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03 December 2013

Case Management. The flexibility that companies need

This post is also available in: Spanish

This article reflects the importance of Case Management in any type of public or private entity and how difficult it is to manage, which will become the great challenge of BPM Suites in the coming years.

CaseM1

The Case Management concept is not new. It has been applied for years in certain specific cases, mainly in clinical and legal areas, and has gradually extended to other sectors.

What is Case Management?

Case Management generally refers to the handling of any kind of specific issue to be resolved in an organization within a set time period.

In this context, Cases are derived from requests (internal or external) in the broadest sense: incidents, records, requests for goods or services, customer service, purchases, marketing actions, projects, etc., and are only closed when the case has been completely resolved.

A typical example is the opening, control, processing and closing of a record, where documentation and information is stored in a folder as evidence of the events that take place and used to influence decisions taken on the fly depending on the occurrences.

The handling of these requests (Case Management) is of vital importance to any company as it represents an important part of the daily activity in most private and public entities.

Is it possible to manage cases with a BPMS?

There is an ongoing and sometimes heated debate about the differences between BPM (Business Process Management) and DCM (Dynamic Case Management). It is common to hear that DCM and BPM are two different applications; that a BPMS is not flexible enough to manage cases or that DCM is an evolution of BPM.

CaseM2Most of the opinions set out in these debates are well-reasoned but, as BPMS is the software that supports the management of company processes, and DCM forms part of the activities performed in the company, their management must be present in the company’s BPM strategy and within the capabilities of the BPMS that supports this strategy.

If we were to admit that BPM and DCM are handled separately, we would have to redefine the BPMS acronym as “Business Process Management Suite… excluding Case Management processes”. As this makes no sense, the BPMS must be capable of controlling the processes in all circumstances. Thus, if a BPM Suite is not flexible enough and does not have the necessary capabilities to manage Cases, it is fair to say that it is not the right BPM Suite.

Issues involved with Case Management

The basic problem is that, although some cases are very simple, other can be extremely complex.

But, where does their complexity stem from?

CaseM3After reading many studies, articles, conferences, blogs, etc., it can be concluded that Case Management is the management of processes that have a large number of exceptions. But although the capacity to dynamically adapt (on the fly) to the changing circumstances of each case is a necessity (and probably the biggest difficulty), it is definitely not the only one.

Furthermore, just because in certain circumstances processes should be modified on the fly, this doesn’t mean that any type of action can be performed without bearing in mind the compliance with company policies and regulations, which must be guaranteed. Put another way, processes can be modified on the fly, but always within the schemes provided and authorized by the entity.

Thus, the problem with DCM is much more than flexibility, and for a BPM Suite to be efficient enough to undertake Dynamic Case Management, it must integrate several important strategic capabilities.

Capabilities the BPMS should have

A BPM Suite efficient enough to undertake Dynamic Case Management must integrate several capabilities, such as:

  • Observation, control and analysis of the execution of each case as a whole (in which several processes may intervene), as well as analysis of the combined results of several cases for their continuous improvement. The case is the unit to be managed, not the Process.
  • Agile creation of additional steps to control the different types of Case and the elements involved in these cases.
  • Workflows of highly potential Processes that can deviate the flow, at any given moment, to another process (with our without return to the original process).
  • Intervention of Mandatory, Expected and Unexpected Tasks, with Dynamic Forms that can be shown or hidden depending on the circumstances.
  • Business Rules Management (not to be mistaken for Process Rules).
  • Agile Document and Content Management.
  • Information, Communication and Collaboration elements between employees and with users external to the entity.

And there are many more necessary capabilities, such as the cost and revenue control in each case, statistical learning of the cases, automatic compliance with regulations, and the list goes on.

But, above all, these capabilities must be completely integrated and accompanied by great agility and flexibility to undertake all changes, immediately and with security.