Case management is one of those wonderful terms that people either know intimately and fully understand what it means - or have probably never heard of it. So what is case management?
The “Case Management” term suggests the management of a case, or set of information relating to a particular entity - perhaps a client or a patient. The management of that case would include various different aspects including the storage of all relevant information relating to that case, but also a series of actions that can be taken on the case - for example, approving a loan application. This use-case style definition of case management perfectly sums up the way most people see case management, and explains the legal, financial and healthcare focused results that appear in any online search for the term “case management”. But case management is so much more than an information storage and simple action taking solution - and it is applicable to all types of organizations, not just those listed previously.
To fully understand the full spectrum of what case management means to real-world organizations we need to understand the three pillars of case management - why, how and what?
This blog will guide you through the why, what and how of case management - illustrating how a series of simple technologies can be combined to deliver significant results and beneficial changes within an organization.
Case management may sound dull and uninteresting. Rest assured, once you have finished this series you will fully understand why this is absolutely not true - and will be primed and ready to start using case management within your organization.
What is Case Management?
Some of you will be old enough to remember the days before spreadsheets and emails. The days when paper reigned. While paper-driven organizations do still exist, they are in the minority and decreasing. The effective modern organization is a digital one - working with emails, the cloud and mobile devices wherever possible. Document management system (DM) and enterprise content management (ECM) software have been helping organizations manage these digital assets for many years now - but for many they simply store and manage information. But there is something missing.
That missing piece can be found in all of the spreadsheets that you still use to “get stuff done”. It’s the report you have to put together every month for your boss that needs data from three different systems that takes you forever to copy and paste. It’s the fact that none of your systems seem to be connected, and you are the essential glue that pulls all of these pieces together whenever anything needs to be done.
That missing piece is called case management, or more specifically enterprise case management.
How to Define Case Management?
Every organization is different and every process within a business is different. Everyone is unique - right? Well, sort of.
Every organization and the associated processes have common elements. Every invoice processing process has invoices and various steps for approval; every insurance claim can have one or more claim handlers and a claimant along with an associated set of information.
These elements are the building blocks for a case management solution and can be broken down into the following categories: 1. Information 2. Actions 3. People 4. Interface
Information is exactly what it says - it is all of the information needed at any given point to be able to do something to the “case”. This can be a name and address, or a dash-cam video file showing a car accident - the type will vary from solution to solution, the key is that the solution should be able to work with whatever information types are needed.
Actions are tasks or processes you do relating to the case. This can be as simple as recording a complaint when a customer calls a help-desk or contact center, or a complex series of associated and independent interactions and dependencies such as predicting the annual revenue for your company for the next 12 months - again, the detail will vary, but the approach is the same.
People, within the organization and possibly outside of the organization, that need to interact with the solution. This will of course include the employees of the organization using the solution, but could also include customers or patients, partners or suppliers. An example of this is the way airlines check passengers in for flights. Most people now check themselves in via computer or mobile device rather than in person through an airline attendant.There are significant benefits to involving relevant users in the solution at the right time - including more efficient use of employee time and a better experience for customers.
And finally the interface, inclusive of formal records, calendars, contact lists, and notification systems to list just a few. This is where all of the other elements come together - where users enter and view the information, and actions are taken. The importance of mobile devices cannot be understated here, especially for business to consumer and government to citizen examples, nor can the need for what is called omni-channel interaction - essentially the need for a consistent interface and experience irrelevant of which device you are using.
Information, Actions, People and Interface are the “what” of case management. We now know why we need case management and what the core components are - but much like knowing we need a cake for our birthday party and having all of the ingredients - without the recipe and measurements there is no guarantee for a perfectly baked cake.
So how do we combine all of the components to deliver case management within our organization?
How Do We Do Case Management?
The answer may seem relatively simple - we bring together information, actions, people and interface using case management tools. However, the execution of this has traditionally been a lot less straightforward and more difficult to achieve because the tools that were available weren’t actually able to bring them together. This has been for a number of reasons.
Information has not been easy to connect.
Research from AIIM shows that 75% of organizations have more than one ECM system within their organization. That is they have at least 5 places to store their information - and that typically does not include their email systems and regular folder structures. Connecting these systems together has been painful in the past, but a new breed of so-called content services platforms is making this easier. These platforms do not try to be the single place to store all of your content (a common mistake made by many ECM vendors) but simply the place where you “understand” your information and content - the conductors of the orchestra as opposed to the whole orchestra if you like. What this provides is a place to define the connections between systems, and a simple way to work with the information these systems manage.
Sharing information has not been easy.
Sharing information has been both a philosophical and a practical hurdle for many organizations. The old way of managing a business was to keep information secure at all costs and not share anything you did not have to - while information security is always an absolute priority, the “lock all the doors” approach is now severely outdated. The new economy calls for, and sees significant benefit from, collaboration, or sharing of relevant information, resources and work to create more than the sum of their parts. This has however led to challenges around the practical aspects of sharing company data across physical and virtual boundaries, but advances in cloud architectures, file sync and share tools, and the secure integration methods used by content services platforms now mean that secure, audit-enabled sharing is very possible.
Cases are difficult to code.
For many organizations, the challenge with managing “cases” is that they are much more dynamic and event- driven than other processes. Processing invoices, for example, follows a very structured set of steps, with well- defined inputs and outputs at each stage. Managing an insurance claim is not quite so straightforward. With few tools available to help users manage these ad-hoc cases they had little option but to turn to the most flexible, multi-purpose tool they had - the spreadsheet, or worst case, spread the entire contents of the paper case file across their desk in order to gain a holistic view. But again, help is at hand. The content services platforms described above, provide low-code, or even no-code, drag and drop tools to allow business users to build simple case management solutions that connect information from multiple sources, that allow simple (or complex if required) workflows and tasks to be actioned from elegant, user friendly interfaces that are mobile ready. And the benefit of doing this within a platform versus as a single file, is that once built the solution can be shared, extended and re-used by as many users as need it.
This is Just the Beginning
I’m sure your mind is in overdrive at the moment, thinking of all the areas within your organization and your own daily work-life where case management could help you - but stay with me for a few seconds. The above information is just the starting point - and we have a series of more detailed blog posts over the coming months that will guide you even further into the world of modern case management. These deep dive posts will explore further the Why, What and How aspects of case management and provide industry-specific examples of how organisations are transforming their operations and business using these digital tools.
And one final thought - while many may not have heard of case management before this post, most will have heard of digital transformation - it is one of the most talked about topics in every industry throughout the world. Modern case management, in reality, is digital transformation in action. It combines modern methods, techniques, and concepts with the latest technologies and tools, to create real digital transformation and deliver tangible business benefits.
So if case management sounds too boring for you - then how does beginning your journey to digital transformation sound?