What is case management?
Many BPM solutions, including BP Logix Process Director, now include case management as a core feature. So, what is case management?
Case management is a way of grouping processes, transactions or responses that define a complex activity and which can be tracked over a period of time. A case usually involves actions by many different people, both inside and outside of the organisation. Every action, message, response and document generated during this complex activity becomes part of the case, whether part of the same workflow or not.
Typical examples of case management include:
- incident management, such as managing complaints or processing a car insurance claim
- service requests, such as customer onboarding
What is a case?
A car insurance claim is an example case.
Once you have an accident, a number of processes have to be completed before the claim is complete. First, the claim has to be reported, which reviews the circumstances and determines whether the claim is valid. An adjuster may inspect the vehicle and submit a report on the damage. Repair estimates may be obtained from one or more garages and the estimate approved. Underwriting must review the policy to determine if changes in risk require higher premiums for the policy.
You could build all of these into one huge workflow, but not only would this become unmanageable, it would be unnecessary; for example, if the car is stolen, why include processes to collect repair estimates.
In general, a case provides a shared context for a set of processes, forms and documents that might or might not be otherwise related.
Some processes, such as the repair estimate, will only run when a claims case is in progress. Other processes, such as the underwriter review, will happen outside of a claim case. When you renew your insurance, for example, an underwriter review will be performed. The shared context of the case enables you to differentiate an underwriter review that occurs when processing a claim from the recurring underwriter reviews that occur when your policy renews.
The shared context of a case enables you to track every process that is started, every form that is submitted and every document that is uploaded during a case.
BPM and case management. What’s the difference?
Traditional business process management focuses on individual processes with the workflow and/or form collecting relevant data. The primary concern is how these processes are working while the details of process participant are secondary.
Each instance of the process has its own separate life, which is not dependent upon any other process. Process behaviour can vary widely but only in well-understood and predictable ways that you incorporate into the process' design. The fundamental assumption of the BPM model is that processes will consist of fairly rigid behaviours, with variations that only occur within defined limits.
In the case management model, the activities that occur in the case cannot be constrained to a process diagram. Two important characteristics define a case:
- the flow of work in a case, unlike a BPM process, can be non-linear, recursive and unpredictable
- multiple processes often run in parallel within case objects
Two cases of the same type may require different processes, documents, tasks or data objects and activities may need to be performed in a different order. This inherent complexity means the progress of a case cannot be governed by a rigid BPM process.
Instead, case workers typically need to make decisions about how the case progresses and what processes and data must be incorporated into the case.
Although individual process in a case may operate along the more rigid lines of the BPM model with activities, milestones and due dates tracked, the overall progress of the case (e.g. what processes must occur and when) is conducted on a more ad-hoc basis, controlled by human decision-making.
Thanks to the patented Process Timeline, Process Director is the perfect fit for case management work. It actively assesses, coordinates and plans every aspect of a case as it happens in a context-aware environment to deliver a successful outcome.
Case Management represents a step forward from traditional BPM processes. One might even argue that many - perhaps most - of what have been seen as traditional BPM processes are actually cases and not single processes.
The key advantage of the case management model is that it marries human collaboration and decision-making to the process engine that executes processes and tracks deadlines and milestones. Moreover, the case management model makes all aspects of the case visible and does not segregate the case workers to their tiny piece of the process. Thus, case management combines the advantages of human collaboration and decision-making with the process automation of traditional BPM.
In reality, the line between BPM and case management is very blurry. There are very few work processes, outside of rigid compliance and manufacturing processes, that can be completely and accurately programmed by the BPM process, because nearly every process has some element of ad hoc decision-making.
To summarise, every process exists along a spectrum from pure BPM (rare) to pure case management (rare). As such, deciding when to implement a process as in BPM, with rather complicated nesting, iteration and chaining logic and when to implement the process with case management, has to be done very much by feel, rather than by any hard and fast rules.
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This article has been reproduced and updated from BP Logix. ePC resell BP Logix Process Director in Europe.