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Case management isn’t new. After all, healthcare organizations, lawyers and social workers have dealt with cases, and case files, for many years.

But businesses in many other industries are just beginning to adopt the approach. Fortunately, nobody has to start from scratch. Whether you are just beginning your foray into dynamic case management (DCM)or are looking to refine your activities, considering the following four pieces of expert advice can help ensure better results:

1. Take a 1,000-foot view. Businesses should think broadly about the technology “bits and pieces” that need to come together for case management, says Neil Ward-Dutton, research director and analyst with MWD Advisors. No single piece of technology will address all your case management needs, and businesses need good architectural oversight spanning different technologies.

“If you’re really serious about transforming the way that work gets done, it’s not sufficient to look at just one piece of technology, whether that’s a case management product or a business rules engine or document management system or an analytics platform or an event-processing platform,” says Ward-Dutton. “Those things are all ingredients and to get the best out of this stuff long term, you need an architectural view of how those things will work together in the long term.”

2. Pick the right participants. Bringing the right people together at the start of a case management project is essential to its success. “This isn’t the type of thing where you build requirements and throw them over the wall to IT,” warns Ward-Dutton. Typically, the IT organization owns and manages the systems used by a company’s lines of business. However, the IT team doesn’t necessarily understand process, and the processes it defines may well be unacceptable to the people who have to use them.

“Don’t have the protocols or best practices developed by people who aren’t in charge of those best practices,” says Karl Walter Keirstead, managing director of Civerex Systems Inc., which provides workflow-management and compliance-control software to healthcare organizations and other industries. “The people who know the most about best practices are the ones who have to live with them day by day.”

Ward-Dutton recommends that the team created to build a case management solution should include participants from across the business, including IT staffers, architects, analysts, sponsors who can provide an overview of the business and people who can provide subject-matter expertise. If, for example, you’re looking at case management in customer-facing processes, you’d probably include people from the call center—-a manager or even a couple of service representatives.

Initially, in many cases, “you don’t really know what the solution is going to look like,” says Ward-Dutton. “If you look at more structured approaches with a process, you have an advantage because there’s a history of understanding of how to improve processes. People understand how to use models to make changes and suggest changes. But when you take that away and say, ‘We have some work that needs to be done and a goal that we kind of understand,’ it requires a lot of bravery, a lot of skill and a lot of input from the people at the front line who are doing the work day to day. You can’t do it removed from them.”

It also helps to have someone on the team who’s had previous success with case management. “If you take a whole team of people who have never done case management before, they’ll probably think about it wrong,” says Keith Swenson, vice president of research and development for Fujitsu (and a frequent contributor to the ebizQ Forum). “If you have someone who has done it before, that person can say, ‘Just do this. Believe it will work. Start pedaling; the bicycle will keep you up.’”

3. Focus on continuous improvement. Once case you’ve implemented case management and seen measurable improvements, it may be tempting to just walk away. But experts advise businesses to revisit and analyze performance on an ongoing basis. “If you’re going to get the best out of case management, you have to be prepared to not view this as a project, but as an ongoing program of continuous improvement and change,” Ward-Dutton says.

Keirstead agrees. “Best practices, when encouraged and used consistently, result in improved outcomes. A best practice is better than no practice, and it’s better than a worst practice,” he says. “But it only remains a best practice until you find a better way of doing it. Then it becomes the previous best practice, and the new one is the current best practice.”

Once you’ve established case management, you’ll need to focus on encouraging a cultural shift to support it. “You have to change the way people think and work so that they’re always thinking, ‘How can I improve what I’m doing?’, then capture that and feed it into an ongoing review cycle,” says Ward-Dutton.

All the while, says Swenson, you should track metrics, including who is using the case management solution and who is not. “Reward people who are using it. Highlight the success cases and publicize those. Let people know it works,” he says.

4. Finally, think beyond the technology. Ward-Dutton reminds businesses that case management is about more than technology. “A tool by itself doesn’t do anything. Don’t buy it and think it’s going to solve your problems, because it isn’t. The technology will just sit there,” he says.

Instead, he recommends, take a holistic approach. “Think about the skills of your people. Think about regulatory constraints and policies. Think about the maturity of your customers. Think about knowledge management issues. Think about ownership of resources. Think about who has head count. Think about who has budget,” he says. “Think about all of these things together, and know which knobs to turn and buttons to press in the organization to get the best out of this—because it’s not just about buying a tool and developing some code.”

READER FEEDBACK: Let's continue the conversation. What steps have you taken, or what best practices have you developed, to achieve your desired case management outcomes? Share your success stories--and your tips--with ebizQ's staff. Please e-mail Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Crystal Bedell is an award-winning freelance writer who specializes in covering technology. Contact her at cbedell[at]bedellcommunications.com.

More by Crystal Bedell, ebizQ Contributor



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