In recent months many ECM vendors have been preoccupied with the development of platforms and solutions designed to fill a growing demand for case management software.

But what exactly is Case Management and how do Enterprise Content Management Systems support this growing market?

Editor's Note: Part 2 of this series is now available. See: ECMs that Implement Case Management Frameworks.

Case Management Defined

A case is basically a grouping of information that a user works on. It could be a legal brief, a customer, a location or a query. Essentially, the user is pulling together all the information they need into a single location to work on -- or manage -- this "case".

Case Management is generally a collaborative process with a number of contributing users, and a single overall manager. Tasks, data objects, documents and even processes can be added at anytime, depending on a change in the status of the case in question, all of which need to be traced and tracked if a successful resolution is to be achieved, with a strong emphasis on information sharing.

Case Management is Not BPM

A further point that is worth noting here has been identified by Bruce Silver, industry analyst covering BPMS technology and a contributor. It is that case management does not easily fit into the process of business management because each specific case will have variations.

Case Management differs from Business Process Management in the following ways:

  • Cases have Variations: New tasks and processes will be added on-the-fly.
  • Case are Client Oriented: The requirements for managing a customer will change as the relationship between business and customer changes. It is impossible to know what processes will be needed as it is impossible to know how that business relationship will evolve.
  • Case Have a Single Location Storage: In a case management system, the information regarding a given client will generally be stored in a single location and in single folder where everyone concerned can access and work on that information. BPMS do not necessarily need all users to have a 360 view, whereas in case management they do.

Case management by Steps

Between the time a company opens a case and the time it closes it and archives the material, there are five different steps that most cases will go through.
These include:

  1. Creating a case  where all information from all the different parties involved is submitted and placed in a content repository where a case folder is created with permissions assigned to specified users.
  2. All information is included in the folder, which takes the information from across an enterprise, or even from external sources as required. Information is added over the course of the case as it becomes relevant.
  3. Information is processed and evaluated by the users involved in the case and collated according to case manager-defined specifications.
  4. Once the case assessment has been completed and initial conclusions produced, actions based on that assessment can be taken either within the enterprise, or with third parties.
  5. Once whatever business action has been completed -- after as many alterations to the original assessment as necessary -  the file is closed, declared a record and assigned appropriate storage/archiving (if further action in the future is necessary, it can be opened again).

Enterprise CMS Support for Case Management

Case management software helps organizations deal with cases, and supports the management of those cases from beginning to end. Your newly installed case management system should:

  • Provide instant access to all information on a given case
  • Be able to include all forms of content from email, documents, transcripts, video, images and more
  • Enable easy sharing and search of information
  • Offer tools like calendars, task lists, dashboards and other collaborative tools
  • Automate where possible mundane and time consuming tasks
  • Provide all case history including what has been done and by who
  • Flag duplication of documents, or tasking
  • Be compatible with legacy systems

If we look at the official definition of ECM from AIIM International, the worldwide association for enterprise content management, then we can see why enterprise content management systems are ideal for case management.

The definition has gone through a few changes since AIIM outlined it in 2000. As of last year ECM is understood to be:

the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization's unstructured information, wherever that information exists.

And most ECM systems can carry out many, or all of these functions required for effective case management, including offering functionality such as 

  • Document management
  • Collaboration
  • Records management
  • Workflow/business process management
  • Web content management (WCM)

Many Enterprise CMS providers today offer case management solution frameworks. Open Text, SpringCM and EMC are three such vendors.

In part 2 of of this two-part series, we will look at some of the case management frameworks provided by Enterprise Content Management vendors.

Editor's Note: Part 2 of this series is now available. See: ECMs that Implement Case Management Frameworks.