Risk Management

Adaptive Case Management 101 – What it is and Why Your Business Needs it

There are many methods to manage the human-driven daily processes that most businesses depend on. These tasks, which may have best practices but are performed in different ways depending on who is involved, make up 60 to 80 percent or more of work done within any company. Employees will likely manage these tasks on their own using e-mail, Microsoft Office applications, paper, or verbal updates. Managers cannot track business critical actions or ensure positive outcomes because none of these tools allow them to monitor the progress.

Ad-hoc tasks by their very nature defy structured solutions such as business process management. But that doesn’t mean businesses have to take the operational risks associated with unmanaged and mismanaged processes.

These adaptive case management solutions are designed specifically for unstructured processes. These include gathering information, collaboration with others and managing individual workloads. They also require the use of knowledge, judgment, and experience to make decisions. This technology is easy to use in everyday life and can be used as a standalone solution or embedded into familiar MS Office environments.

What might these day-to-day uses look like?

Unstructured human processes can create operational risk management problems in any industry. They range from strategic process risk to tactical process risk. An example of an unstructured human activity is the audit process. Audit processes are made up of many sub-tasks. Each sub-process involves negotiation and collaboration (in most cases via email and documents). For illustration purposes, let’s focus on the recommendation-tracking and follow-up sub-process.

Let’s suppose that an audit identifies a safety problem in a plant and recommends corrective actions. An auditor emailed a plant manager to alert him to the safety problem and make recommendations on how to fix it. The plant manager then delegated the task to an employee via e-mail and explained the corrective steps. Most likely, they will engage in an e-mail conversation regarding the details of the safety problem: What is it? What should be reviewed? What are the next steps for each party? The parties will probably go back and forth several times when discussing the answers. They may need to involve more people depending on the details. These exchanges are not uncommon in auditing. But, due to their ad-hoc nature and non-structured nature, the auditor (and managers) have no real visibility into problem-solving activities and are unable to manage and track the process’ entire lifecycle.

An audit is only one method that human processes can be used for regulatory compliance. New regulations and increased regulatory supervision are commonplace in today’s highly regulatory environment. Most cases, the process of handling regulations is human-centric and unstructured until an organization is familiar with them and their consequences. While the organization may eventually codify compliance management through IT support, many companies handle compliance by hand, usually via e-mail or documents.

The new breach notification provisions in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) are a recent healthcare regulation. HIPAA-covered entities must notify affected individuals, health and human service secretary, and media immediately of any breach that affects more than 500 people. This is a new regulation. One way to ensure compliance is to designate someone to be the breach-process owner. Most likely, her first action will be to send out instructions on how she should handle the breach. Sending an email to the breach-process owner is the first step in dealing with a breach. Once the problem is discovered, the company should send an e-mail to the breach-process owner. This will allow them to arrange a response. They must also ensure compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements. It is important to notify affected persons and, if necessary, the government and media. An internal investigation may be launched by the company. These steps won’t be possible without adaptive case management. They will all be done via documents and email, making it impossible for you to monitor, track, and audit compliance.

Unstructured processes can be monitored and tracked via e mail and documents. It also creates a complete record of execution. This is an important asset in case of problems and the need for an audit trail. Let’s say you have an overseas customer and need to confirm that large orders can be shipped to this country. Although the controller might have sent the sales manager an email notifying him of the request (i.e. checking with export controls), there is no way to tell if the controller actually received it.

You are not effectively managing the majority of your company’s unstructured work if you don’t have visibility to these activities. These processes must be monitored for compliance reasons. This poses a serious risk. Your regulatory and compliance processes are people-intensive tasks that start as a result an external regulation. Consider how many documents and e mails are generated by these processes. Do you know the exact process of compliance? Is your business aware of where each of your compliance processes is? These changes happen on a case by case basis. People rely on documents or e-mail to address them. IT must have the capability to monitor, track, and manage these ad-hoc acts, as they can lead to a penalty. Based on the way people work and the infrastructure of most companies, IT must be able to enhance e-mail and documents through adaptive case management.

IT was the first to tackle the simpler problem of repetitive actions that happen in the same way over and over again. These predictable tasks can be automated by business process management and similar products. Technology has improved to allow for the more complicated task of tracking and changing actions. With adaptive case management, it is possible to track ad-hoc work from start through finish. This reduces risk and improves visibility. These tasks are vital to companies in almost every industry. It is worth considering the potential cost of not managing them.


We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At Molw.net we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

Related Articles

Back to top button