Communication and flexibility: Building blocks for solid DCM architecture

As the term “dynamic” implies, putting a dynamic case management (DCM) architecture in place is really only the first half of the job.

To achieve the desired case outcomes and measure return on investment (ROI), you’ll need to provide consistent, ongoing maintenance. Flexibility, communication and an emphasis on obtaining tangible benefits are the keys to doing that job well.

Analysts say it’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of communication in maintaining DCM architecture, whether that communication is between the business side and IT or across organizations. Keeping the system running at its optimum levels requires that all involved know what is being managed and what needs to be managed.

For starters, know what the business side wants from the DCM system, as opposed to just what the IT department wants, says Craig Le Clair, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Have some governance and some thought about what you’re going to expose to the business in terms of roles and process changes,” he advises.

Le Clair also suggests starting small, then growing your DCM architecture over time. He also recommends initially focusing on some highly visible processes—for example, email communications or customer on-boarding. (Many such activities are also ripe with what Le Clair calls "untamed" processes—that is, processes that lack structure, require a lot of manual intervention or are bloated with non-value-adding activity. Forrester has conducted extensive research on using DCM to “domesticate” such processes.)

Constant communication about changing rules and regulatory requirements is also critical, especially because many types of cases involve several parties. For instance, an auto-insurance claim involves the person involved in the accident and at least one other auto-insurance provider; if there were injuries, hospitals, doctors and others may be involved as well. All have a stake in how the case gets settled; without being able to communicate, they’re working at cross-purposes.

“One of the problems in case management is that, very often, it’s work that is multi-party,” says Janelle B. Hill, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Inc. “One of the things that everyone should be striving for is to figure out how to best support the collaboration and sharing of information that’s required across multiple parties.”

Another important component in case management architecture is flexibility. Hill cites the example of Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. (TMNF), a global insurer that needed to re-evaluate how it processed customer claims. Traditionally, TMNF managed cases so that the decisions made were in the company’s best interests.

But after the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, TMNF was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of claims, prompting the company’s leadership to make a 180-degree mindset change. It adjusted its processes to begin with the question, “How will we pay this claim?” Rather than looking at eligibility, TMNF began with the assumption that the claim would be paid, viewing the matter from the customer’s perspective of getting the claim paid as promptly as possible.

The flexibility afforded by DCM is “not all about efficiency, but about doing the right thing for the customer,” Hill says, which is certainly evident in TMNF’s experience. After the tsunami, TMNF put itself in its customers’ shoes and worked from that perspective, not just from its original internal corporate playbook.

So how do these well-maintained architectures lead to ROI? “By getting some control and standardization around some of these more knowledge-based processes, you can start to understand them and become more efficient,” Le Clair says. ROI may also be reflected in improved customer-service metrics, including retention and referral rates.

But there are dollars-and-cents benefits as well. Forrester has noticed some companies delaying their upgrades to packaged applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) solutions because the DCM architecture has addressed specific “pain points” and met core requirements, Le Clair says. On the IT side, infrastructure and support cost is another point of ROI for making the system changes that are associated with case.

Overall, though, measuring ROI from a DCM architecture is very similar to measuring ROI from any other software implementation, Hill says. “If I’m achieving my business outcomes at a cost I can afford so that I make a profit, then it’s a good architecture,” she says.

She points to the healthcare industry, a veteran player in the DCM space, where some organizations may handle 100,000 claims per day. If a company can process its claims at costs that result in profits, then its DCM architecture qualifies as a good investment. But if the company finds itself frequently needing to change its architecture or experiencing down time, that may be a different story.

“To me, ROI is, ‘Can the architecture sustain the level of business outcomes and grow with the business at a rate that’s consistent with the business, or is architecture somehow inhibiting the business outcome?’” Hill says.

However, because DCM is a still an emerging area, a standard set of best practices isn’t yet available, Hill says. Customers “have to go into [DCM] with their eyes wide open, recognizing that they could be investing in architecture that is not well-proven simply because it is new,” she says.

While there’s no question that DCM can go a long way toward domesticating chaotic untamed processes, it’s important to understand exactly what the approach can and can’t do—and to be open to calculating ROI as more than just the bottom line on the balance sheet.

READER FEEDBACK: This feature emphasizes the importance of clear and constant communication in ensuring strong ROI from case management architecture. What best practices can you recommend for making sure all key players are kept up to date and in the loop? Please e-mail Site Editor Anne Stuart at

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

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