CiviCase is generally described as "a container for activities". As a container, it's well-suited to two scenarios:
However, a container of activities can be useful in other scenarios -- for example, consider the case of hiring a volunteer to work in the children's art program:
In a mid-sized organization, the list of steps can be long, structured, and nearly identical for each volunteer. We could use CiviCase with its timeline feature to schedule all of these steps. To get the full benefit of a timeline, we would need to set a date for each of the activities as soon as the hiring process begins. However, suppose we schedule a task for the office administrator to prepare a badge after 7 days. If the background check comes through quickly (within a day), then the office administrator will needlessly wait. If the background check takes two weeks, then he'll print out the badge too soon.
It can be challenging to deploy a software solution which organizes all these steps electronically. I'm not going to propose a technology to solve all these challenges for all organizations -- that's a tall order! But I do propose adding a few tools to the CiviCase tool-belt:
For a more detailed specification, please see
http://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/display/CRM/CiviCase+Util (UPDATE: http://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/display/CRM/CiviCase+Util).