The information that underlies a case typically consists of structured data and various kinds of supporting content – documents, photographs, images, and so forth. Some cases are data intensive, having few or no documents. Other cases are document centric. For example, at our company we use a Travel Application based on xCP that includes no documents, just data. On the other hand, a marketing application might very well be focused on writing, approving and publishing sales collateral. Of course the management of unstructured content is based on the notion of metadata – so we always have some level of structured data.
The information artifacts undergo changes as the case progresses. Information is consumed, entered, reviewed, and changed. Documents get written, signed, and approved. Actions are taken, like rejecting a request for summary dismissal in a hearing. These constitute the process dimension, the aspect that exists in time. The processes consist of elementary units called activities, which can be performed by people or systems. We can classify the activities as deterministic or non-deterministic. All that means is whether the activity is planned in advance at design time, or is decided dynamically, at run time. For example, a case worker may make a decision on the spot that could not be known in advance.
Needless to say, many cases require a combination of deterministic and non-deterministic activities. For example, human decision making is often hard to reduce to a simple set of rules and requires flexibility and judgment, but we want our utility processes (those processes that are performed in the background by automated systems) to be completely predictable and deterministic.
Another process-related issue relates to the modes in which people perform case activities. In some cases each performer carries out tasks as a single individual. For example, my supervisor approves my travel request. However, in some other situations it may require two or more people to work together. Perhaps two designers are collaborating on the data structure of an application. Or perhaps a committee needs to approve a proposal.
Finally, we need to consider the ending of the case. In almost all situations, it will require a decision by an authorized entity. For example, in a criminal courts case, there is a verdict – innocent or guilty. Your travel request is approved. The main difference is what happens after a case is closed. In some types of cases, the case is destroyed. In others the case is archived. Some types of cases can be restarted in the future; others cannot. Of course, if it is a requirement that the case can be restarted, then that will have implications for how we store the archived information, for security, and for retention policies.
Summary of Case Characteristics
The following diagram summarizes the discussion so far: