Written By: Jeff Myers and Megan Hicks
For over 30 years, REI Systems has supported government agencies as they apply complicated laws to intricate sets of facts – an activity we label Case Management. Our advice and IT services have proven successful in helping agencies to become more accurate, all while improving customer service and efficiency. REI’s mission is to help our clients achieve better target outcomes, such as improved health, safety, and economic growth, while also building a reputation for effective management of their resources.
What is Case Management?
If your organization gathers fact sets, and applies law, regulation or policy to those facts, then you are managing a “case” for each set of facts. Typically, these facts relate to an individual or entity seeking something valuable from your agency – such as an immigration benefit, disaster recovery assistance, a patent or trademark, or a loan guarantee. In some instances, the person involved with those facts may want to avoid interacting with the government, such as a criminal, or a non-compliant taxpayer.
By thinking about each of those examples as a case management challenge, a government agency can explore and learn lessons and adapt best-practices adopted by other organizations (both commercial and public sector) who also apply complicated laws and rules to intricate fact sets. A few examples of government case management activities include:
- Immigration benefits – naturalization decisions, and fraud detection
- Food & drug compliance – drug approval, and food inspection
- Tax administration – tax return processing, and determination of tax exempt status
- Law enforcement – criminal investigation/prosecution, and response to FOIA requests
- Human services – healthcare finance, and social work
- Economic development and intellectual property – business loan guarantees, and patent/trademark application review and approval
- Financial regulation and economic stability – applications for bank charter, and deposit insurance customer management
- Environmental protection – environmental impact assessment, and permit issuance
- Safety & security – review/approve applications to import goods, and flood insurance underwriting and claims management
Nearly every government agency applies complicated laws to intricate facts. REI Systems’ focus is to help those agencies improve their practices, become more efficient, and ultimately provide better outcomes for those they serve.
How Should Case Management Work?
REI’s experience across a wide range of Case Management activities has found a substantial commonality in the process flow, as illustrated in the diagram below. The process starts at the top, with each row representing a major step, beginning with “Plan” and continuing to “Post Implementation Processes.” Not every agency will use all of the subordinate steps, but there can be great value in a discussion around whether an agency should take each step, as well as how the step is conducted.
REI Systems finds that our discussions with an agency on each of the topics in a cell from the above illustration can produce tremendous value and insight – particularly as we share our experience with how the best performing agencies carry out a particular step.
What are Common Case Management Challenges?
Many agencies that carry out Case Management roles, using a tailored set of the steps above, face challenges similar to those that have been addressed by other agencies. REI’s experience has found that the following are the most frequent types of challenges:
- Changes in law, regulation or customer expectations call for changes to case management processes and software. However, modifying staff habits and legacy applications/technologies to meet evolving needs can be slow and challenging. As a result, staff may create manual “work-arounds” using paper, fax, MS Excel, email, and other tools. Unfortunately, these manual work-around processes and systems tend to be error-prone and inefficient.
- Different pieces of data are gathered and stored using separate systems that do not communicate with each other. This issue is compounded as a process evolves over time, and as multiple systems are brought together to carry out additional functions that may be added to an overall process. The multiple sources for data and “truth” make it difficult to see a complete picture of the situation and make the best decision;
- Staff workloads are difficult to manage because systems focus on managing case outputs, not resource inputs, making it difficult to allocate staff effectively and efficiently, leading to potential burnout and decreased productivity.
- Case management processes and systems are designed for the agency’s convenience, not that of the user or customer. This is because most processes and systems grow to support different parts of the agency’s perspective and its evolving roles over time. As a result, these processes and systems can become contradictory or conflicting, poorly integrated, and ultimately inefficient – and particularly challenging to customers because they have been developed from an agency-centric perspective rather than one that is user-centric.
- Agencies that have developed their processes and applications to carry out their responsibilities rarely consider potential risks and attacks they may face. Since many aging processes and systems did not take security concerns into account as they evolved, they are vulnerable to hacking, ransomware, and reputational risk. In some cases, such as systems used to manage the review of imported goods, or to manage criminal prosecutions, hackers may have a direct interest in attacking the system. This makes aging technology and insecure architecture a significant and serious risk for agencies to manage.
Fortunately, regardless of which specific situation an agency faces, a modern case management solution can avoid many of the challenges outlined above. Additionally, modern case management systems can be designed with user-centric principles in mind, making them more accessible and less burdensome for customers. This, in turn, can lead to higher levels of satisfaction and trust in government agencies. For those reasons, investing in modern technologies and architectures is critical to achieving success in case management and meeting the evolving needs of government agencies and their clients alike.
What can Modern IT Contribute to Case Management Success?
REI Systems has found that a case management system built using modern technology can address most or all of the challenges and pain points noted above. Here is how:
- Micro services and Agile development make it easier for case management systems to easily be adapted to accommodate changes in law or regulation. By breaking down systems into smaller parts, agencies can replace or modify only the necessary components, rather than having to replace the entire system at great expense. This approach offers greater flexibility and cost savings, allowing agencies to adapt more quickly to changing needs without having to overhaul their entire IT infrastructure.
- A user-centric design can help facilitate self-service, and improve compliance with laws, regulations, and policies. By simplifying systems and processes, and making them more accessible, agencies can reduce errors, improve productivity, and enhance customer satisfaction. Additionally, a user-centric approach can foster greater collaboration between agencies and customers, leading to better mission outcomes.
- Integrating or sharing data across multiple applications and agencies can dramatically improve knowledge gained, giving the agency a greater ability to extract value from data, and act on it. For example, such integration can help agencies collaborate to better target compliance and enforcement efforts, resulting in improved outcomes.
- Custom features such as staff workload planning and work allocation can allow agencies to significantly improve productivity, resilience, and overall capacity.
- Migration to cloud-based platforms can bring about multiple benefits for an agency. This includes reducing operating costs, increasing security, improving the agency’s ability to operate effectively and responsively across multiple geographies, and ensuring consistent and timely upgrades/patches to software, operating systems, and platforms.
REI’s broad experience with case management technologies across multiple sectors of government, can offer exactly the sort of value that court administrators and law enforcement managers need. To learn more, contact CaseManagement@reisystems.com.
About the authors:
Jeff Myers is a Senior Director at REI Systems with over 30 years of experience helping government agencies to improve their performance.
Megan Hicks is a Director at REI Systems who designs and manages large-scale application modernization efforts for federal government agencies.