Experts at industry analyst and market consulting firm Cambashi contribute a regular blog for TM titled Silos Changing exploring how new software applications enable manufacturers to implement business initiatives for the new economy.
For more than 20 years, industry has improved its efficiency by using document management solutions in combination with other enterprise applications. The automation of workflow and replacement of paper filing systems with viewing all the documents on-screen reduces costs. For most transactions, ‘best practice’ workflows were adopted that improved customer satisfaction with quicker decision making.
Mostly, this work was handled in call centres, by staff trained but with little domain expertise.
However, this approach tended to be too rigid. There are always exceptional cases, particularly when dealing with customers. Applying business process management to all these cases would be prohibitively expensive. When flexibility is needed, humans are better than machines.
In response, document management solutions evolved to provide ‘dynamic case management’.
This suits low volume, more complex situations. A folder on the case is built up containing all the relevant documents identifying colleagues with expertise, precedents, all pulled from a variety of sources including business intelligence systems.
In recent years, this extended to mining the internet for social analytics. This case folder is then handled by experienced knowledge workers. They have much more flexibility than call centre workers and authority to make decisions.
The case management system prompts them to be pro-active to resolve the case. The folder becomes a record of the decisions made.
Dynamic case management is built for continuous change. As the repository of past case folders builds up they can be analysed to extract patterns. Solutions can use past cases to predict the probable outcomes of decisions and gradually the quality of the decisions improves.
Until now, dynamic case management has mostly been used by the financial services industry where regulatory requirements are high. However, there is great scope to apply the technique to manufacturers to improve their response to service requests and adverse customer experiences.
One issue for assemble or make to order manufacturers’ sales teams is how they manage responses to requests for proposals.
When the order is for a large and complex machine, the bid process is time consuming and expensive. A small increase in success rate has a large impact on profitability. Yet the resource to work on complex bids is often quite constrained.
Dynamic case management can improve effectiveness and efficiency of a complex bidding process. Each bid is managed as a case. The case folder contains the bid project plan; records of all interactions, including Skype calls; engineering drawings; working documents; as well as the final sales proposal and customer response. Bid effectiveness is improved because all communications are visible to the entire bid team. Efficiency is improved because the archive of past bids can be analysed to understand what worked and what did not work.
IBM is a market leader in dynamic case management. Dave Caldeira, director for IBM Case Manager, thinks there has been an inflexion point. “Manufacturers will have to do more with less but customer expectations have heightened and social media chatter multiplies any negative customer experience,” he claimed. “IBM Case Manager supports knowledge workers by providing a template of options that links people, processes and information. It lets users select the work steps at run-time and share expertise.”
The dynamic case management approach has many potential applications for manufacturers: warranty claims; dealing with their supply chains; dispute resolution; parts aftermarket; regulatory compliance; managing investment projects. It can be used anywhere in a manufacturer where you see people and paper.
However, the language used by most of the enterprise content management companies is resolutely focused on finance, government and commerce rather than manufacturing. To generate take up from manufacturers they will need to rephrase the messages in their marketing materials.
In future blogs, we will go on to write about business initiatives that respond to consumer and business demand for smart products and devices.