Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Case For Cases

Last year, the data produced in the world would fill DVD stack reaching from the Earth to moon and back. And it's growing exponentially. What does that mean for the enterprise? Piles of data do not always result in more information. On the contrary.

Especially for people performing knowledge work, it means it becomes harder to sift through vast amounts of information sources and share the right information with the appropriate people. It's not only time consuming, it's also risky. Tweets, Google+, Facebook, Blogs and Press articles are abundant and have typically a low signal-to-noise ratio. On top of that employees have to keep track of what's happening in their CRM, document management and many other enterprise systems. This means a greater exposure to loads of data that becomes on average less relevant. Procrastination never had an easier job looking for susceptible victims.

A case management solution is a fancy word for a system to share and discuss important topics in an business environment.  It's function is to bring people together on topics like eg introducing a new sales strategy or an important customer that may cancel a big order.  A case is the most efficient instrument to share related documents, links and tasks for topics like that.  In other words, a case is a social collaboration space for a specific topic.

To some extend, the scope of a case could be compared with an email discussion thread.  Before you bring it on, let me explain why that is a problem.  Email is ubiquitous and serves its purpose as the least common denominator for communication.  But using email has major drawbacks when used as the tool of collaboration.  First, you have to assume that people always hit Reply-All.  Reading a conversation where some people answer inline, some answer on top and some at the bottom is a challenge to say the least.  Searching the latest version of an attachment in a conversation is hard and error prone.  Involving someone later in an email discussion is hopeless as not everyone includes the whole discussion thread.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying cases should replace email threads.  People will continue to leverage email as a unified inbox for the foreseeable future.  But cases provide a much better structure for information that is currently buried in the emails themselves.  I think we will see a shift towards email being the unified notification inbox and the content will be stored in dedicated systems like case management systems.

For organizations larger then 10 people, it's a matter of professionalism to equip employees with a case management system.  It's the way to share relevant information in chaotic world with loads of noise and only a bit of signal.  People will be better informed and collaborating becomes simpler.  These improvements in the internal organization already justify adopting a case management system.  The bonus comes from collaborations with external business partners like prospects, clients and suppliers.  The advantages are just the same in this situation, and on top you show a professional approach to doing business.
Regrettably, not all solutions use the term case for this concept.  Some solutions call it a task and others invent a new name.  But it should be clear that every organization deserves a solution for social collaboration and case management is a crucial aspect of that.