Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mastering the Unpredictable

This is the title of a new (2010) book I've been reading, checked out from the library of the National Center for State Courts, which I'd never done before.  Subtitled "How Adaptive Case Management Will Revolutionize the Way that Knowledge Workers Get Things Done," it is by Keith D. Swenson, with a number of other contributors, all from companies like Fujitsu America, Cordys, Singularity, ISIS Papyrus Group, Handysoft, Global 360, and ActionBase.  One other (non profit sector) contributor is John T. Matthias, who works for NCSC, and authored the chapter entitled Technology for Case Management, which describes the evolution of court case management systems and would be good background reading for a number of people I know. (He actually cites an OCA work product, our detailed functional requirements for developing child protection court case management systems, which I commend to you.  His point was that systems need to manage data in both "case-centric" and "people-centric" ways, and as an example, that we identified 21 different roles for people in child protection cases - mother, child, alleged father, CASA, caseworker, attorney, etc. - and 17 different possible relationships between people - child/parent, attorney/client, etc.)

But that subtitle caught my eye and is the reason I'm reading this book. I want to understand this whole arena much better than I do, ponder the implications for a new generation of court case management, and imagine the ultimate "adaptive case management" (ACM) system for my own "knowledge work."  As Swenson states in the Introduction, ACM means "Systems that are able to support decision making and data capture while providing the freedom for knowledge workers to apply their own understanding and subject matter expertise to respond to unique or changing circumstances within the business environment."

To give you a little more feel for where they are headed, in Chapter 5, Max Pucher proposes (p. 97) to define ACM as involving three paradigm shifts:
  1. ACM is a productive system that deploys the organization and process structure from defined architecture that through back-end interfaces becomes the system of record for the business data entities and content involved. All processes are completely transparent, as per access authorization, and fully auditable.
  2. ACM enables nontechnical business users in virtual organizations to seamlessly create/consolidate structured and unstructured processes from base predefined business entities, GUI components, content, social interactions, and business rules.
  3. ACM moves the knowledge-gathering process in the lifecycle from the template analysis phase to the process execution phase. The ACM system collects actionable knowledge-without an intermediate analysis phase-based on process patterns created by business users.
This reading is at the outer limit of my non-technical background, and not easy going, but I am learning.

In response to Keith's comment below, I did not finish the book, it was over my head in many places. I did enjoy several chapters and parts of chapters, and I know at least one of the developers in our office, Ron Clark, purchased the book and liked it.  I will be interested to look at Taming the Unpredictable, thanks for writing and for letting me know.  What I really need is some case studies of knowledge workers actually using these newer systems, something concrete.

1 comment:

  1. Carl,

    I am curious: did you finish it, and what did you think? John Matthias, from the NCSC was indeed one of the initial motivators for the book, and wrote a pivotal chapter describing what such a system would need, particularly for for running a court.

    While Mastering the Unpredictable was indeed a book aimed at technical leaders and system designers, we have followed up that book with two more that might be of interest. One is called "Social BPM" launched in June 2011. The other due to launch Sept 22, 2011, called "Taming the Unpredictable," is filled with case studies that won distinction in the Adaptive Case Management awards. You might want to keep your eye open for this last book since it contains at least one good one in the legal field.

    -Keith Swenson