Enterprise IT Consultant Views on Technologies and Trends

Apr 8 2011   2:52AM GMT

Understanding Case Management, the next zing thing of BPM

Sasirekha R Profile: Sasirekha R

Case Management, the next zing thing of BPM

Traditional Business Process Management (BPM) focuses on activities, the order and sequencing of the activities to solve a problem – more like an imitation of mass production in a factory.  While BPM does serve its purpose, there is a greater need for automating and tracking unpredictable “cases” that do not follow a well-defined process.  There are situations where not all the activities or the order of the activities are known before hand and needs to take the specific context into account to make these decisions. This is where “Case Management” comes in – for taming the untamed processes.

Case Management as term seems to have different definitions in different contexts as can be seen by the Wikipedia definition. In that sense, I tend to agree with one of the Forrester blog comment that says “Unfortunately, case management is a lousy term for a great idea”.

But, in domains like Health care, Insurance and legal domains is well understood. The following definition by the case management society of Australia in the health care context does sound relevant to what we are discussing: “Case management is a collaborative process of assessment, planning, facilitation and advocacy for options and services to meet an individual’s health needs through communication and available resources to promote quality cost-effective outcomes”.

Case Management is mainly about processing a case – that typically has a subject – say an individual (customer, employee, patient), an entity (business, government) or an event (security violation, fraud occurrence or system outage). The perspective of case management is to empower the knowledge worker to solve the problem by designing a flexible solution – including the ability to add tasks to the process – that by a case folder mechanism expose all the case information including documents and all the tasks that might be required to keep track and solve the business problem.

DCM differs from traditional BPM in the sense that:

  • Cases always involve human participants, whereas a BPM solution might not involve any human participants.
  • Cases tend to be more unpredictable (but actually goal-driven – e.g., customer satisfaction, dispute resolution etc.) and rely more on the knowledge worker’s judgment than on system control or business-rule-based control flow.
  • Cases always involve content because content is what knowledge workers use to make decisions, whereas processes might not include content at all.
  • The knowledge workers processing a case have the ability to decide which tasks are required to complete the case, whereas in a BPM system, the software executes activities based on those specified in process model and by business rules.
  • Case management emphasizes on designing a flexible solution for knowledge workers to solve a repeatable business problem whereas BPM emphasizes on designing a step by step procedure to solve a problem.
  • In DCM, the business problem is solved by a knowledge worker using tools in the form of tasks that are not necessarily modeled, whereas in BPM, the business problems are always solved by following a modeled process.
  • When a case is closed, the case folder remains accessible. Case closure (or completion) is a relative term in that a case is always accessible and can be reopened for additional processing as required.

According to Forrester, the drivers for the increased interest in case management include:

  • increased need to manage the costs and risks of servicing customer requests – like loans, claims, and benefits
  • a greater emphasis on automating and tracking inconsistent “incidents” that do not follow a well-defined process
  • new pressure on government agencies to respond to a higher number of citizen requests
  • new demands that regulators, auditors, and litigants place on businesses to respond to external regulations
  • increased use of collaboration and social media to support unstructured business processes.

Case management offerings are designed to meet these needs with their ability to handle complex, long running business processes involving numerous stakeholders and spanning multiple systems (operational, content-centric, collaborative, analytics, etc.).  Typical applications of DCM include exception handling, complaint or dispute management, contract management, lending applications, benefits enrollment, invoice processing, change request, and incident reaction.

DCM is also expected to pave way for Lean thinking about knowledge workers by “getting the right things to the right place at the right time in the right quantity to achieve perfect work flow, while minimizing waste and being flexible and able to change.”

According to Forrester’s evaluation of dynamic case management (DCM) vendors, Pegasystems, IBM, EMC, Appian, Singularity, and Global 360 lead with the most dynamic, visionary platforms. Pallas Athena, Sword Ciboodle, and Cordys are strong performers offering robust platforms that provide innovation in different DCM areas. ActionBase ranks as a Contender, filling the gap between email chaos and process-centric DCM. DCM as a new category of software will emerge as a distinct market by 2013.

DCM is already being viewed by organizations as an offering with a great potential by having goal-driven processes, leveraging the expertise of the knowledge workers, improving overall agility. In addition to integration issues, BPM has been struggling with the inability or actually conflicts between the business rule and exception case handling and in quite a few cases been frustrating to knowledge workers. For Knowledge workers, DCM now holds the promise of flexible end-to-end solutions that covers all aspects of a complex process and driving broader participation from relevant stakeholders.

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