Appian World 2012 Keynote: The New Way We Work: Towards Adaptive Case Management

The final keynote presentation of Appian World 2012 was given by Neil Ward-Dutton from MWD Advisors. He presented “The New Way We Work: Towards Adaptive Case Management.” Ward-Dutton opened his presentation by stating that the nature of work is changing radically. There are three big challenges affecting businesses today: globalization – “connectedness” is driving sophisticated value chains; transparency – industry regulations, consumer pressure and competition are driving openness; and smart, connected markets – customers see the “online world” as the natural place to look for information and services.

Digital transformation is dissolving organizational and industry structures. More and more, value comes from what you know rather than what you own. In 1975, around 17% of the market value of the S&P 500 was attributed to “intangible assets”; by 2005 this had risen to 80%.

Adaptability in work and in software is vital. The prescriptive method was once the only game in town – but now we can do better. Supporting knowledge work needs to move past prescribed process. When making a widget, we can specify what quality looks like. Delivering quality means executing the same detailed plan repeatedly. When handling a customer complaint, the definition of quality completely changes. “Quality” is now a complex tradeoff between effort/cost and market strategy, and delivering quality possibly means doing something different every time. Ward-Dutton makes the point that in knowledge work, exceptions are the rule! Processes are not the center of gravity.

Ward-Dutton introduced the concept of Adaptive Case Management (ACM). “ACM provides a support environment for the optimal performance of knowledge work cases in line with stated goals, together with management tools that enable analysis-based improvement of work effectiveness.

In an ACM environment work is not carried out according to prescribed process definitions; instead it’s guided by teams of case workers working towards a clear goal, leveraging codified patterns of practice, and complying with rules that specify key business constraints”.

According to Ward-Dutton, mobile & social supercharge ACM’s value. Social technology breaks down barriers to connecting work participants with each other. It provides an immediate, compact engagement model for wider stakeholder groups, and allows collaborative participation on case work in context. Mobile technology breaks down barriers to connecting work participants with tasks & information. It increases the accessibility of work management, and the visibility of performance.

Customer experience management is the “hot zone.” It’s imperative to success for a number of reasons: it’s easier to do business with existing customers than get new ones; competitiveness based on price/features is increasingly unsustainable; and good and bad experiences are easier to amplify than ever. Managing the customer experience goes beyond just quality and efficiency. Customers don’t always behave in rational, predictable ways, and responsiveness is crucial to their judgement of their experience. True customer-first thinking means changing your operational posture. Instead of engineering out exceptions, embrace them.

Getting to Adaptive Case Management
Ward-Dutton presented a series of recommendations for making ACM work in practice:

  • Shape the work experience using definitions of Goals, Tools, Rules
  • Leverage social & mobile technologies to maximize opportunities to marshal resources / resolve cases at the right time, with the right context
  • Configure the work support system to audit, report on performance at the case level
  • People drive knowledge work; those people should drive change and process improvement, too – focus on facilitation
  • Facilitate regular analysis / optimization exercises to uncover opportunities to improve Tools and Rules

Ward-Dutton presented a compelling case for making the shift to adaptive case management. Will it become part of your business strategy?