Archive for September 2013

Casebook: analytics and social collaboration to support adaptive case management in the enterprise

While advances in collaboration and communication technology have facilitated interaction among people, the main burden of managing the work is left on knowledge workers, as the collaboration and communication tools are un-aware of the work context. In addition to the heavy use of communication and collaboration technologies by knowledge workers, case management is supported by tools from vendors in the business process management, enterprise content management and customer relationship management domains, each tailored their solution to fit specific case management domains. The new push towards adaptive case management aims to bring flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness to the practice of case management.

The state of the art in technology for supporting case management can be described as systems of record: they rely on people maintaining consistent information, using disparate applications and manually tracking pieces of information related to a case across different systems. These case management applications do not support knowledge workers in a flexible and adaptive manner. As a result, substantial information related to cases lives outside the applications, and is isolated and fragmented. Often it is archived in the personal inboxes of knowledge workers without being shared within the organization. This results in complex and inefficient work practices due to the lack of systematic support for knowledge-intensive and people-driven processes, as well as the lack of proper means for capturing and sharing knowledge within the organization. Consequently, organizations fail to learn from the experience of previous cases and struggle with information loss during hand-offs between individuals and teams.

We argue that any solution for adaptive case management should be centered on cases and embrace advances in social and collaboration technology, analytics and intelligence in order to advance the state of the art in case management from systems of record to systems of engagement. In such a future state, while people continue to drive the work, they are able to actively engage and interact with other people and information entities in their work environment. Semi-autonomous systems can offer intelligent and automated support to workers to free them from record keeping and provide them with guidance on case handling. Such a system should be adaptive to changing work practices, keeping the workers informed about the latest updates and share the right information with the right people at the right time to foster collaboration among colleagues, partners and customers.

Continue to read our following article on Casebook as a system of engagement for adaptive case management, and specifically on how it leverages advanced analytics and social collaboration technologies to address the quality, consistency and efficiency issues in existing case management systems by automatically capturing and codifying flexible processes, so that teams can benefit from process evolution and enhancement (published in Sept./Oct. 2013 issue of IEEE Internet Computing titled “Casebook: A Cloud-based System of Engagement for Case Management”).

Adaptive Case Management: the road ahead?

This past July (2013), Keith Swenson and I were invited by Jorge Sanz (IBM Research) to write a position paper on the current state of adaptive case management, and challenges and the next steps ahead for the industry and academia, for IEEE Conference on Business Informatics. Here is an excerpt, you may read the complete paper, here.

The landscape of work in the organizations has changed significantly. Over the last decade automation has been a major focus of organizations in IT and in other work segments. As the result, a lot of less skilled workers have given their place to machines and software [25]. Workers today spend less of their time on routine tasks, most of which are often automated, and more of their time on things that really require thinking, than was possible just ten years ago. The challenge today is how to support higher skilled modes of work: knowledge work. We can also call this kind of work “unpredictable work” because one cannot predict in advance the exact course of what will be done. It requires thinking in order to figure out what to do. The exact course of what needs to be done cannot be known in advance, and this is the central challenge to the traditional way of designing IT systems. The name “case management” is used to talk about an approach that supports the knowledge worker, without requiring that the work be constrained to a set of pre-defined actions.
Indeed, between 25% and 40% of the workforce can be classified as knowledge workers today [1]. Knowledge workers include managers, decision makers, executives, doctors, lawyers, campaign managers, emergency responders, strategist, and many others who think for a living. While extensive software and tooling support are provided for routine tasks, this has been less the case for knowledge workers and case management. The state of the art in technology support for case management can be described as systems of record, today. These approaches rely on people maintaining consistent information records, using disparate applications and manually tracking pieces of information related to a case across different systems. Substantial information related to cases lives outside the applications, often in the personal inboxes of knowledge workers without being linked to and shared with other relevant applications. This fragmentation makes it hard to reconcile case information.

As technologist, we are biased to see this change in the work landscape as a technology trend. However, what the current practice in case management needs to realize is that we are seeing a fundamental shift in our workforce, and in the ways they are managed. Not only are companies engaging their customers in new ways — using social media, mobile computing devices, and social networks — but managers are engaging workers in similarly transformed ways. The office is being transformed from an assembly line for the processing of forms, to far more agile and effective patterns for accomplishing organizational goals. While knowledge workers try to leverage recent technology developments in managing case work, there is a need for new approaches to support knowledge work in an integrated, flexible, worker-driven and holistic manner.
The term adaptive case management refers to managing the work needed to handle a case in a flexible manner by adhering to the principle of planning-by-doing, considering the work context, and the ability to accommodate changes in the environment and the work context [3]. Today, knowledge workers use a mix of applications (emails, communication, document and where applicable workflow management applications) and human work. Indeed, the majority of cases (74%) in Fortune 1000 companies are managed using multiple applications or are mostly done manually [3]. Some of the issues in this context include the fact that critical information to the handling of cases live in disparate systems, information loss on workers’ hand offs, workers who are not on sync, and the fact that communication and information exchange tools (such as email, chat and other tools used for sharing case information) are un-aware of the work context.
In this writeupe, we provide a brief overview of case management historically and offer a framework for understanding the work spectrum in the enterprise (doing a comprehensive survey is beyond the goals of this paper). We highlight research challenges in supporting knowledge workers, and review few recent work and products that take initial steps in this supporting knowledge workers. We describe a grand vision for an architecture of software systems for supporting knowledge work.  Continue reading here.

The Future of Enterprise IT and CIOs in the Cloud World

Enterprise IT has witnessed a series of changes over the past decades. With the rapid move towards adoption of cloud services, the impact of changes on enterprise IT has never been more profound. This is changing the traditional role of enterprise IT as the main entity for providing and supporting IT systems and services to becoming a broker and manager of IT services for a hybrid portfolio of IT services acquired externally or provisioned internally. Currently, much of IT service innovation in cloud services domain is focused on the service provider side. Not much attention has been given to the challenges at the service consumer side for designing, acquiring, operating and managing a portfolio of services.
In the following article, we discuss the trends and the changes that cloud services bring to enterprise IT and present a framework for a novel technology solution that supports the service consumer role of IT (published in IEEE Computer, and slightly modified version available as an HP Labs Technical Report)