Every organization wants to be effective and efficient. Both contribute to competitive advantage.
Let’s take a look under the hood to see how effectiveness and efficiency can be increased.
Effectiveness means doing the “right” things.
In a large organization there is always the chance that a staff member, a unit, a department, or a division may be working on the wrong things.
The only way to know is to set operational objectives, periodically measure progress toward attainment of these objectives and get a reading on how attainment of these objectives advances strategic objectives. Any work that is not directly or indirectly supportive of strategy is a candidate for elimination.
The problem is operational objectives do not easily map to strategic objectives so we have to rely on ROI studies that dig deep enough to authorize operational initiatives that are capable of contributing to strategic objectives.
If a strategic objective is to be in the “top ten” in a particular field, contributions may be needed, for example, in the form of new products, improved distribution channels for existing products and outsourcing of specific functions. Each of these operational initiatives will have objectives, timelines and measures that allow periodic determination of progress toward objectives. Not all operational objectives contribute equally to the strategic objective (some are more important than others) and it may not be essential that all operational objectives be met.
It’s not practical with multiple contemporaneous initiatives to try and track these on spreadsheets that end up all over the place.
If an organization subscribes to ACM (Adaptive Case Management), the Case is the place to store related operational objectives.
There are multiple benefits to be gained from case management in an ACM environment.
- Ability to accommodate ad hoc interventions, some of which relate to collaboration with users who are outside of the Case environment (via guest portals).
- Ability to accommodate structured interventions via background guidance from in-line BPM processes/process fragments.
- Auto-scheduling of work, with the ability for users to micro-schedule (gives users a sense of ownership of the work they do)
- Leveling and balancing by supervisors of work across Cases/Users.
- Native Electronic Content Management (no need to store documents/document histories outside of Cases).
- Auto-archiving of all interventions in a Case History where users are able to see data, as it was, at the time it was collected, on the form/document versions that were in service at the time.
- Auto-export of data, on a strict need to know basis, to local/remote 3rd party systems applications.
- Auto-import of data from local/remote 3rd party systems and applications
- Auto-posting of summary level data plus objective tracking/status to a free-form knowledgebase search environment for cross-case data mining/analysis.
Efficiency means doing things the “right” way – this brings us to the domain of “best practice” processes.
Every organization has best practice processes – everything we do involves the conversion of inputs to outputs (i.e. a process).
Best practices processes are, by definition “best”, at least until they are replaced by better practices.
Best practices processes may exist only in the minds of performers, they may only exist in the form of written policy/procedure or they may exist in the form of mapped processes that have been rolled out to an auto-resource allocation, leveling and balancing run-time workflow management environment.
A documented process is better than an undocumented process. A mapped process is better than a documented process. A rolled-out or in-line process is better than a mapped process (except for very simple, mostly linear processes where steps can be carried out by a small number of close collaborators).
The problem in most organizations is most straight-through, linear, highly automated processes have been mapped, rolled out and, over time, optimized to the point of diminishing returns. The low-hanging fruit has been harvested.
What remains is a mix of structured and unstructured work, where much of the work is performed by knowledge workers.
Here, processes are replaced with “process fragments” and in respect of the latter, steps sometimes get performed according to the logic of process fragments, but steps are often skipped, or performed in a different sequence and ad hoc steps are inserted. Case accommodates variations away from policy/procedure by way of the application of governance/guardrails that can “rein in” extreme variations.
At a distance, there can easily be a perception that only the performers know how what they are doing contributes to the attainment of a set of operational objectives. The presumption is knowledge workers know “what” to do, “how” to do it, “where” to do it and “why”, but they need help with “when”.
Whereas in the case of straight-through, mostly linear processes, the focus is on managing performance at steps, the focus for knowledge work needs to be on reducing time gaps between steps.
When one knowledge worker completes some work, the output typically becomes the input for some other knowledge worker (or a machine, or a piece of software). In the interest of meeting operational objectives in a timely manner, we reasonably want next-in-line steps to start up soon after the completion of upstream pre-cursor steps.
So, the results of work have to be communicated and the environment of choice for this is again a Case environment.
Case is capable of hosting objectives and consolidating records of work related to attaining these objectives.
A Case can consolidate pretty much anything you care to throw at it (text, doc files, pdfs, images, video/audio, spreadsheets, and digital data). It is important to tag all entries according to date/time so that the default sort order can be decreasing chronological order.
Finding things in Cases can be difficult – no amount of key word assignments seems to work for the simple reason that the mindset of encoders is usually different at the time of encoding from the mindset they have when they return to a Case and try to find something. As for others who did not do the encoding and want to find things, the challenge is even greater.
We all know how structured data is usually stored in databases and how searches for “123 Main Street” will fail if the address for a record was inadvertently placed in the “city” field. Not so for free-form connect-the-dots environments where you can type in any word or set of words and find all occurrences of these across an entire space that may include data consolidated from several seemingly unrelated “entities”.
Effectiveness and Efficiency
There are many dimensions to managing a business.
Case provides one-stop flexibility in the area of providing orchestration/governance (read guidelines/ guardrails) for any mix of structured and unstructured work.
Add interoperability and we have the ability for specialists to add value via specialty methodologies that have a focus on elimination of waste, optimization of ordering/stocking/distribution, etc.
Add KnowledgeBases and we have the ability to narrow the gap between operational initiative objectives and strategic objectives.
The end game is to ensure that operational initiatives are at all times supportive of strategy.