A Case For Change With @neilwd

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.

4 thoughts on “A Case For Change With @neilwd”

  1. Isn’t it exciting when something I wrote four years ago before the ACM terminus was created appears now in presentations as innovation:

    From: http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/complex-adaptive-business-process/

    “I suggest that process management must always focus on customer service quality first. But not process makes people happy, but people make people happy. Therefore we need to empower people! I disagree that it is only the knowledge workers who need more dynamics and back office clerks who need rigid BPM. Also a simple activity within a case can be strictly guided by a complex adaptive process, so why bother to waste time with expensive and inaccurate process analysis?

    The most likely approach to succeed is to empower the process owner to create processes on the fly as needed and empower the users to adapt those on the job. Here the similarity to Human Focused Process, Case Management and Dynamic BPM approaches becomes apparent. A complex adaptive process is however much closer to the dynamics of social networking rather than to case file collaboration.

    Another important element is ‘goal definition’. Goals are a set of RULE correlated parameters that can be verified at certain intervals or be triggered by thresholds. In difference to KPI or key performance indicators, goals can be verified during real-time processing. KPI’s tend to be accumulated, consolidated data warehouse numbers. A goal mismatch event should trigger some corrective process. Goals can be anything from simple SLAs to revenue targets.”

    As always, Sandy: Thanks for your interesting reports. Max

    1. Hard to be ahead of your time, Max. I first presented social BPM concepts at a conference in 2006, so was surprised to hear when one of the big analyst firms “invented” it just a couple of years ago. 🙂

      Concepts often takes several years to come to fruition – and to the notice of the general market – so better to consider that the current rising tide will lift all ACM boats, including yours.

  2. History goes to the winners, right?
    In investing, it is a euphemism to say you were “early” with a right idea. Early is another word for “wrong” in investing because timing (and entry point) actually matter quite a bit.

    We’re lucky in technology in that we have a longer timeframe in which to prove out our ideas or achieve some level of being right. Just try to be happy that the ideas are spreading and adopted.

  3. I’m very happy about it — a rising tide lifts all boats, and all that. Others, not so much. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.