"It’s about honoring the customers’ time.” -- Director, Customer Care

I have been immersed in the world of process improvement, BPM and case management for years now, and over that time have heard any number of reasons WHY the discipline and its related technologies are valuable. Well, I just heard the best reasons EVER at the 2012 US Gartner BPM Summit in Baltimore.

In this installment of my ACM article series, I’ll share what I learned at the summit about how and why companies are using adaptive case management today and where it might lead us in the future.

Are You Experienced?

I was one of the more than 700 participants at the US Gartner BPM Summit this year, joining an audience that was about 40 percent business types, 60 percent IT. According to Gartner analyst Jim Sinur’s (@JimSinur) blog post,

there seemed to be a higher level experience in the audience [than previous summits] with only 30% being in the beginner category, 40% in the intermediate category and 30% in the advanced category.”

Those newer to BPM are understandably very interested in topics around how to get started. With a more experienced audience mix, there is more of an opportunity to engage in first hand discussion of real world implementations and results.

The summit did not disappoint in that regard. From PG&E in Utilities, to retailer Loblaw, to the global brand of Dell, there were a wide range of “end-user” case studies and industry sectors represented on the agenda.

People are the Transformers

Real world experience was well represented in my opinion by the “Dynamic Case Management Expert Panel”* moderated by Nathaniel Palmer (@nathanielpalmer), noted author and practitioner for process improvement, BPM and case management.

The experienced panelists came from OpenText and customer companies in the Financial Services sector. This sector is the largest overall in BPM implementations as measured by independent research firm Ovum, and also has one of the highest forecasted growth rates. So it stands to reason that it should be a good source for real world BPM case studies, and as it turns out, for the application of case management to deliver process improvement to the business.

Delivering process improvement means making changes in your enterprise and most often the biggest challenge is to know where and how you can make a meaningful impact. For me the answer to that challenge is always centered on people productivity, and that was the focus of the case management panel session with a theme of “Unifying Experiences to Transform Customer Service.”

Wendy Kimball of Vision Service Plan, Kelly Romer of Intuit, Yasemin Sezer of L&T InfoTech and Steve Russell of OpenText talked about leveraging case management to unleash the productivity and judgment of an enterprise’s best asset, its people.

This dovetailed perfectly with another one of my favorite sessions, one of the top rated sessions overall at the BPM Summit , the keynote from Gabe Zichermann that also looked at aspects of people behaviors and productivity.

An entertaining speaker and author on the future of gamification and respected entrepreneur, Mr. Zichermann explained how the coming generation change will require “Transforming Your Business with Gamification.” He talked about the elements of game design, loyalty programs and behavioral economics, and showed how gamification can help harness the power of games so your people can achieve business process objectives.

Gamification is a fascinating topic now seriously entering the business realm and as the workforce demographics change it will become increasingly important. I recommend this short video if you want to learn more about what Gabe has to say first hand on gamification.

For the case management panel, the discussion centered on using case management to create a flexible organization that can handle the unexpected by addressing unstructured work, enabling collaboration, providing personalized dashboards, and delivering mobile applications. At the same time, the panel highlighted that managers and knowledge workers can be empowered to make better decisions with case management and ultimately grow the business.

Three Ways to Win

Each of the panelists also talked about WHY they are applying case management now and in the future. It was evident that the “game” they are winning with the help of case management is the competition for the hearts and minds of their customers. Here are three of the strategies that the panel offered to succeed with case management and empower people to better serve customers:

  1. Start outside-in
  2. Be outcome-driven
  3. Deliver a 360° experience

Starting outside-in means focusing first on the customer. As the director of Customer Care at Vision Service Plan, panelist Wendy Kimball is understandably all about customer focus. VSP found that improving their CSR agent tools ultimately translates to a better customer experience, one that “honors the customers’ time.”

My pet peeve as a consumer and customer -- both in my corporate and personal life -- has always been interactions that disrespect my time. Wendy’s story resonated very strongly with the audience and for me her words embody one of the best reasons I have ever heard as to why case management is valuable.

Wendy shared how their case implementation is enabling 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.

Yasemin Sezer, SVP of Software Engineering Services at L&T InfoTech, led the discussion on the importance of being outcome-driven. She pointed out that perhaps the biggest gap today in business operations is the ability to dynamically report critical information. Their experience identified three types of reports as important: Work Management, SLA/KPI Management and Trend Analysis.

Yasemin‘s comments led me to think about another important reason why case management can be so valuable in the context of business results. Case management can help ensure that the metrics that are developed and consumed are customer focused, and are used within the context of serving the customer.

Kelly Romer, group manager at Intuit, has implemented case management to support their Employee Management Solutions that provide easy-to-use payroll and employee benefits services to more than one million small businesses. Kelly’s use of case management at Intuit is driven in large part by an understanding of the importance of the User Interface (UI) experience.

It is clear that the user experience is a passion for Kelly as he spoke of how he and his team have delivered a “360” personalized view of work -- with access to information, tasks, documents and interactions -- that translates to better service to the customer. Kelly shared what has become another one of my all time favorites as to why case management can be so valuable:

Like most other service organizations, we shift our resources to the work that is most important … and no matter how good we are at predicting this, we always need tools to help us manage the work to ensure we meet compliance rules, customer expectations and accuracy goals.”

As the panel discussion turned towards consideration of the future, it was clear that forces like mobile, social and cloud, and emerging ideas like gamification, would all have an increasing impact on the way in which work gets done. It was equally clear that case management and its power to effectively enable knowledge workers would remain front and center. Why? Winning the hearts and minds of your customers will never go out of style!

*In the interest of full disclosure, this panel was one of the sessions sponsored by my organization OpenText.

Editor's Note: To read more by Deb Miller: