Workflow key to case management in the cloud
- By Shawn McCarthy
- Oct 16, 2014
Moving case management to the cloud may be an idea whose time has come This is a notable progression for government.
Case management often has been described as too complex to make it a prime candidate for cloud residency. That's because a robust case management system often has interfaces into content management (correspondence, photos, histories), contact management (emails, phone calls, interviews), scheduling and calendar systems, client databases, investigation systems and more.
But as case management has grown to one of government’s larger business functions, it's slowly becoming a target for cloud residency – especially as agencies work to consolidate system sprawl.
The main goal of any case management system is to provide a way to help case workers improve client outcomes. This is true no matter which types of cases are being managed or where they are being managed.
Case workers today focus heavily on specific government programs and resource delivery, and they often need to react to new rules, program changes and shifting client needs, including adapting to changes in eligibility rules, entitlement policies, limits on coverage and the quality of services offered through third-party providers.
Need to plug in new business analytics or template outcome reports? As-a-service solutions often can be connected faster than an in-house solution that needs separate procurement and licensing. And agencies whose case managers work in the field find that cloud-based solutions are easily adapted for a highly mobile workforce.
But traditional case management systems often have been designed as more stand-alone than what government workers need today. If a case management system can be updated with only new programming or a software release, the quality of work can lag, or employees may find themselves spending time doing work that should be automated.
Cloud migration starts with workflow
For most government agencies, case management is a workflow management problem, involving business decisions and resource allocation. Typically, a business process workflow is made up of a series of specific functions, activities and decision points. These help move an initial request (when filed with an agency) toward a set of specific deliverables.
Using a workflow management system as the foundation of a cloud-based case management solution is a way to leverage both cloud and a more robust case management system. As government agencies move some of their IT functions to the cloud, the have the opportunity to refine the business processes related to case management.
It's also an ideal time to examine new workflow design tools and adjust how new requests move through the enterprise.
Moving toward a case management framework that marries content management with business process management and analytics allows for more rapid development of case-based applications. Using workflow management, this can be done on a common platform using an iterative development approach.
A well-designed case management system can be like a factory assembly line – rigid in its rule set and service assembly requirements, but flexible if it needs to be occasionally reconfigured. Likewise, a highly flexible case management system can offer predefined business processes that can be adjusted through a configuration management process, rather than having to rely on a full software update and release.
This description makes the transition sound easy, and obviously it's not. Any transition to a new platform can be fraught with consequences. But the approach is worth considering. Case management needs to be treated as a full information life cycle, from capturing a variety of data points to providing correct client services and evaluating the outcomes.
Increasingly, portions of that life cycle are moving to the cloud. For many agencies, email and data storage are already hosted with cloud providers. Content management systems, ranging from Sharepoint to a Drupal framework, are there too. Moving case management is really a matter of planning the workflow so that it interacts with information that's already there.
One final point: In this type of system, all relevant information – whether it is stored in an agency's own data center, or somewhere in the cloud – needs to have a vigorous and well-managed metadata environment.
Whether Dublin Core or some other schema is used, a cloud/workflow transition is a perfect time to develop the metadata needed to track and fully leverage all data stores related to case management.
It's also a good time to focus on enterprisewide master data management, which helps provide a single point of reference for all information. It can also help establish the policies, standards, workflow processes and data governance that is needed to make case management truly effective.
With all of these things in place, using a workflow management system to develop cloud-interactive case management is a powerful step toward improving citizen services.