If you work for a government agency, chances are your work is case-like, whether you realize it or not.
Some professions clearly involve casework, such as law enforcement, litigation, insurance, and healthcare. But work in many more domains is case-like — it largely involves unstructured data and non-linear, unpredictable processes that depend on human intervention. And reaching a successful resolution to a project (or case) requires serving up the right information to the right people at the right time.
Viewed in this way, most of the work that government agencies do — delivering services to fulfill their mandates — is casework. The goal may be to ensure eligible beneficiaries receive all due services or to expose fraud, waste, and abuse. It may be to vet and resolve complaints or to preempt bad actors and rogue behavior. It may simply be to give people a way to pay fines online. The stakes are often high, and every case is different.
As agencies at all levels of government procure new technology to enable digital transformation, here’s a guiding principle you don’t usually see: case-like work is best managed using a case management software system. These four common characteristics explain why.
- Casework is data intense.
At its core, a case is information. A case file is an aggregation of structured data (pre-defined, machine-readable values) and unstructured data (documents, images, audio, video) that knowledge workers interact with to deliver an appropriate resolution. Investigations, claims management, and appeals are clear examples of case-like processes whose progression is highly dependent upon unstructured data. If the information isn’t correct, properly associated, accessible, and shareable, the optimal outcome can’t be achieved.
- Casework is non-linear and difficult to model.
Work is case-like when each project — or case — requires unique handling based on complex interactions and dynamic actions that impact case direction. Steps rarely occur in a serial or predictable fashion. Rather, they may overlap and circle back depending on various events and incoming information. Processes involve multiple, interdependent workflows, making them especially difficult to model.
- Casework is driven by knowledge workers.
Unlike invoice processing, assembly line production, and other rote processes, case-like work requires skilled knowledge workers to evaluate and base decisions on available information, usually in compliance with defined policies and regulations. Work progresses from stage to stage based on the occurrence of events which governed by rules, as opposed to just following a predefined process.
In any kind of case-like work, the negative consequences of misjudgment based on noncompliance or missing information can be severe. It’s up to the knowledge worker to affect an acceptable outcome, supported by a case management system that serves up the right information at the right time.
- Casework requires a high degree of technical flexibility.
Serving up the right information as required, regardless of the turns a case may take, requires a configurable system that can accommodate variability. BPM, CRM, ECM, and EDM systems, much less spreadsheets and databases, aren’t architected to handle the complexities of casework.
Instead, an effective case management system begins with data modeling — building the system around the information to be managed. This is known as a Data-First™ approach.
To gather system requirements, it’s much easier to get stakeholders to describe the information they need to do their job than to describe the processes they use. Supervisors can tell you the metrics they need to see and the reports they need to submit. The next step is modeling the stages a case will progress through, based on information captured in relation to policies embedded in configured rules. As long as the correct relationships among data objects are mapped, the path a case takes can unfold dynamically as rules are applied to new data and events.
Case-like work requires a case management system.
So, is your work case-like? If it involves lots of data, non-linear workflows, and requires you and your technology to work together to reach the right outcome, then the answer is yes. And if so, it is important to have the right tools for the job.
A case management system supports casework and case-like work in order to help knowledge workers achieve desired outcomes. A Data-First approach to building systems that easily handle data and workflows used by knowledge workers at all levels of government is essential.
Case management technology is just one example of the modern, transformative technologies that government agencies are adopting to provide services more effectively. It is important to think about the broader context of how services are delivered, and how data is stored and shared, in order to reach the best outcomes for all citizens.
Meredith Trimble is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a former municipal official and Town Council Acting Chair, who focused on strategic planning, annual budgeting, and bonded infrastructure projects. Her government experience also includes posts in both federal and state-level executive branch agencies: Associate Editor of the U.S. Federal Election Commission’s FEC Record; and Director of Education for the CT Office of State Ethics. In her current role as a Senior Content Specialist with Tyler Technologies, Inc., she writes content to help empower those who serve the public. Her current focus is to help facilitate data-enabled organizations as well as to create connections between governments and those they serve. You can read her posts here.
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