Neil Ward-Dutton spoke at the first business-themed breakout session here at AWD ADVANCE on the topic of case management: how it represents a shift in thinking from our old rigid processes that don’t serve customers all that well in today’s environment. We are truly in the age of the consumer, with so much choice in online purchasing (15% of which is being done from mobile devices), but also through showrooming, which forces bricks-and-mortar retailers to price competitively with online alternatives. Customer expectations for service and experience have changed – I talk about this a lot in my presentations on social BPM – and if you don’t meet those expectations, they’ll not only pick another supplier, but influence their friends to do so, too.
Structured BPM, where all processes are defined in advance, just doesn’t work for many customer-facing processes; rather than quality and efficiency, the key is flexibility and support for knowledge workers to make decisions about what to do next. That doesn’t mean that things won’t be efficient and of high quality; if you let a knowledge worker “do the right thing” to achieve a goal, then it will more likely be faster and better than having them try to work around the system when it doesn’t allow them to handle exceptions properly. As Neil pointed out, if you’re modeling your processes and find that you’re spending a lot of time modeling exceptions, then maybe you should be looking at a less structured approach. Structured processes do work in some situations – manufacturing, straight-through processing and the like – but you have to consider which of your processes would be better served by defining less up front, allowing for exception handling and fast-changing processes to provide a better customer experience.
He introduced the concept of case management as a goal-oriented environment for knowledge work, guided by best practices and rules/constraints, but where the knowledge worker creates the process on the fly. There may be predefined tasks and process fragments that can be selected by the worker, or they may define their own. The case is a persistent artifact – representing a customer, a complaint, or whatever is defined as a case – containing both content (documents) and a record of the actions taken, so that analytics can be used to determine how similar situations were handled in the past.
He left the audience with a great question: how do you build your work around your customer? Clearly, in many cases, the answer includes case management.