In my last post, I answered the question “What is Case Management.” Now, lets look at another question: What are case managers? Who is it that does all this case management?
The answer to the question “What are case managers?” has several components which make up the people of case management. First and most importantly we have the case agent. Case management is directed by a case agent or a team of case workers. The case agent is supported by the organization and works within a framework of regulation and legal boundaries; still, the case agent is personally responsible for closing the case.
The other benefits of case management the organization gaines are derived from the case agent’s work. Any case management system has to provide first-class support for the case agent’s needs. Any new case management system has to be substantially better than the old system… No matter how bad the old system may seem, the case agents will have made it a part of their lives, and they will understand how to use the current system. The introduction of the new system will make their lives harder in the short term. The long term advantages of the new system must be very significant to make the effort worthwhile. This is true even for electronic systems replacing a paper system. Software developers think any electronic system is so superior to paper that they often neglect the hard work, thorough planning, and business analysis that goes into a deep understanding of the case agents and their day-to-day needs.
Law enforcement systems have to make it easy for the officer to document their investigation. Software defect tracking systems have to make it easy for testers to enter defects and software developers to record the fixes. Mortgage systems have to make it easy for underwriters to decide what to do. Insurance systems have to make it easy for the adjusters to do the right thing.
Case agents have supervisors. Supervisors are responsible for their case agents. They have to know what cases each case agent is working. Is each agent paying attention to the right cases? Are the right cases assigned to the right agents? Are the agents complying to the web of regulation and law and policy that affect their work? Are the agents maintaining their case files? Can I make a good case for hiring more case agents? Any case management system has to make it easy for a supervisor to answer all these questions.
A case may involve a number of tasks that have to be fulfilled. The tasks have to be assigned to people, usually by the case agent; and the task assignees have to report on the task status. The assignee may or may not have access to all the details and background of the case file. The case management system should make it easy for the case agent to create and assign tasks; for the assignees to receive the task; for the assignees to report on the task status; and for the agent to accept these reports.
The organization may have a separate group of people charged with mining value from the organization’s collective wisdom, as encoded in the repository of case files. This is where electronic case management systems start to shine over their paper counterparts – if they are done correctly. Analysts need to run reports, ad-hoc queries, and searches over the entire set of case files. They may suggest changes to organization policy, point out non-compliance with existing policy, and propose changes in priority. A case management system has to support analysts, without obstructing the case agents.
Any electronic system has administrators… it goes without saying that a case management system has to be “administratable”. I say this because, all too often, it does go without saying, and applications are released with no operational procedures, no way to edit lookup tables or drop-down lists, no backup windows, no upgrade path – in short, no joy for the poor underappreciated sysadmin.
In an interesting way, the public is sometimes a stakeholder in case management systems. Most organizations have to prepare structured reports on their performance from a year-to-year or quarter-to-quarter basis. How many crimes solved; how many defects closed; how many mortgages issued; how many claims resolved? The public affairs officer needs accurate data from the case management system, without compromising ongoing cases.
Any organization considering a change to their case management system first has to understand who uses the system, how they use it, and whether the proposed change will make each user’s life easier.
Who uses your case management system? Did I miss any prominent roles?