**Author’s Warning: This article is lengthy, over 1,600 words total. It’s intended to thoroughly outline NAFCM’s rationale in supporting Mediate.com’s new ADR Case Manager, especially in light of alternatives. If you’re interested in learning our decisionmaking criteria and process, please assume a relaxed position, grab a drink, and read on.**
Making a shift to a new case management system is a substantial decision for any community mediation center. Being confident you’re upgrading to the best system is key for every center executive. In that vein, you’ve asked some very important, methodical questions. Thank you for asking them and for providing another opportunity for NAFCM to detail its rationale.
Over the past fifteen years NAFCM has developed a history of tracking, reviewing, and, in one prior instance, even promoting case management systems. We do this because it is important to learn which resources best enhance community mediation programs’ ability to serve their communities. When we identify standout resources, especially those capable of wide scale adoption, we do our best to raise awareness and encourage an informed integration of such resources. In this instance, Mediate.com’s ADR Case Manager is a standout resource for community mediation centers.
How did NAFCM arrive at this decision? Thoughtfully.
To fashion our decision, NAFCM:
1. Reviewed case management systems members currently report using;
2. Examined prior requests for NAFCM endorsement from alternative systems;
3. Drew upon its organizational experience with MadTrac;
4. Called upon the personal experiences of NAFCM Board and Staff members;
5. Tested the functionality of the Mediate.com ADR Case Manager system (in Beta form);
6. Participated in a web conference further demonstrating the System;
7. Ensured a group of community mediation centers had the ability to test the System;
8. Engaged in lengthy negotiations with Mediate.com to guarantee centers have access to the System’s best pricing, broadest functionality, dedicated support services;
9. Worked with Mediate.com to enhance key community mediation functions are included in the System; and then finally
10. Made a Board-level decision to officially endorse the System.
To provide a somewhat quick recap of several of these key factors, let me offer the following details. (A more thorough recitation of NAFCM’s decision-making process will likely be incorporated into future webinars designed to further inform interested centers in how the System operates.)
1. Community mediation centers across the country currently employ a wide variety of case management processes and technologies. Current case management is achieved through systems ranging from Post-Its and file folders to Excel spreadsheets and Access or Filemaker Pro databases, and even to customized or out-of-the-box proprietary systems. Community mediation leaders adopt or inherit these case management systems and are then forced to work within the systems’ confines and their own skill sets to keep cases moving and paperwork flowing.
In terms of specific technologies, centers currently use no fewer than 20 different case management systems. Some centers even report combining multiple technologies (i.e. different software programs which themselves do not link or share information) to fulfill their case management needs. Over 100 programs report having developed their own Excel, Access, or Filemaker Pro system. These files are almost always housed on a single computer and, therefore, are exposed to that specific computer’s own vulnerabilities. Most alarming is the observation that nearly 140 programs report not using any case management system at all – especially concerning given our current times of increased competition for limited funding. Almost all of these systems are in-house productions, incapable of off-site accessibility or easy comparison to other centers’ experiences or broader trends.
2. Over the years, NAFCM has been approached by several case management development companies interested in capitalizing on our member connections to either enter a new market or boost existing sales. Serious systems are reviewed, though most are ill-suited for programs’ demands. Still, these offers have created within NAFCM an organizational history and knowledge to help determine what constitutes a case management system worthy of members’ review and adoption. Mediate.com’s ADR Case Manager contains what we believe to be the best potential for the widest possible impact of any system NAFCM has reviewed.
3. NAFCM previously endorsed MadTrac. For its time, and given available technologies, this system held its own promise for community mediation programs. (Several community mediation programs still operate this system.) Current technologies, however, have since advanced far beyond those available during that previous endorsement. Unfortunately, MadTrac was inherently limited in its ability to adapt to these changes or centers’ own changing demands. ADR Case Manager’s design resolves obsolescence concerns by incorporating real-time, System-wide updates (no software, no downloads, no reboots, etc.) and a supremely flexible design to meet programs’ changing needs.
4. NAFCM’s Board of Directors currently represents Executive Directors and leaders from ten community mediation programs located around the country. Their own case management systems mirror our members’: sticky notes, file folders, and various software-based creations. A further similarity is their regular inquiry about others’ experiences with different systems and their persistent search for something better. When presented with the functionality of Mediate.com’s ADR Case Manager, something better for community mediation was finally found.
5. NAFCM received the very first Beta account for ADR Case Manager. We were able to take the system for a test run, enter sample cases, and get a feel for its functionality and user-friendliness. Wanting more than a simple sneak and peek, however, I personally tried to break the System. I entered too few parties, attempted to double book resources, created cases with missing information, categorized cases incorrectly, and other potentially troublesome entries which might realistically occur during a real center’s daily use of the System. Overall, the System withstood the intentional assault. Where it fell short, I made notes, reported experiences, and received follow-up from Mediate.com confirming identified trouble spots had been remedied.
6. To learn even more about the System’s functionality and future potential, NAFCM participated in a web conference with Mediate.com’s Jim Melamed and staff. Here, we reviewed the System’s current design, and were given a glimpse into future updates and advanced features which will further expand the System’s functions and usefulness. All of these future inclusions are guaranteed to NAFCM Program members without additional cost…something not currently promised to any other group.
7. Beyond NAFCM’s testing of the System, we wanted to know actual community mediation centers with active case loads and specific administrative requirements would have the ability to test the system. Mediate.com has reported certain centers in Oregon (its own backyard) have begun testing the system to positive reviews. There are now several dozen new Beta testers since NAFCM’s first entry, who are also ferreting out any remaining bugs, and making recommendations to fine tune the interface and general usability. This, coupled with Mediate.com’s no-risk offer to test the System for free through the remainder of 2010, ensures ADR Case Manager will be thoroughly tested and refined before any community mediation center expends a dime to adopt and integrate the System.
8. Unveiling the latest case management tool which then lays outside most community mediation centers’ budgets neither makes good business sense nor reflects the desire of both NAFCM and Mediate.com to fully equip community mediation with such a System. Beyond pricing – no small issue to be sure – NAFCM needed assurances Mediate.com was itself committed to a long-term endorsement of community mediation and that ADR Case Manager had the adaptability, scalability, and stability to remain the preferred System both now and in the future. Through several weeks of negotiations, NAFCM wholeheartedly received these assurances and was able to secure an incredibly appealing arrangement for its Program members wishing to adopt the System.
9. Moving forward, NAFCM will continue to work with Mediate.com to ensure ADR Case Manager integrates an increasing list of community mediation specific features, including a new template of national community mediation case characteristics. We will also regularly review the experiences and feedback from those Program members choosing to adopt the System. This feedback, both micro and macro, will subsequently inform System updates, features, and support.
10. On August 20th, the NAFCM Executive Director, myself, with support from the Board, used all of the previous criteria and experiences to place Mediate.com’s new ADR Case Manger as NAFCM’s preferred case management system. Our resulting endorsement of the System is intended to convey our thorough review of current practices, alternatives, potential impact, and future promise.
This is how NAFCM came to encourage community mediation programs to carefully review their current case management procedures/technologies and strongly consider adopting ADR Case Manager at their earliest convenience and ability.
Admittedly, what is lacking in this review is the specific feature-by-feature and price comparisons with other systems Doug fairly requested. While NAFCM is wholly endorsing ADR Case Manager, we want to do so in a way which avoids unnecessarily maligning or mischaracterizing other systems, their roving price points, or their value to any particular center. Ultimately, each community mediation center must examine their own needs and capacities in relation to available case management technologies. In doing so, NAFCM hopes program administrators will thoroughly and carefully review Mediate.com’s new System and consider how it may help them achieve greater operational efficiencies and community impact. We firmly believe it has the capacity to do just that.
If you’ve made it to the end of this message, Congratulations! I hope this detailed account of NAFCM’s review process helped answer your questions. Still, if you would like more, please feel free to contact me personally or contact Mediate.com to seek clarification on any System features. The better informed your decision when adopting a new case management technology, the more confidently you can move forward with its integration and realize its benefits.
Justin R. Corbett
NAFCM: National Association For Community Mediation
1959 South Power Road, Suite 103-279
Mesa, AZ 85206-4398
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