So many times, we hear the same response from clients “what is case management? I’ve heard of content mangement and records management, but what is CASE management?”
Armedia writes about case management, and we help our customers implement case management solutions, and we even develop software for case management. Still, at the end of the day the basic question needs to be answered: what is case management in the first place? Ubiquitous language ensures that clients and consultants mean the same thing when they use the same words… a fancy way of saying: “make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
So, What is Case Management?
Case management obviously helps customers manage cases. So let’s back up and define a case.
What is a Case?
A case is an incident of interest to some organization. Law enforcement organizations have crimes. Software development projects have defect reports. Mortgage companies have loan applications. Insurance companies have claims. Crimes, defect reports, loan applications, and claims are numbered, tracked, and managed by these organizations. They are all cases.
So we know what a case is. A case also has stuff associated with it. A case has people assigned to it; a history of actions taken by these people; tasks to be performed; relevant documents; a status; and a resolution. This makes the obvious answer to the question “what is case management” to be the management of these items.
The second part of the question “What is Case Mangement” would be to outline who it is that controls what is associated with a case, the case managers. The case agent focuses on the case and all its associated stuff. That’s how crimes get solved, mortgages loaned, claims processed, and defects fixed. The organization also pays attention to the collection of cases. Data mining helps the organization improve. How many cases did we process? How much time to close a case? Do we need to pay more attention to this kind of case, and less attention to that other kind?
Case management is how the organization manages a case and its stuff. Case management is how the case agent defines, tracks, documents, and closes cases. Case management helps the organization reflect on past performance and optimize future performance.
Nothing I’ve said so far implies anything about electronic support for case management. Banks, law enforcement, and hospitals have managed cases for hundreds (even thousands) of years with no computers!
An electronic case management system should make life easier for the case agent, and give the organization more tools and better information. It sounds obvious! But you’d be surprised at how optimal paper processes can get, after decades or centuries of tuning. I’ve seen applications try to replace one pencil scrawl with a dozen clicks, wizards, dropdowns, confirmations, and error messages. I can say from certain knowledge that if a system is clunky, awkward, and hard for case agents to use – they won’t use it! All the reporting, searching, information sharing, data mining, and metrics that organizations typically want – all of it is predicated on the case agent being willing to use the system to its full extent.