when the appropriate papers are filed and has a definitive ending when the judge makes a ruling. The goal is very clear: to win. However, we know that between the beginning and ending there will be many twists and turns depending on the opponent’s evidence, arguments, and many other factors. Unstructured decisions will need to be made along the way, many types of information will need to be accessed from various sources, and collaboration with colleagues will likely be necessary. Finally, while we will have deadlines along our legal journey and an estimate of when the case should conclude, the case’s precise ending date is unknown.
Customer service is another great example of case work. The case opens when a customer expresses a need or a problem. The case will close when the problem is solved, but the decisions and tasks along the journey to a resolution are not definitively established in advance. Certainly, procedures and approaches are outlined, but there is a good chance that pre-defined action steps will not solve the problem. Additionally, while we will likely have a target date and time for successfully addressing the customer’s needs, a precise time cannot be committed to as unexpected complexity might be encountered that may extend the time for final resolution.
Case work stands in contrast to tasks, projects, and processes. A task is simply a unit of work; many tasks are required to resolve a case. Projects are a collection of processes with a pre-set schedule, but as we have discussed, strict pre-defined schedules are not well-suited to case-style work. Finally, processes are a series of tasks needed to achieve a given goal. Traditional process management is well-suited to handle a predictable, sequential series of tasks, but is not good at managing non-sequential or unpredictable decision-making needs.
Dynamic Case Management (DCM) is the Solution…But What Is DCM?
DCM allows organizations to engage with people, information, and technologies in order to define work as a desired resolution, then to manage a collection of processes and tasks to achieve the desired outcome. DCM empowers people and systems to respond to events faster and more accurately. Most importantly, it allows users to manage and improve the processes by which work gets done, keeping in mind the desired outcome.
The unstructured, unpredictable nature of DCM does not mean free-form collaboration. DCM is driven by a specific goal outcome, and is simply the path for reaching a goal that is not completely defined in advance. Even though powerful rules engines are often important in DCM, the rules engines guide and structure cases, rather than locking processes into place.
Much of the work of today’s organizations can best be described as case work. Technology solutions that provide structure for and integrate information, often from many sources, are needed for effective operations within the new environment. DCM is a technology-supported approach to managing, improving, and ultimately automating work, improving organizational efficiencies and the quality of decision-making.
Elements of Dynamic Case Management
DCM is the next generation of technology solutions purpose-built for the demands of today’s unpredictable work environment. DCM is both an evolution and merging of previously existing technologies such as business process management (BPM) and project management technologies. To enable today’s work, a DCM solution must include:
Business Process Management (BPM)
Earlier-generation BPM solutions relied on information flow and predictable business processes amenable to being pre-defined into organized process flows. Although BPM cannot manage case-style work, it is an important underpinning for Dynamic Case Management, assuring that established rules and policies are followed in the making of important decisions.
Dynamic Case Management relies on knowledge workers making informed decisions. To enable these decisions, DCM should effectively merge information from multiple systems into a single place. This allows professionals to see all aspects of a case in one location, enabling them to rapidly understand the context and make the best possible decisions.
Collaboration is essential for case-style work. Cross-functional workers must have an organized framework for collaboration including the ability to share opinions, experiences and information, thereby facilitating rapid decision-making.
Ad hoc work and decision making
Case-style work is unpredictable by its very nature. Therefore, it is important to facilitate both predictable and unpredictable work and decision-making. Workers must be able to create, assign, and complete work without a pre-established event horizon.
A Dynamic Case Management solution must house and store the history of all information, actions, and collaboration utilized in resolving the case. It must bring together each of these pieces in order to provide a solution capable of enabling today’s dynamic and unpredictable work.
The Growing Value of Dynamic Case Management
As discussed, necessary decisions and actions within organizations are much less predictable than in the past. Exceptions encountered during the execution of a business process often render the defined events and rules-based decisions that were built into heavily-automated tools nearly useless.
There is always human judgment involved with case management, though the precise amount depends on the degree of structure in the case type or pattern. Dynamic Case Management enhances instead of replacing human knowledge and collaboration to improve productivity and business outcomes.
DCM increases productivity by uniting BPM technology with knowledge and collaboration around data, often from multiple sources. Work can flow in a non-sequential and unpredictable order to accommodate changes in the evolution of a scenario, the discovery of new information, or new learning.
Rather than putting all of the responsibility for process design into the hands of a business analyst, who models and simulates (tests) a process before it is executed, DCM enables any knowledge worker to simultaneously create and act on a process—there is no separation between design and run-time. There may be events and rules that guide the process as in traditional BPM, but DCM places decision-making where it belongs—in the hands of businesspeople, not the IT staff.
What Types of Organizations Benefit from Dynamic Case Management?
DCM provides the infrastructure for knowledge-based work that current systems can’t support. DCM is necessary for processes that:
- Are unpredictable in their execution
- Are driven by unknown events
- Need actions with unforeseen consequences
- Require the ad-hoc inclusion of new collaborators
- Use collaborator knowledge that cannot be encapsulated within rules and process flows
- Have unknown inbound and outbound content
- Must enable business users to add rules at any time
- Need secure, audit-able social interactions of collaborators
- Must assign collaborator authority based on ‘need-to-know’ criteria
- Require complete transparency and audit-ability
So, what types of organizations need DCM? Basically, all organizations executing knowledge work. The following list includes examples of just some of the types of work that can be optimized by DCM:
- Customer onboarding
- Clinical trial management
- Product lifecycle management
- Regulatory compliance
- Routine patient care
- Product development
- Claims management
- Ongoing maintenance
- Automated case management
- Customer service
- Emergency room response
- Workplace incident response
- HR grievances
- Accident investigation
- Fraud investigation
- Custom product management
- Accident investigation
- Fraud investigation
- Custom product management
From Work-Relay’s inception, solutions were designed to leverage the Salesforce platform to integrate processes, information, and people to get today’s work done. Leveraging the power of the Salesforce platform, Work-Relay supports the range of process organizations needed to get work done, including routine predictable processes, routine processes with ad hoc exceptions, unpredictable processes with structured process snippets, and completely unstructured processes.
Work-Relay allows users to work holistically in context, utilizing business objectives to drive case tasks and decisions, whether the decisions are structured or unstructured. Work-Relay is built on top of Salesforce.com – it is a 100% native Salesforce application that leverages the world’s most powerful platform. By creating a solution native to the Salesforce platform, users can be assured that they have the power of the Salesforce database, collaboration, content management, and other aspects of the platform, ensuring availability, performance, and scalability.