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Cutting Through the Jargon: Simplifying Automation Technology for Government

Government Technology


Chris Johnson

Read Time: 3 minutes
Many agencies know there are better ways to leverage automation technology but are often overwhelmed or turned off by buzz words, rhetoric and technology jargon. As I hear this a lot, I wanted to take a few minutes to explain the business process automation platforms into two primary categories: workflow and case management. Hopefully this will simplify how and when to consider each.

Let’s get started.

case-management-workflow-software-diagram-2Every operational process falls in an automation spectrum ranging from very predictable on one side to wildly variable on the other. The use of workflow automation versus case management generally follows this same spectrum.

When should I consider workflow?

Workflow is a great solution for processes that are highly repeatable.  These usually require a trained or skilled worker, but not necessarily a knowledge worker.

Workflow is ideal when:

  • Outcomes are predictable and rules driven
  • Transactions are self-contained, without external relationships
  • Information is needed as a document of record
  • Data is being captured to initiate a process

Workflow is ideal for processes like:

  • Applications
  • Information requests
  • Approvals
  • Appeals submissions
  • Public records requests

When should I consider case management?

Case management, or technically dynamic case management (DCM), is best used alone when there is no way to consistently predict the steps taken to move something through a process, or the solution is so varied that there is no definable process. Since there is no defined process, you need human oversight, or a knowledge worker, to keep the process moving. This is why case management is also considered an “information management” solution.

Case management is ideal when requirements include:

  • Interactions between people, not documents
  • Managing complex data requirements
  • Outcomes that are not predefined and are determined by the user
  • Users viewing related information, documents, tasks, etc.
  • Regular data updates and new data relationships are needed
  • Real-time data, reports and dashboards

Case management is ideal for solutions like:

  • Complaints management
  • FOIA requests
  • Compliance tracking
  • Human Services program integrity
  • Library Information Management System (LIMS)
  • Vendor management
  • Contract management
  • Incident resolution

When should I consider both?

A mix of workflow and case management technology can be used in the middle of the spectrum above where there is some level of predictability, as well as, some level of variety. If the process has parts that can be defined and predicted, there are likely sub-processes or tasks that may need to fill some gaps.  That’s how workflow and case management come together to form one solution. This diagram uses a Complaint Management System as an example of a hybrid workflow and case management solution:


Workflow and case management combined are ideal when the current solution’s requirements include:

  • Shared spreadsheets that are limited with single users, version control and audit trails
  • Email inboxes and network fileshares that are not integrated with core systems
  • Complex electronic forms and traditional workflow tools
  • Checklists, paper forms and manual routing
  • Legacy databases and custom application including Access, Lotus Notes and Sharepoint
  • Homegrown departmental solutions
Hopefully this summary has helped to get you better grasp automation technology lingo and gets you thinking about the possibilities that lie ahead for your organization. If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts! Please leave comments to keep the conversation going and let me know other examples where workflow and case management technologies may be a great solution.  

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