Today’s government agencies have massive and important missions and a seemingly endless amount of work to accomplish. And many of them are having to accomplish these essential missions with a less-than-optimal amount of resources and employees.
From tight budgets that result in hiring freezes to a rapidly aging federal workforce that is retiring en masse, today’s agencies simply don’t have the personnel they need to handle the requirements of citizens and constituents. This means that processes and workflows need to be modernized and automated if they’re ever going to meet the demands of the ever-increasing caseloads they’re managing.
This is especially true for agencies that are responsible for financial regulation – where small staffs of government employees are responsible for licensing and overseeing the operations of more than 10,000 financial services companies – companies that are handling the wealth and financial well-being of American citizens in their hands.
To get a better idea of the case management challenges facing government agencies – and financial regulators, in particular – we recently sat down with Kyle Thomas, the industry lead for public sector financial regulators at Appian. During our discussion, we explored why case management is so complicated in the government, why it’s incredibly important for financial regulators, and what government agencies should be looking for when choosing a case management software solution.
GovDevSecOpsHub (GDSOH): Why is case management so difficult for government agencies? What about the work involved in case management creates challenges and necessitates the use of case management solutions and software?
Kyle Thomas: Much of the work that the government does falls into the category of case management. But that doesn’t mean that it’s all the same. And it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s easy. There are a number of things that make case management difficult across all levels of government – federal, state, and local. The first is volume.
Most agencies have more work than they have staff that can accomplish that work. What’s worse is that the volume of work isn’t steady – it’s cyclical. There are times during the year when work volume may be higher than others. For example, a government agency or organization may have more work volume at the beginning of the year than at the end of the year.
Most government organizations and agencies are also bound by complex rules, regulations, and established processes. The strict rules, regulations, and policies that government employees are required to follow add complexity to otherwise straightforward processes. There are numerous boxes that need to be checked, which makes workflows more complex and convoluted as cases make their way through the agency.
“There is no limit to the number of workflows and processes within the government that require case management.” – Kyle Thomas
Since agency leaders are often appointed, new administrations will often result in new leadership in government agencies – this is especially true at the federal level. This means that the rules, regulations, and processes that apply to case workflows and case management are often changing and shifting. Any time there is a change in leadership – or new policies or legislation – a previously well-worn path suddenly changes, and the agency needs to retool to meet those changes.
GDSOH: What are some of the different types of agencies and different use cases that require case management across the government?
Kyle Thomas: If you look across the government, you’ll quickly realize that practically every agency needs case management. Each time an agency interacts with constituents, each acquisition process that it begins, and every regulatory action that it undertakes results in the creation of a case. The examples are almost limitless.
Every time that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has to issue a permit for the use of government-owned land and assets creates a new case. Every land leasing program that requires oversight, approval, denial, or public comment results in the creation of a case. And those cases all require case management.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is another excellent example. The SBA works with local lenders to issue government-backed loans to help facilitate the establishment of small, local businesses. Each of those loan applications creates a case and there are government workers that take that case, analyze it, approve it, or deny it. That all requires case management.
“Considering that many government agencies are short-staffed, they’re constantly being asked to do more with less. They simply can’t keep up with the regulatory burden that is created by tens of thousands of financial services companies.” – Kyle Thomas
Every time the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) receives a whistleblower tip that it has to investigate – if there is fraud, waste, or abuse to investigate – results in the creation of a case. Each new drug that pharmaceutical companies try to get approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) creates a new case.
I personally have experience working with the financial services industry, and I can speak from experience that the oversight and the work of financial regulators very much involves case management. Every new financial services company requires a license or charter if they want to operate. Each time a new company applies for that license or charter, a new case is created that needs to be managed.
All of these examples are external-facing – processes or workflows that result from citizens applying for services or investigations that are started. But there are also internal processes that require case management. Employee recruitment and onboarding can be considered a case. Vendor or contractor onboarding can create cases that need to be managed. There is no limit to the number of workflows and processes within the government that require case management.
GDSOH: Why would financial regulators require case management solutions and software? What work or processes are they responsible for that make these solutions necessary?
Kyle Thomas: The financial services industry is by far one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. Much of that oversight falls on state and federal regulators, and many of the cases that regulators handle can be exceptionally complex and complicated.
I talked about how new financial services companies create cases that need to be managed when they apply for licenses or charters to operate. But there are also cases that are created during the ongoing regulation and monitoring of financial services companies.
Let’s say you own a mortgage company – there are strict rules and regulations that your company needs to be in compliance with if it’s going to continue to operate. There are teams of government regulators that undergo weeks-long or even months-long oversight responsibilities to ensure that the company is compliant. Every process and procedure that is involved in that work – making sure that the mortgage company is in compliance with applicable rules and regulations – requires case management.
And the sheer number of these cases is staggering. There are more than 4,000 banks in this country, alone. Combined, there are tens of thousands of financial services companies. All of these companies are regulated by state and federal government agencies. With so many companies to oversee, the old way of doing case management – with paper and spreadsheets – simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
“The information that these companies and government agencies have access to can move markets. This makes it a tempting target for malicious actors.” – Kyle Thomas
Considering that many government agencies are short-staffed, they’re constantly being asked to do more with less. They simply can’t keep up with the regulatory burden that is created by tens of thousands of financial services companies. There’s a real need for automation in this space. But we can only automate processes if these cases are modernized and digitized.
GDSOH: How could case management software improve outcomes for financial regulators? What benefits would this have for the government and the country, as a whole?
Kyle Thomas: Employing effective case management software provides a rare opportunity for a win-win-win for all parties involved.
As these processes are modernized, digitized, and automated using applications such as Appian’s case management application, government agencies become more effective and efficient. These next-generation case management solutions leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to move tasks through the established process or workflow more quickly. That is a win for the government.
On the private sector side, having a more predictable set of regulatory processes and automated workflows makes government compliance and reporting easier and less time-consuming. This means that companies can focus on creating new products and solutions for consumers, and less time interacting with government regulators.
Consumers will also benefit from a financial services industry that is healthier and more predictable. As regulation becomes more efficient and less cumbersome, financial services companies will focus on better serving their customers. Ultimately, everyone wins by modernizing case management and bringing it into the modern era.
GDSOH: What should a government agency be looking for in a case management solution? Are there specific capabilities or functionality that would be needed for financial regulators, in particular?
Kyle Thomas: I think of three things or attributes that they should be looking for – flexibility, speed, and security.
Flexibility is important, and one of the reasons why government agencies in the financial services space should not settle for canned commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions. Their workflows are just too complex, and a canned COTS solution will need to be bent and contorted in ways that are uncomfortable to deliver the full suite of capabilities that these agencies need.
“Most agencies have more work than they have staff that can accomplish that work.” – Kyle Thomas
They also need flexibility because – as we discussed – case management workflows will frequently shift and change in the government. Case management solutions need to be flexible to accommodate these changes.
Speed is important because agencies need to modernize their case management processes and workflows as quickly as possible. They are already facing massive caseloads with too few resources. Modernization and automation are essential if they’re going to keep up. Also, speed is important for ensuring that any workflow changes that result from changes in legislation or leadership can be accommodated quickly and efficiently.
Finally, they need to think about security. While security is essential for every company and government agency in today’s world, it’s paramount in the financial services industry. The information that these companies and government agencies have access to can move markets. This makes it a tempting target for malicious actors. Case management solutions need to be secure to keep that data safe from the malicious actors that would work to access it. This is why Appian always develops its solutions with security as a primary consideration and not an afterthought.
To learn more, click HERE to watch the on-demand Webinar, “How AI and automation solve the greatest challenges in case management.”