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Collaboration is king just about everywhere in business today, and the dynamic case management (DCM) arena is no exception.

In fact, experts say, collaboration capability isn't just part of DCM's raison d'être, or reason for being—it's really part of the approach's DNA. Forrester Research analyst Craig Le Clair even includes the concept in his definition of DCM.

"Dynamic case management is a semi-structured process that is collaborative," says Le Clair, a Forrester vice president and principal analyst whose specialty areas include case management. "A key aspect of what's great about—and what's driving the market in—case management is that it can provide strong collaboration that can break down organizational silos to meet business objectives."

Such capability is especially important today, in an era dependent on knowledge workers—or, as Forrester calls them, "information workers" (iWorkers for short). "It's a very, very broad category [involving] anyone doing work that uses a computer," Le Clair explains. Some iWorkers are basically deskbound, but still collaborate via multiple applications. Others are constantly on the road, collaborating frequently from various places (in one Forrester survey, mobile iWorkers reported working from an average of five different locations). Bottom line: "Work has changed drastically with mobility and social [technologies]," says Connie Moore, a Forrester vice president and research director.

Of course, iWorkers' roles, tasks and priorities differ greatly from industry to industry, company to company and even from function to function in the same organization. But forward-thinking businesses should think about the same goal: "supporting the iWorker in a different way—in a way that recognizes the trends in technology that are emerging," Le Clair says.

One such way is DCM, which no longer simply involves workflow or content management, but increasingly relies on social, collaborative, mobile and even cloud technologies as well. Companies interested in reaping the maximum benefits from DCM should make sure their strategies include components for all those areas, Forrester recommends.

But don't get the wrong idea: A social/collaborative approach to DCM isn't just about supporting iWorkers to help them do their jobs faster and better. It's about empowering customers as well. So where does case management fit in? "The idea is to try to use case management and these types of enabling technologies to provide a better, more mobile, more connected, more personalized experience with customers," Le Clair explains.

That approach requires a radical shift in traditional environments where customer-service agents and other iWorkers fall into one of two categories: They're either "locked down, meaning that they are heavily scripted with traditional workflow technologies or controls," Le Clair says. "Or they're disenfranchised and they've just given up. They don't know that they can innovate."

Riding to the rescue: a new breed of employees that Forrester calls "HEROes," for "highly empowered resourceful operatives," who can use social, collaborative and other contemporary technologies to better meet their clients' needs. "These are individuals who can innovate with these more modern technologies to really satisfy customers, and that's what we want to encourage," Le Clair explains. "We feel case management has a very, very strong role in managing towards better customer experiences."

Meanwhile, how can companies support their HEROes? Among other advice, Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, Forrester analysts and co-authors of "Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business" (Harvard Business Press, 2010), suggest that you:

1. Create a IT-based cross-functional council. This group, which should be owned by IT, should include HEROes, business managers and IT staffers; its job is tracking and making make recommendations on technologies that support HEROes' work.

2. Establish a business-oriented collaboration program. This program should be overseen by a clear leader, preferably "a business executive with technology skills or a technology executive with business skills," Bernoff and Schadler say. It should link together collaboration tools, applications and other resources, which can then be provided to HERO employees throughout the organization as kind of a standard collaboration toolkit.

Ultimately, that cross-enterprise mindset is critical for DCM success, especially when dealing with "untamed processes"—that is, out-of-control, heavily manual or bloated processes that span an enterprise. "The process support that's required is one that goes across departments and across information-systems silos. There needs to be a solutions layer that can really manage that; to date, it's been sporadically treated with traditional workflows, technology and BPM, or extensions of the packaged applications—but not very effectively," Le Clair says.

The idea, then, is moving away from that universe of untamed, manual and paper-based processes "where you have very low process visibility, very little iWorker efficiency," says Le Clair, who has illustrated this situation with a picture of a worker in a straitjacket. The goal is developing a more flexible, more dynamic environment—and yet one where people, rather than systems, are ultimately in control. When you reach that destination, Le Clair says, "you're supporting an under-appreciated, under-invested area in most corporations, where most of this specific company expertise resides, which is in that information worker."

That's where the social and collaborative—that is, the human—aspects come to the forefront. "The user experience is really the social layer, so social needs to move into business," Le Clair says. He uses the example of a caseworker trying to serve a customer on the phone in real time by finding the needed in-house expertise—also in real time. "You may want to see [a particular in-house expert's] resume, where they've worked and what their expertise is. You may want to see a star ranking of their previous six cases to understand what was the best one" and whether it's applicable in this instance, Le Clair says. "Then you may want to instant message [that expert]."

Ultimately, such capability drives internal collaboration ways that were never possible before. That, in turn, can lead to new heights in customer experience. After all, says Le Clair: "The customer experience is across departments. The customer doesn't care how you're organized."

READER FEEDBACK: How does your organization ensure productive collaboration in case management--or in any other activity? ebizQ's staff would love to know about your best practices and advice. Please e-mail Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Anne Stuart, ebizQ's editor from mid-2010 to mid-2013, is now senior editor for SearchCloudApplications.com at ebizQ's parent company, TechTarget. She is a veteran journalist who has written for national magazines, daily newspapers, an international news service and many Web sites. She’s specialized in covering business and technology issues for 20 years. Based in Newton, Mass., she can be reached at astuart@techtarget.com. Follow Anne on Google+ and at annestuart_TT on Twitter. For general questions about ebizQ, please e-mail editor@ebizQ.net.

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