Go Lean With Case Management (Or, How To Have Fun On A Friday)

Connie Moore By Connie Moore

Last week my colleague, Clay Richardson and I got to spend a few hours talking about case management. In fact, we examined case management from just about every angle possible. The occasion? We were doing a video shoot for EMC at its studio in Hopkinton, Mass. It was a lot of fun because it's cool to do videos and the EMC folks were loads of fun to work with--plus I'm truly passionate about case management.


At this point, you are probably curious to know: what is case management? and what is a case?

Case management is a pattern of work that’s highly dynamic, in which a group of people systematically collaborate in structured and ad-hoc ways on a case folder using business process management, document management and collaboration tools. A case contains the data, content, collaboration artifacts, tasks, milestones, discussions, events, behaviors, policies (including rules), and processes supporting how each case is resolved. Ideally, the case management process brings together people, process and information. (see my last blog post.)


Here's why I like case management: with this approach to work the person gets all the context and information she needs to make a decision and is able to work dynamically in an agile, more natural way. Instead of being a cog or widget in a process that's designed to mimic old-style mass production in a factory, the case worker is empowered to get the job done, from start to finish, even if it takes several days, weeks, or even months for all the information related to the case to come into the business. Because the case system is based on BPM and business rules, nothing falls between the cracks while the case worker is waiting for all the turnaround documents, requests for information and collaboration interactions to complete.


The reason I think case management is related to Lean or Lean Thinking is that Lean embraces the concept that the worker performs a number of value add tasks, rather than a tiny unit of work that has been chopped up and parceled out in a mass production scenario.  Specifically, lean is about "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." (source: Wikipedia) That definition sounds a lot like case management to me. It also sounds like a dynamic business application, if you want to use a Forrester term.


Unfortunately, case management is a lousy term for a great idea. It's lousy because when you say it, people immediately think about social workers managing cases or attorneys managing cases, or possibly, government workers managing cases. All of that is true, but case management can be applied to processes in all industry sectors. Basically, it is a philosophy about how to get work done in an automated fashion.


Finally, here's the reason why case management was fun on a Friday. After the intensity of a long (3 hour?) video shoot, Lynda Orban (our moderator from EMC), Clay and I were horsing around, joking and taking photos. We got this great photo of the three of us, with Clay wearing my glasses. I got his permission to post the photo, so here it is!


Photo


The results of this particular video session aren't ready yet, but if you are interested in seeing us talk about case management earlier this year, check out this clip:


http://www.emc.com/collateral/demos/microsites/mediaplayer-video/forrester-research-on-case-management.htm


And please let me know if you've done any work or automated any processes using case management.  I'm interested in hearing from you.

Comments

re: Go Lean With Case Management (Or, How To Have Fun On A Frid

Great post Connie. As another advocate of case management as a methodology, I too think that the name has the wrong connotation. I'd love to see a better term be adopted provided the intent doesn't get lost in the change.

re: Go Lean With Case Management (Or, How To Have Fun On A Frid

Thanks Tom. Got any suggestions for a new name? We call these types of applications Dynamic Business Applications that are designed for people and built for change. But Dynamic Business Applications are not just limited to case management.

re: Go Lean With Case Management (Or, How To Have Fun On A Frid

Hi Connie, sorry for the delayed response (some much needed time off).Quite frankly, I haven't had much like thinking of a better name. Part of my issue with naming is that there is Case Management, and then there's Case Management. What I mean by this is that I see a spectrum from the purest form of Case Management where everything can be completely ad-hoc to the what many BPMS vendors call Case Management (the inclusion of a case folder concept in a structured process). To quote a colleague, "there is beauty and grace in both versions." That said, I see them as very different and finding a single term to capture the concept is tough.When I think of the qualities of Case Management, one of the things that comes to mind is "adaptive", since it seems that much of the desire for ad-hoc capabilities comes from the need to adjust to work as it happens under varying circumstances. So maybe that leads us to Adaptive Process Management? Part of the problem is that there are quite a few valuable terms that describe CM, and limiting it to just one is tough.