Adaptive Case Management is the saviour for fast moving Customer Service

Case Management was historically a business discipline, with roots in the legal, medical and social care professions. The case was a person or an incident around which services were co-ordinated in pursuit of a goal, for example to successfully defend a legal case, or to cure an illness. The activities around a case were driven by practitioners, applying their skills and experience to decide which activities, in what order, and by whom, were needed to conclude the case. This is casework, and the practitioners are caseworkers or knowledge workers: non-routine problems solvers who process and transform information.

Case management also describes a software application a practitioner uses to manage casework. The need for practitioners to be able to create, track and record ad hoc activity, driven by them and not the system, means case management systems were typically non-deterministic i.e. they offer features which the end-user must decide how to use with minimal, system-prompted guidance.

This is where case management differs from its close relative: business process management software. BPM software automates what you know already about your business processes whereas case management solutions handle scenarios which aren’t known at the time the system is created. Business process management automates the past, case management automates the future.

Adaptive Case Management

Evolution by natural selection is the ultimate adaptive system. None of the participants do anything directly to assist evolution; it’s managed automatically by nature. If evolution were at work inside a software application, then the software behaviour would continually change as its business environment changed, with no human involvement.

We know that adaptive software isn’t quite there yet because of the continual updates to the applications we use at home and at work. Through case templates however, there is a mechanism which can give today’s case management systems some interesting adaptive properties, extending the value of ACM across the organisation:

  • Even in case work there are usually processes which are repeatable and worth standardising. Perhaps in an insurance business, if the process of working out a customer’s risk score across a range of data sources could be automated, it would reduce error and time to originate new products. Case templates can contain the logic for automation to help improve case throughput.
  • If one caseworker discovers a new way of working en route to a positive case outcome, there is value in sharing that best practice with other caseworkers. Perhaps an insurance underwriting department has discovered that checking the social profiles of all new life assurance applicants improves the profitability of premiums offered. A template could capture those activities and immediately present them back to all future risk assessments
  • Many organisations are subject to regular change, especially in the private sector where competition, customer expectation, new opportunities and regulation all drive new ways of working. A case template can be used to define the baseline of behaviour at any point in time, and changed as the business needs

The test for an ACM system based on case templates is how easily a template can be changed to deal with new requirements and then rolled out. Extreme adaptability would mean it all happened automatically based on some priorities define by the end-user, so that the base line of capability was always moving automatically. A less aggressive, but still powerful mechanism would allow an operational process owner to review any changes before rolling them out across the organisation.

Case management systems clearly can’t claim to be adaptive if change requires significant human effort, even if it happens quickly. I’d go as far to suggest that an adaptive system can only be classed as such if routine change doesn’t involve writing code.

Why ACM is good for back-office processes such as customer relationship management

Case management software has proved useful in scenarios where business processes are unpredictable, but in its adaptive form, has some benefits where those processes are customer centric. It’s easy to argue that business processes are more volatile when there are customers involved. Competition, changing customer expectations, legislation, new business opportunities and internal innovation are all at play in processes responsible for customer interactions and relationships.

ACM offers the process owner the ability to create templates for all customer interactions such as ‘apply for a new life assurance policy’, or ‘query my new billing statement’, or ‘buy a product from an ecommerce website’, or ‘change my direct debit bank account details’. ACM also offers the ability to automate and standardise routine casework, which is important inside an organisation of any scale.

The main advantage of ACM to the customer services director is that new case templates can be added or existing ones changed, with minimal involvement from the internal IT function. As a result, the speed and cost of change are both improved and the customer service centre becomes agile.

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