Two keys for DCM success: Technology choices, business buy-in

With dynamic case management (DCM) now getting buzz outside its traditional spheres (think healthcare, insurance and legal), businesses in a variety of industries are turning to the approach to improve how work gets done.

Today, processes involved in everything from product recalls to natural-disaster response to mergers and acquisitions can be tamed with DCM. But as with any new technology, implementing a DCM architecture involves addressing important issues up front.

Among two of the biggest considerations are making the right technology choices and obtaining business-side support and involvement.

ADDRESSING THE TECHNOLOGY QUESTION
Choosing the right DCM technology, whether it’s a solution designed for the company’s industry or a more generic package that can be customized to its needs, presents an impressive challenge.

“These days, buyers have a pretty wide range of options, starting with traditional industry-specific packaged applications,” says Janelle B. Hill, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Inc. Insurance companies, for example, can purchase packages specifically designed for claims management. Other industries with a variety of prepackaged DCM options include government and social services and legal services, she says.

Newer choices include case management frameworks or case management templates, Hill says. These partially-built solutions can be quite generic—or they can be industry- or domain-specific. “The idea with a framework is that it provides you with a foundation set of capabilities, but is not a 100 percent solution,” she says.

In those situations, a buyer will be responsible for completing the solution and tailoring it to the company’s needs. However, sometimes buyers can purchase services to “finish” the software.

In other instances, the company would purchase a foundation from a BPM-suite provider. The framework would only work on the BPM suite, and it would ultimately be up to the company to customize the package to its needs.

In any case, buyers should use caution when choosing a prepackaged DCM solution, according to “Dynamic Case Management: Definitely Not Your Dad’s Old-School Workflow/Imaging System,” a DCM report co-authored by Craig Le Clair and Derek Miers, both principal analysts at Forrester Researchs. Some such packages are just BPM solutions repurposed for DCM—but with architecture that isn’t appropriate for true DCM. The flexibility needed for DCM requires a layered and object-oriented architecture, according to the report.

OBTAINING BUSINESS SUPPORT
While technology questions can certainly create obstacles to implementing a DCM architecture, obtaining executive support and understanding for such efforts is often the biggest challenge, Hill says. Business stakeholders must agree on defining the case itself, understanding what makes it move forward and how flexible and event-driven the approach needs to be.

“Essentially, [the business] has to know what progresses work forward,” Hill says. “We talk about event-driven cases where there’s some business event that triggers the case to advance. That’s quite different than traditional approaches where casework was very predictable. There’s greater recognition of casework and interdependencies.”

Business support is another challenge that should be addressed when implementing a DCM architecture, according to Le Clair. The rise of “knowledge workers," (or, as Forrester calls, them "information workers") and the increasing complexity of their responsibilities means that companies need to provide a role-based contextual view for these tasks. “That’s one general trend in the future of work that is making case management interesting,” he says.

Another hurdle: The growing need for compliance not only with company policies, but with a growing number of state and federal regulations as well. Companies must make sure that they incorporate relevant information into the case context to ensure regulatory compliance.

THE MANY FACES OF DCM
But perhaps the biggest challenge in implementing a DCM architecture is recognizing that DCM is multi-faceted. “It’s a metaphor for how work is accomplished,” Hill explains. “There is universal recognition for the concept of case, but in fact, there are multiple forms of case.”

In working with business stakeholders, Hill has noticed that one part of the business might have one idea about what constitutes a case, while another department may have an entirely different definition. So a case management architecture must support multiple case definitions, overcoming the tricky matter of dealing with the differences between one department and the next. The best way to address that challenge, Hill says: Focus the business stakeholders on their desired case outcomes and build from there.

For example, in an insurance matter, case management is usually about specific decisions: for instance, whether to pay a claim for a car accident, how much to pay or whether to try to recover costs from someone else. The outcome is usually a decision about rights or entitlements that may be about payments or a mutually acceptable agreement—but, in any case, it involves multiple factors.

Thus, business stakeholders must coordinate the right mix of resources to achieve the desired outcome. Such resources could be people, information, systems, regulatory restraints or corporate guidelines or policies. The architecture must factor into these resources and the interaction patterns across them, Hill says.

COORDINATION ACROSS THE ENTERPRISES
Companies “really have to understand the interdependencies across the contributing resources,” Hill says. “A lot of the time in case work, you can’t go past a certain point in the case unless everything is lined up.” She cites the process of applying for a mortgage, which typically involves requesting the borrower’s tax returns, credit scores and evidence of employment.

These requests, which are supposed to happen simultaneously, are interdependent on each other; all must be fulfilled before the application can advance to the next step. In fact, one important aspect of DCM is identifying what can be done in parallel (such as those requests for information) and what can’t be done that way, then working within the architecture to advance the case.

Ultimately, building an effective DCM architecture requires extensive cooperation between business and IT. If the business side can’t agree on case definitions or communicate its needs to the IT people developing the architecture, the effort will probably fail. But if business and IT collaborate in choosing the architecture and customizing it to the company’s needs, the project is far more likely to succeed.

READER FEEDBACK: As this feature notes, human--rather than technical--issues may be the biggest challenges organizations face in building DCM architecture. What challenges have you faced in gaining executive support and user buy-in for DCM or other implementations? How did you overcome them? ebizQ's staff would like to hear about your experience. Please e-mail Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.



About the Author

Christine Parizo is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. She's based in West Springfield, Mass. Contact her at christine@christineparizo.com.

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