It's awards time for the film industry and like many, I took some time out to watch the Oscars last Sunday. It's great to see high quality performances recognized. But Oscars aren't just for the movies, so I thought it would be a good time to look at award-winning performances in our own industry.

How do you effectively make changes to your operation to improve costs and productivity while delivering greater value to your customer? The answer lies in the performance of your knowledge workers. What tool can you use to enable those knowledge workers? As might be anticipated based on my continuing articles series of the same name, Adaptive Case Management (ACM) is my recommendation. So in the spirit of the film awards season, let’s take a look at three ACM-powered performances in the “Value” category that in my opinion deserve an Academy Award!

Enhancing New Product Collaboration

Consider new product introductions. Going from idea to launch can be difficult to control. Yet it is these processes when performed well that deliver both top line growth and cash to business. Cost and control challenges span from the point where a new product is conceived through the eventual delivery of the product to market. These challenges are heightened by our current economy that drives demand uncertainty, restricts credit and increases supply risk.

How do you succeed under these difficult conditions?

The previous decade has shown that improvements in automation can be achieved using tools like EDI (Electronic Document Interchange), SCM, ERP and other packaged applications. However, these tools do NOT significantly help improve how employees get work done where documents and decision-making must span system and organizational silos, and straight through processing is not possible or practical. In those circumstances, untamed and often highly collaborative processes have formed to fill gaps along the primary end-to-end business processes and act as bridges between the silos.

Here is where case management can be applied to create value. We saw the French romantic comedy and homage to the silent film era The Artist win the Best Picture prize this year, but my Oscar goes to one of my favorite French success stories La Redoute -- complete with its own video clip.

A leader in the French retail fashion market, LaRedoute implemented case management to drive productivity and speed in their new product introduction process. If you want to get a sense of this internet and catalog retailer’s style, check out this clever LaRedoute YouTube video. Behind the scenes, La Redoute’s supply chain is no slouch; it includes a 24-hour service to 3,000 plus delivery points and handles over 30 million parcels per year in France plus another one million outside France. But their fortune is their fashion speed to market as you might expect and their “New Product Development” (NPD) process is critical to the creation of new product lines and to coordinate dealings between La Redoute buyers and the firm’s extensive supplier network. Every product line featured in La Redoute passes through this four-stage design and quality control process before it can be put into production.

Case management is sophisticated and flexible enough to successfully adapt to all four of La Redoute’s NPD stages -- giving the buyers the review and decision making environment they need to be successful in the erratic and fast paced world of fashion, while at the same time providing the framework to assure progression through the stages and compliance to stringent security and quality requirements. And, speaking of fast paced, with case management, all four processes were successfully implemented within a nine month deadline.

This and other untamed process areas are a perfect target for applying adaptive case management in the wild to focus on delivering value to the business. With this approach you can combine relevant document content and intelligent workflow guidance to create an effective decision making environment. One that puts the knowledge worker in charge of advancing the case yet captures the progression of that case for compliance and audit purposes and for future improvement.

For La Redoute critical elements of NPD have been improved, including organizing and sending new product design files to suppliers and enabling design and buyer teams to quickly and collaboratively access key information. Case management provides a flexible approach to product introduction while ensuring no element of the qualification process can be omitted.

Breaking Down Barriers to Customer Service

There is a famous scene in the classic movie "Meet John Doe" where leading man Gary Cooper’s iconic character implores us to “Tear down the fence!” And certainly when it comes to your customers you need to provide your workers with the ability to remove barriers; you need to tear down those fences. The outcome can significantly impact cost and productivity, while improving service delivery. Case in point is the claims dispute and settlement process between consumer goods companies and their retail customers. And, here is my Oscar-worthy choice--– not for Best Makeup in this case but rather for best implementation -- Revlon.

Before applying case management to its accounts receivable claims disputes process, Revlon -- a leading cosmetics company -- was struggling to keep up with the workload of its high claims volume (over 1000 per day). The financial impact was significant with chargebacks amounting to fully 20% of gross revenues. Credit claims processors were over-burdened and were often unable to review clams or contest them if appropriate. The document collection process by itself took 30 minutes per claim on average. To address this challenge, the company used business process and case management capabilities to convert paper documents and enable claims knowledge worker access to critical customer information.

By focusing on improving the claims handlers work tools and experience, the firm reduced processing time by two-thirds, giving the company the opportunity to resolve all claims at a net reduction of employee time of over 50%. Breaking down silos of customer information helped increase resource efficiency. Focusing on metrics that would benefit both the employees and the customers led to streamlined business processes that could meet inquiry turn-around commitment times.

Improving Exception Handling

To make significant improvements in processes that impact customer engagement and retention, you need to consider your company culture and how employees will embrace, accept and adopt change resulting from process improvement efforts. Being user-centric and attuned to your stakeholder motivations and solution needs will enable faster time to business value with change that is also sustainable.

One of my favorite stories that illustrate the point is Irish Life -- a case study from the insurance industry value chain. They used business process and case management to enable their workers and change the culture of serving the client.

Irish Life, one of Ireland’s largest and most successful financial organizations, was faced with turnaround time issues in managing over half a million policies. There was no visibility of where work was in the process and the number one customer complaint was response time. In particular, exception handling was particularly difficult.

Irish Life’s solution removed paper from its processes and integrated the policy and supporting documents into the process flow, resulting in improved customer turnaround time and consistency, management visibility into all work statuses, and a 35 percent improvement in productivity. In order to accomplish these improvements, Irish Life included their process participants and stakeholders in the improvement initiative. By focusing on the user, Irish Life changed “how the work gets done.” In effect, they improved the worker experience, rather than merely adding speed through automation.

From a people perspective, the system has made a huge impact. While the environment is now more controlled, employees recognize and appreciate the “guard rails” and the discipline and improvements being driven by the solution. The staff sees the changes both in the way they accomplish the work and in the work results. As might be expected, “problem cases” are one key improvement area. Team members now have the correct information and the necessary time to process those cases within the SLAs. The result of this improved employee experience -- delivering better response time and in turn better value back to brokers and clients.

And since we are in the height of the movie awards season, if you’d like to experience this award-worthy story in “film” in their employees own words, here is the Irish Life story vid on YouTube.