toy robots lined up
PHOTO: Craig Sybert

Automation drives change, but often the biggest challenge is deciding which technology to apply for maximum impact. If we want to improve team productivity and decision-making, then case management needs to be in our automation toolkit. Here’s why.

Focus on How Work Gets Done

How productive is our workforce? A focus on improving how work gets done inevitably leads to defining simpler, better ways to speed activities, raise quality and control risk, and ultimately drive better outcomes. And since most work is accomplished by teams, often with our customers and partners as collaborators, and by a mix of human, bot and artificial intelligence (AI) teammates, our automation technology toolkit needs to reflect that.

We have a continuum of choices: from automating the people out of our business processes to augmenting the environment in which people accomplish work. And all along that continuum, data plays a critical role as partner to process

Integrate Process and Data

Process automation helps organizations improve by focusing on key individual roles and how to make the tasks and processes they participate in faster and more efficient.

  • By automating high volume repetitive tasks with software bots, robotic process automation (RPA) speeds work completion and helps eliminate human error and reduce rework.
  • By managing the flow of tasks, activities and data across a process domain, business process management (BPM) streamlines operations and lays the foundation for delivering continuous improvement.

Both RPA and traditional model-centric BPM technologies depend on the ability to define or “map” the task or process steps to be automated. How do we proceed then to improve productivity when that map cannot fully capture how work needs to be done to move an item or a work assignment to resolution? How do we manage when completing work requires collaboration for multiple roles and the path forward is unpredictable? And, how do we ensure that the data the team will need is available to the right team member at the right time?

This is exactly where case management can make a difference.

The work team and the documents are treated as an integral part of the case. This type of automation technology acknowledges that documents have lifecycles of their own outside the duration of the workflow. Case management is “content aware” and supports unstructured and semi-structured work. By focusing on data and its various incarnations as documents, case management not only removes the burden of paper from the process, but also improves access to that data and enables inclusive audit trails. 

Related Article: The Transformation of RPA to IPA: Intelligent Process Automation

Recognize Case Management Patterns

Where does case management apply? There are certain patterns of work where case management is “fit for purpose.”

A decade ago, Forrester Research categorized case management use cases into three areas to help us understand how the technology helps workers get the job done: service requests, incident management and investigative. While case management always involves human judgement — these days we might say “humanoid” judgement — investigative cases are driven by the need for greater transparency, service request cases focus on communications and incident management cases are triggered by events.

Gartner has also identified categories of use cases and provided guidance with industry examples. From forms-based cases like HR lifecycle management to regulated cases in banking, pharma and healthcare, to customer-facing cases like insurance claims and government social services.

Case management is especially important where work involves processes with well-established goals and tasks, yet the exact sequences may vary, or when a process leaves the “happy path” (where all goes according to plan) and needs to address exception handling.

“… with a case management approach to work the person gets all the context and information she needs to make a decision and is able to work dynamically in an agile, more natural way. Instead of being a cog or widget in a process that's designed to mimic old-style mass production in a factory, the case worker is empowered to get the job done, from start to finish, even if it takes several days, weeks, or even months for all the information related to the case to come into the business.”Connie Moore, "Go Lean with Case Management"

Including case management in our automation toolkits can help teams — humans and humanoids alike — access the information they need, collaborate and accomplish work goals using their best judgment. 

Related Article: Being Human: Why Knowledge Workers Need Adaptive Case Management 

Forge Human-Digital Collaboration

And, what if AI is on the team? In "The Humanoid Touch," I wrote about the AI-fueled conversations contact center agents are having with customers, without them even realizing it: “The ‘machine’ listens, in real time, to the conversation between the customer and the agent, and then feeds useful information to the agent so that he or she can, in turn, give the customer the best response possible.”

Indeed, one of the most interesting potential uses for AI is not to replace our knowledge workers but rather to team with them. Case management enables this teaming, serving as the organizing construct for the work. It provides the ability to integrate the work of multiple humans with bots and AI to balance demands for compliance with the ability to apply judgement to create the best customer experience, in a timely and effective fashion.

Related Article: Combine AI and the Human Touch for Exceptional Customer Service

Make Smarter Decisions

Automation can provide both the control and flexibility we need to improve processes. RPA can automate repetitive work — task by task. BPM can replace an entire well-defined workflow with straight-through processing.

And, when interactions between "people," process and content are dynamic, ad hoc or unpredictable, case management can unify these interactions for faster, smarter work outcomes.