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Case Management and Knowledge Management

Originally published February 13, 2007

Case management and knowledge management walk hand in hand. It has always seemed to me that the business of the business in most enterprises can be subsumed into two tightly coupled environments: case management and knowledge management. Think of a case as the collection of relevant interrelated transactions required to resolve a specific situation usually involving a person, organization or thing. Hence, a case may be a defined event such as a sale, a consumer complaint, a mortgage application, a clinical episode, or an insurance claim. Using this definition, cases can be worked on at an insurance company, a hospital, or a bank. These tend to be top of mind when we think about cases. We understand perfectly when the nurse says, “The doctor is working on a very difficult case.” Or when the agent on the phone explains that: “We are going to assign an adjuster to handle your case.” However, it is Sherlock Holmes cracking cases open that often starts to frame in our mind the inner working of what we call a case, since almost every case entails a collection of facts, an investigation of the evidence, a weeding out of the irrelevant information, decisions made on approaches to follow, hypotheses to be tested, and the like. It sounds a lot like analysis based on the business intelligence gathered. 

Most of the examples we have used come from the private sector, but it is the public sector that has to handle some of the most challenging types of cases. For example, it is the Consular Affairs organization within the State Department that is entrusted with the issuing of visas to foreign applicants. Every one of these requests is a specific case which starts with the application of an individual to enter the United States and then is investigated until the visa is either finally granted or denied. There are many specific components to this process: the individual has to fill out an application consisting of one or more forms; the type of visit planned must be stated (i.e., tourist, work, study); eligibility must be established (i.e., nationality, age, financial means); potential “disqualifiers” must be investigated (i.e., criminal record, membership in terrorist organizations, likelihood to violate the terms of stay). These are just some of the steps involved, and some of them can take an inordinate amount of time. Think just of what it often takes to vet the actual documentation required by certain visa applications. The consular officer will need to determine whether the high school diploma she is examining is real or fake, whether it is from an accredited high school or not. Or he may have to establish whether the bank statement presented is solid enough to guarantee financial solvency during their stay in the U.S.  

How about a Parole Board deciding whether to grant a parole or not? Or a Family Court hearing a child custody case? Or an immigration agent considering an application for U.S. citizenship? Or a Housing Board deciding on a specific application for subsidized rent? All these are specific examples of government agencies – some federal, some state and some local – engaged in the process of investigating the necessary aspects of a situation in order to resolve it – to make a decision on its status. 

If these are the prototype cases that frame the term in our minds, what then is case management? We can begin to think about case management as a methodic approach to resolve cases; and of most relevance to us, of course, is the concept of an automated encapsulation of this approach in the form of a case management system. There are many case management systems available these days, some generic and some very specialized to address the specific business requirements of an organization.  

But in almost all cases, the enterprise benefits significantly if it is able to link its case management system to a knowledge management environment. The reason starts to become evident as one starts to look at how cases are resolved or adjudicated. Almost always, the agent entrusted with the case has to be able to consult other sources of information to check and corroborate specific data. Whether it’s the Housing Board agent determining eligibility based on salary, the consular officer searching for potentially negative affiliations, or the physician exploring allergies or other complications based on a patient’s medical record, there is the need to analyze and investigate.  

Furthermore, it is only by doing analysis on the historical repository of cases that we will be able to identify patterns that will allow us to establish new policies or enhanced processes for improved performance. Identifying significant patterns of fraud tied to ineligibility of benefits in welfare or housing can be very useful in changing processes or requiring different information for authentication. Having solid statistics on source for visa requests, by country, type of entry and specific consulate can assist the State Department in their visa issuance process. Being able to trace effectively the history of a specific firearm and of the individual who is buying it can be a solid assist to possible crime prevention. 

So when you think about case management systems in government to help solve the business of the business, don’t forget to also think of a knowledge management environment to buttress and enhance it.

  • Dr. Ramon BarquinDr. Ramon Barquin

    Dr. Barquin is the President of Barquin International, a consulting firm, since 1994. He specializes in developing information systems strategies, particularly data warehousing, customer relationship management, business intelligence and knowledge management, for public and private sector enterprises. He has consulted for the U.S. Military, many government agencies and international governments and corporations.

    He had a long career in IBM with over 20 years covering both technical assignments and corporate management, including overseas postings and responsibilities. Afterwards he served as president of the Washington Consulting Group, where he had direct oversight for major U.S. Federal Government contracts.

    Dr. Barquin was elected a National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) Fellow in 2012. He serves on the Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee; is a Board Member of the Center for Internet Security and a member of the Steering Committee for the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council’s (ACT-IAC) Quadrennial Government Technology Review Committee. He was also the co-founder and first president of The Data Warehousing Institute, and president of the Computer Ethics Institute. His PhD is from MIT. 

    Dr. Barquin can be reached at rbarquin@barquin.com.

    Editor's note: More articles from Dr. Barquin are available in the BeyeNETWORK's Government Channel


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