It is traditional at this time of year to take some time to assess the closing year and to look ahead. No surprise to those who follow my CMSWire article series, I see tremendous value and continuing opportunities for applying case management in 2013 and beyond.

In this final article of 2012, I look at three prescient customer case management implementations that illustrate what I believe to be the secrets to business transformation success for the future.

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I have always found myself fascinated by the 1960 film adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine, which asks whether we can change the shape of things to come and teaches us that looking ahead in time can be a dangerous undertaking.

Writing this article is perhaps not quite so dangerous for me, since the subject at hand is not the future of humankind but arguably the less cataclysmic question of the future role of case management in business transformation. Even so, I struggled in deciding which three critical to success elements and corresponding customer case stories I would select.

This is certainly a subjective process and I was tempted to write on obvious buzz-worthy topics like social, mobile and big data. Instead, I went back to my process improvement roots (Note: Readers of my article series know that I am a recovering Six Sigma Green Belt) to choose what I believe are three fundamental factors critical to success that case management will deliver to future business transformation initiatives:

  1. Improve knowledge work
  2. Drive business simplicity
  3. Enable change management

The bad news is that each of these are quite difficult to accomplish, including as they do the messy human side of transformation. The good news is you won’t need a Time Machine to see examples of successful case implementations that already embody these success factors.

Supporting a New Era of Knowledge Work

In their November Quarterly “Preparing for a new era of knowledge work,“ McKinsey predicts that “Global competition, emerging skill shortages, and changing demographics will soon force companies to use their most highly paid talent more effectively.”

I see this “new normal” as the most important challenge facing companies and government agencies for the future. And there is a transformation of knowledge worker support already underway with case, focused on better business decisions with the customer in mind.

One of the most successful case studies, and impressive business leaders, I have been fortunate to work with is the story of Vision Service Plan (VSP) and their director of customer care Wendy Kimball. Adaptive case management has played a critical role in helping VSP in their mission to provide high-quality, cost-effective eye care benefits and world-class products and services to eye care professionals, employers, and more than 56 million members.

As the director of Customer Care at Vision Service Plan, Wendy Kimball is understandably all about customer focus. She found that improving their CSR agent tools ultimately translates to a better customer experience, one that “honors the customers’ time.” The VSP case implementation enables VSP to balance demands for compliance with the ability to apply personal judgment to create the best customer experience, in a timely and effective fashion.

How VSP handles cases is at the crux of what makes theirs an adaptive case management approach as opposed to a more structured traditional process automation approach. A generic case template has been defined that contains key fields (member id, doctor id, claim id, etc.) to aid in finding cases. Customer Service Representative knowledge workers create the case using the template and can add tasks to the case as needed to initiate the required work activities. 

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Each task represents a cooperating process. Adding tasks triggers collaboration with the Processor knowledge workers who receive the case and process the necessary activities on the case. This approach allows a nice balance between ad-hoc workflow with any combination of tasks, but still provides some structure for specific task types.

As The Time Machine teaches us, “Time is your friend… as long as you have enough of it.” Time machines aside, VSP is finding innovative ways with adaptive case management to better manage the time they spend with the customer.

Desperately Seeking Simplicity

In his Harvard Business Review article “Desperately Seeking Simplicity,” Chris Zook writes that “complexity has become the silent killer of profitable growth in business, and sometimes of CEO careers.” The results of their multi-year study on root causes of enduring success found that companies that were coping with faster moving markets and increased internal complexity had an ability to keep things simpler and more transparent than their rivals.

This approach is at the heart of the QSuper case management implementation. Operating in a highly regulated, yet competitive, financial services environment, QSuper manages more than US$ 30 billion in funds for over 540,000 members.

As one of Australia’s largest superannuation (retirement) funds, QSuper is committed to working with its members so they can feel more confident they are making the best choices for their situation. By implementing case management, QSuper simplified and improved their operating environment, and their service to the customer:

  • Operational excellence. Case management moved the process management needle for QSuper from 17 percent of business processes and 35 percent of business operations staff enabled to 78 percent and 60 percent respectively, with plans to roll out to 100 percent of staff -- from the knowledge workers processing claims, to business operations and information technology staff, to mid and senior level management.
  • Work balancing. Case management enabled dynamic shifting of employee workload with real-time current and future workload reporting and insight.
  • Fewer systems, better transparency. Five systems were decommissioned with case management, integrating services and information to provide a complete view of their customer.

While in many ways this is a classic success tale of improvements through people, process and technology, it is perhaps most remarkable in its illustration of the power of case management to simplify across those three elements. 

Change Management Culture

The successful melding of culture and technology to drive and sustain business transformation is the third critical to success factor I have chosen. Case management provides the ability to transform by changing how information is stored, protected and consumed in order to make better business decisions. This capability is central to the Nationwide Building Society transformation story.

With assets of almost £200 billion and 15 million customers, Nationwide has more than half the market share for all UK building societies, and is the country’s third largest mortgage lender and second largest savings provider.

In early 2010 the entire UK savings industry was the subject of a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) regarding Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs), a type of tax-exempt savings account available to UK residents (similar to IRAs in the United States). One of the three main concerns highlighted in the complaint was that the process of transferring customers’ cash ISAs between providers was taking too long.

The OFT secured an agreement from savings industry bodies that their members would reduce the maximum period for completing the ISA transfer process from 23 to 15 working days. In barely six months, every savings provider in the UK had to slash their ISA transfer times by a third, a problem much easier to solve on paper than in practice. Nationwide knew they would need to dramatically change how they worked with ISAs if they were to meet the new limit and maintain and grow their share of the market.

The main problem facing Nationwide was paper and the way in which their staff were used to working. Applications and account transfers required the completion of paper forms, huge volumes of which had to be physically transferred between Nationwide’s 700 + branches, its distribution centers and the Customer Operations teams at its three main offices. Only when these forms reached the processing teams were they scanned into Nationwide’s work management system.

With business process management and their case implementation, Nationwide was able to flip this approach and provide the guardrails to enable a new way of working for their employees and a new and improved experience for customers. The results are impressive.

The 2011 – 2012 ISA season was the busiest and most successful in Nationwide’s history,” said Ian Thompson, then Head of Customer Operations and the man tasked with overseeing improvements in ISA processing. “The surge in new applications made us the largest provider of ISAs in the UK. But success isn’t just measured by the number of ISAs that we processed and the amount of new business we brought in – it was in the speed, accuracy and timeliness that we were able to process applications, and the exceptional experience that we were able to provide to our customers.”

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Screenshot: ISA Transfer Case View

Looking ahead, Nationwide is now fully compliant and completes its ISA transfers within the 15 day deadline. That would have been unthinkable only the previous year. Furthermore, Thompson maintains that case management has enabled Nationwide to effect a cultural change, “At first, our employees were ambivalent about the new system; now they say that they could not do without it.”

With their approach and the right technology, Nationwide not only improved their ISA transfer cycle time (no Time Machine required) but also the performance of processing functions for account opening and account administration processes across a broad range of banking, savings and lending products.  

Which Three Would You Choose?

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At the end of The Time Machine, the main character and creator of the time machine George says goodbye to David Filby his best friend (played by Alan Young). The time machine can be heard whirling (off screen) and David realizes George has returned to the future. George’s housekeeper then notices that three books are missing. She wonders aloud which books George might have taken, to which David replies, "Which three books would you have taken?"

So as we end another successful year for case management implementations and look forward to the coming year, I ask you all to consider, “which three critical to success factors would you choose?” Whatever might prove to be most important to your business transformation efforts in 2013, I wish you happy holidays and a very prosperous New Year!

Editor's Note: Hungry for more adaptive case management thoughts from Deb? Go no further: Being Human: Why Knowledge Workers Need Adaptive Case Management