You have a sore toe, so you go to the doctor for an examination. The doctor asks you to remove all your clothes and starts by looking in your ears, then your eyes, then examines your neck. Two hours later, you’re shivering with cold, and the doctor reaches your feet. “Aha! Here’s the problem!” they declare, and remove a thorn from your big toe. Problem solved, but has it been an efficient experience?
It’s a little like the standardized approach of Business Process Management, which applies workflow processes to repetitive, repeatable tasks, taking them out of the hands of humans. A machine doesn’t particularly mind if it has to start by examining the head in order to eventually reach the toes. It’s a process, and it can be done very quickly. More importantly, machines don’t get bored, or go for a coffee midway through a task, and then forget about it. So BPM is excellent at dealing with processes which deviate very little from the norm. Examples include invoicing and inventory management.
However as soon as there’s a deviation – for example a customer complaint or query – then oftentimes human intervention is required. When that happens, a routine series of events becomes a case. A case has uniqueness, where it is not simply a matter of applying the same rules as always. This is why doctors call their workload ‘cases’, because every occurrence of illness will be slightly different, based on many variables. Lawyers too refer to ‘cases’, because no two clients present with exactly the same problem.
This is a situation which has intrigued software creators for many years: How to make workflows which have the characteristics of a standardized one-size-fits-all system – with the efficiencies and cost savings this brings – coupled with a case-by-case approach allowing for queries and variations. The result is Dynamic Case Management, or DCM.
DCM incorporates information which can be used in a workflow, but which is responsive to events initially outside the workflow. It therefore combines the best features of Business Process Management with the more unstructured way doctors work. It may be worth seeing how the medical profession views case management, as an indicator of the business application of such principles. According to the Case Management Body of Knowledge, ‘Case management is a professional and collaborative process that assesses, plans, implements, coordinates, monitors, and evaluates the options and services required to meet an individual’s health needs… …and cost-effective outcomes.’
And don’t disregard the mention of health, because in fact DCM is being increasingly applied to healthcare scenarios. This isn’t just an analogy, it’s an actuality, and in these pandemic times, the more medicine can apply processes and workflows, the better. So the idea of managing on a case-by-case basis is borrowed from medicine and law by IT, and then returned in new and enhanced forms.
Doctors and lawyers are clearly ‘knowledge workers’. Indeed almost anyone who regularly interfaces with IT and computer systems can be defined as a knowledge worker. Studies have shown that only about 60% of a knowledge worker’s average day is spent in dealing with truly human tasks, where complex variables are weighed, and decisions made on the basis of a vast data set. However that means that one third of a knowledge worker’s time can be classified as structured and predictable. Think of an accounts supervisor, doing very repetitive tasks, day in, day out. Case Management targets that one-third of human-based activity, but Dynamic Case Management goes further.
Case management is a step-by-step workflow where C follows B follows A. The resolution of the case is when the endpoint is reached, let’s call it Z. Dynamic Case Management allows for backwards and forwards steps within a process, where perhaps C follows A, then back to B. There is still the endpoint Z, but the different iterations and steps are adaptive and flex with external events.
Let’s say a customer fails to pay their electricity bill on time. A purely workflow-based system will be set up – correctly – to issue reminders, then a final notice, and then the work order to cut off the electricity supply. A more adaptive DCM system can incorporate new data and be adjusted accordingly: The customer was out of the country, or ill in hospital? OK, these things can be flexed for.
And this is where we come to low-code, and the ease by which systems can be configured, and re-configured by the actual users. Low-code allows easy changes to workflows, and creates the possibilities of DCM within predetermined goals, where the actual sequence of ‘how to get there’ is open to human interaction.
The Oriana low-code platform is a perfect example of DCM capability, especially when coupled with Robotic Process Automation, which takes care of all the daily grind of repetitive tasks. In the past, alterations to the system would have required highly qualified (and therefore expensive) input from the IT department, or bought-in specialists. Now changes and enhancements can be made by users with little or no training, bringing instant benefits. The graphic nature of Oriana brings drag-and-drop functionality to creating DCM applications, using the powerful low-code workflow engine. And solutions are easily undoable, so it’s possible to design and trial new solutions in weeks, and if they don’t achieve what was needed, they can easily be re-worked. Rapidly and cheaply.
The result is as if when you go to the doctor with your sore toe, the search for a cure starts around your foot area. And if the Doc ends up looking in your ears as well, then that’s because a process of Dynamic Case Management has logically led to this. The cure to your ills will be delivered more quickly, efficiently, and effectively.