Thursday, January 18, 2007

Case management as the next big thing?

This article on ebizQ caught my eye: Butler Group: Current Document Collaboration Sucks, linked from the ECM blog. The first part of the article is no great surprise, but should still be worrying for organizations wondering what all their employees are doing with their day:

A new report, just published by Butler Group, a European IT research and advisory organisation, argues that employees spend up to 25% of their working day on non-productive, document collaboration related tasks.

This is especially interesting when you consider how many of those employees are doing work that is particularly document or information centric. My guess is that many now consider their work document centric because of the time they spend in front of a PC dealing with email, unnecessarily reviewing internal documents and reporting on the work they routinely perform.

This keys in with a paper I wrote a while back that you can find on ebizQ, which reinforces the concept that documents are not going away, but need to be handled better. There are many components that are required to help organizations work better with documents, including document collaboration, records management, business process management and integration. The problem is that pulling all of these components together, and keeping them operating together is an IT challenge - fun for the techies, but not so good for the line of business manager.

The ebizQ article goes on to quote the Butler co-author:
“Documents, in whatever format they may exist, are an integral part of every business and institution, and organisations that cannot manage the production of documents effectively and efficiently risk a great deal more than poor business performance.” says Sarah Burnett, Senior Research Analyst at Butler Group and the report’s third co-author. “Organisations cannot exist without documents, and therefore the efficacy with which documents are created, revised, and published should be of utmost importance to business managers.”

My last post Does 'case management' mean anything to you? talked about case management as a mechanism for organizing not only document collaboration, but all of the related information and activity that goes with it.

A case is traditionally represented by a manila folder, a paper file that holds all of the information, documents and tasks that describe the case, the customer, checklists of tasks to be performed, new information gathered and a log of actions and key events. In addition, a case will often include copies of related background documents that provide the history of a customer or other entity, their contracts, entitlements and references to information in other systems.

Cases can often be long-lived and contain a large amount of information, making it hard to keep this information current and accurate. Handling the complex and interrelated nature of case documents in context with the processes they follow as they pass between different workers in an organization, is another major challenge. Ensuring that case-workers see information presented to them in a way that is meaningful, useful and appropriate to their role is another challenge.

Managing the interactions and processes around case-workers and case information is complex, making it difficult to apply standard document management and workflow systems to the problem. Case management applications are designed specifically to address these challenges. A strong case management system will incorporate and provide simple interaction with a range of user and organizational focused applications:

  • process management
  • collaborative-working
  • document and content management
  • records management

Applications that can provide these capabilities in a quickly configurable and deployable form are rare, but they are highly effective tools for addressing common business problems. There is a huge need their for assistance in operations involving many people, working on large amounts of information, inside broader processes that run enforceably and efficiently.

If as Butler estimates,
the size of the global Document Collaboration segment of the ECM market to be US$586 million in 2007
is even close to reality, perhaps collaborative case management could be the next big thing.

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