Should you be using CiviCases?
Should you be using cases for workflow management, even if your nonprofit is small? And specifically, should you, as a CiviCRM user, be making use of the CiviCase extension to follow through on typical processes in your organization?
When it comes to covering your bases in new-client management or in collaborative efforts, you need structure. You need a process that will keep you on track. And you need a process that your team can follow. This is true whether you are using your CRM to manage healthcare cases, legal cases, grant funding, or even volunteer onboarding.
Yes, some of these things could be tracked simply via activities logged to a contact’s record. But as soon as you have a specific workflow for a process (even if it’s a loosely defined process), we suggest you consider automating that workflow in CiviCases.
What are the benefits of using case management?
A case gives a cohesive view of multiple activities, often enacted by multiple team members over a period of time. Collecting all that data in one place along a specified timeline and overseen by a specified case manager results in an orderly process and an official record.
Here are the components of the CiviCases advantage broken down:
A case manager can define a specific or general workflow for her team to follow using the CiviCases structure. Once that’s in place, the team not only knows what the routine is, but also is reminded of each specific task in the order it’s to be done. Because of that structure and the automated reminders based on your timeline, a manager can be assured that each case is handled appropriately without hovering.
Or, if in fact the case manager handles all cases herself, she can be sure, using her automated flow, that she doesn’t let anything fall through the cracks.
It’s all about processes. It might be volunteers asked to help with convention setup (if that’s something you do a lot of). Or it might be the process you follow in admitting a patient. Or procedures for reaching out to foundations for grants. We want something defined and repeatable, and that’s the kind of structure that CiviCases can give.
But it’s more than just having a routine series of activities defined in a certain order. CiviCases is also a good fit for teamwork. Once a case has been opened, multiple people can be assigned roles on the case. As the case progresses, each of the team players can see updates and status as well as do their own part in moving the case forward.
Finally, with CiviCases a complete collection of all communications, forms, process documents, and any other supporting documentation is filed in one place to create a cohesive record. This can be crucial as a reference point for history or for auditing.
How should you get started with CiviCases?
If you had a lightbulb moment as you glanced over some of the advantages we just mentioned, and you’re thinking of a good use for CiviCases but you don’t know how to get started, here’s the how-to tutorial.
Or, if you prefer, let us do the backend setup, and you won’t need to worry about more than the day-to-day usage.
Enable the Extension
First, make sure Cases is enabled. Though it comes as default with CiviCRM, it’s one of those components that needs to be turned on manually.
Go to Administer > System Settings > Components and enable it.
Now it’s time to take a look at your checklist or spreadsheet and start planning. List out the general steps you will follow. (Notice that if there are additional activities mid-process that don’t happen in every scenario, those things can be added to the case as you go. This is just for the items that tend to happen in every case.) Also, think about which of your team members will be playing a part in these cases and what “roles” they fill. Lastly, consider the statuses you’ll need to implement for each case. In Progress, Paused, Urgent, Closed, etc.
Set Up Workflow
And now you’re ready to construct your workflow. (Note that these screenshots are taken on a soon-to-be-released version of CiviCase and the already released Shoreditch theme.)
One: Go to Administer > CiviCase > Case Types, and we’ll designate your first type of workflow there.
There are two sample cases entered here by default. You can choose to edit one of these to make it your own, or you can click the New Case Type button and start from scratch.
- Give this kind of case a title, and the system auto-creates the code name.
- If needed, describe this case type.
- By default, this is enabled, but if you ever stop using this scenario, you can come back in here and uncheck that button.
- And already the first tab is open, allowing you to decide what roles you want for this case. (I’ve decided that I will generally need one type of person to work on these cases. And I’ve called them the Case Coordinator. Whoever opens the case will be the coordinator by default. Also, they will be the case manager.)
Two: Next we can go to the Case Statuses tab and review the default statuses.
- If you decide you want additional statuses, select New Status.
- Give it a label. And a description, if you want.
- Select any other criteria you think will be helpful.
- The Status Class is “Opened” for most activities. But if this status indicates the case is closed, set that to “Closed” here.
- If you want this status to be the automatic label for these cases, be sure to checkmark that box.
Three: You’ll want to set up the types of activities you usually perform for this kind of case.
A number of common activities are entered here by default. For these you can:
- Set a maximum number of times this activity may be used in a single case. (I leave most blank, as who knows how many emails or phone calls I might make?)
- You can delete any that you’re sure you won’t be using.
- And if there are activities you want to include that aren’t listed here, add some more.
Four: And, finally, you’re ready to set up your typical timeline.
(For this screenshot, I’m going to use the current CiviCase/non-Shoreditch theme, since that’s where I have a complete timeline set up.)
- Start with the “Open Case” activity. This is always triggered when you open a fresh case.
- Choose the Status for when this activity is triggered. (I have chosen complete for “Open Case” because this activity is a no-brainer. Obviously, if you start a case, you’ve remembered to open it, and it doesn’t need to be on the schedule as a reminder to anyone.)
- Assign a Reference. This tells the computer when the activity should be triggered. I want the first activity to be triggered when I open the case. And the next activity “Research” to be triggered once “Open Case” is complete.
- Determine your Offset. If you enter a number here, it tells the computer how long to wait after triggering this activity before it triggers the next one. I want to have 14 days to do research before the computer reminds me to reach out to a colleague from the foundation I’ve been researching.
- As a case progresses, the tasks can be arranged so that the next upcoming task is always at the top of the page, with completed tasks below, or visa versa. Set that preference here.
Your administrative case setup is complete, so be sure to Save!
Now you and whoever else you have chosen will be able to use this workflow on a day-to-day basis by going to Cases > Dashboard. Here you can manage current cases or open a new case. (These screenshots are of the current CiviCase dashboard, since that’s what you will probably be using until CiviCase 5.0 is released.)
When you add a case, you’ll need to enter some information about it.
As usual, required fields are starred. The Activity Medium is non-essential, but if a case is opened due to a specific means, that can be set here.
And now that the case is saved, I will be able to manage it from my dashboard.
- Notice that you can toggle between your own cases and all cases.
- At the top, you’ll see any cases with upcoming tasks you should be attending to. And underneath are the cases you have recently completed tasks on.
- Manage the case, delete it, or assign it to someone else.
Managing case workflow is 99 percent of CiviCases, so here’s an overview of case management.
- Here you can edit the summary data of the case. (When the case is closed, you can edit the Status to “Closed” here.)
- Make additions, corrections, or reports.
- Edit or add more people involved in the case (either someone playing a role in the progression of the case or additional subjects of the case).
- Work on the next activity in the case by clicking Edit. (Notice that activities are listed with the final activity at the top. For me, I prefer the opposite, so just hit the Date column to re-order.)
Here’s some of what you might see as you work on the next activity.
- The information at the top is mostly preset but can be adjusted here.
- The various dropdowns give space for categories of information you can add.
- The center of the screen is reserved for the basic details of the case.
- If the activity is still in progress and you’re just adding notes, the status should reflect that. But be sure to mark it as Complete once this activity is done.
Do you use CiviCases? Let us know if you have additional helpful pointers. Or feel free to reach out if there are areas you need us to troubleshoot.