eCases III – the UI makes or breaks it

We saw in eCases II how eCases can       UserInterface
improve decision making in respect
of individual interventions at Cases.

eCases III highlights the importance
of a good User Interface (UI) for
ongoing Case management.

Success with Case begins and ends
with the UI.

The purpose of each intervention at an eCase is to advance the state of a Case toward meeting its objectives.

The ultimate objective, of course, is to close the Case but in today’s fast moving business environment we no longer have end-to-end workflows that conveniently merge to a single end objective.

Most of the easy workflows have been dealt with and what remains are workflows where there is a mix of unstructured work and structured work. It follows that we need an environment with a User Interface (UI) where workers can engage processing for tasks that have been posted by background BPM and engage processing for ad hoc tasks posted by workers themselves, their colleagues and supervisors. If the environment makes work easier, there is less resistance to its use. Staff gets on board and stays on board.

The nature of the work we all perform

Every day, all of us, as we arrive at work, start off the day by taking note of our fixed-time appointments. In between these we attend to items on our to-do list.

The mix of to-do list items ranges from short duration items that can be immediately completed, to long-term initiatives that span days/weeks/months.

We reach that conclusion that the only requirement in terms of a high level User Interface is to have a split screen, with a calendar on one side and a to-do list on the other.

Here are some basic requirements of workflow management User Interfaces.

1)      The UI must provide the flexibility to accommodate easy access to “process fragment” templates, an easy way to generate instances of such templates plus facilities for generating ad hoc steps (i.e. processes of one step each).

2)      The UI must accommodate micro scheduling of to-do tasks.  Some workers like to start their day clearing up a few small tasks before tackling long-term initiatives whereas others prefer to make some progress on one or more long-term initiatives and then “take a break” by attending to a few small tasks.

The disadvantage of only attending to short duration  to-do list items is that the worker gets into a fire fighting mode where longer-term initiatives never receive attention.  The disadvantage only attending to longer-term initiatives is that the worker faces an accumulation of short term tasks resulting in timeline extensions for projects where completion of one task constrains the start of other tasks.

Leave it up to supervisors to level and balance task load across users based on customer priorities.

3)      The UI must also provide easy access to instructions, forms/certificates and Case Histories in order to facilitate performance of tasks.  This avoids the need to look up instructions and to search for forms and certificates.  In any workflow it becomes important that data collected at tasks be capable of “traveling” along instances of the workflow to avoid the need to re-key information.  The usual method of indexing tasks is “Record \Workflow\Workflow Instance\Task” where “Record” might be a customer in a manufacturing application or a patient in a healthcare application.

“Workflow Instance” typically is not a reference to an end-to-end BPM workflow but rather a generic tag at the eCase that allows threading together of BPM process fragments plus ad hoc tasks.

An example of a “Workflow Instance” might be one jet engine out of an order for a quantity of, say, eight.  In healthcare, one patient Workflow Instance might be sequence of interventions relating to orthopedics whereas another might be a sequence of interventions relating to mental health, both for the same patient.

4)      The UI must provide options for collaboration with peers, supervisors and domain experts at points of service. Questions/responses must find their way into Cases. Many ordinary e-mail systems do not integrate well with Case environments whereas internal messaging at Records\Workflows\Workflow Instances\Tasks allows questions/discussions and responses to be automatically appended to Case Histories.

5)      The UI must accommodate “permanent” objects (e.g. a Figure of Merit spreadsheet) at Cases to allow workers to report progress toward Case objectives. Most Cases have multiple objectives, some of which are more important or of higher priority than others with no real need to complete all objectives at a Case before closing the Case.

6)      Intervention/task activity must automatically record to Case Histories with no provision for selective recording to Case Histories.

7)      Organizations that want to make effective use of Case must shift to a “no verbal orders” culture.

Workflow management UIs are the key to sustainability of “best practices” within any organization.

In the absence of a workflow management environment that provides orchestration, governance and interoperability, it is difficult to get staff on board and difficult to prevent staff from reverting to old ways.

When staff is able to gain access to workflow management functions within a Case environment, productivity increases, throughput increases, errors decrease, compliance with internal and external rules/regulations increases all of which contribute to improved outcomes.

Related posts:

eCases, the final frontier for workflow management?

eCases II  Look before you leap!

eCases III  the UI makes or breaks it

eCases IV – Interoperability


Adaptive Case Management – the widening picture


Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, major crimes case management, healthcare services delivery, and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2020 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions. Number of accessing countries 2010-2020/2/15 : 154
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