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Dynamic case management (DCM) and analytics are natural partners.

In fact, without analytics, meaningful DCM is all but impossible, says Michael Dortch, principal analyst and managing editor for DortchOnIt.com. But he also notes that for maximum effectiveness, analytics shouldn’t be limited to DCM—the technology should be widely embraced throughout the organization. (For more of Michael Dortch's insights, see his Q & A with ebizQ's Peter Schooff).

Dortch's opinion highlights one of DCM’s central challenges: finding the best resources and level of analytical depth to empower employees involved in case management--which will enhance collaboration as well as productivity. Getting it right means success. Getting it wrong can mean added costs and sub-par results.

Consultant James Taylor recently addressed that topic in a presentation to an ebizQ virtual conference, noting in particular the need for solutions that drive genuine effectiveness rather than simply improving efficiency.

“I believe the use of analytics, particularly the use of analytics in the context of an operational business process, is key to driving this kind of effectiveness improvement,” said Taylor, who is CEO of Decision Management Solutions and author or co-author of several books on decision management and related topics.

In Taylor’s view, analytics is a process of simplifying data to amplify its value. The typical organization has an enormous amount of data—an amount that seems destined to grow as the age of Big Data progresses. But, absent analytics, that data has minimal value, except perhaps in relation to very specific operational processes—for example, completing a transaction.

In his presentation, Taylor acknowledged that people sometimes become confused about analytics because the widely used term spans a broad range of specific technologies. “It could mean everything from reporting, data warehousing and [business intelligence]-like technologies to data mining and even as far out as optimization and simulation,” he said. “All these different techniques are fundamentally analytic techniques. They are about simplifying your data so that you can get more value out of it.”

Ultimately, businesses are using analytics to answer questions such how to retain a particular customer, convert a website visitor to a customer, acquire a prospect, make a compelling offer or identify an insurance claim as potentially fraudulent.

Of course, it turns out that most of those examples have echoes in the use cases for DCM.

"If you can apply [analytics] to your operational business processes...it can drive effectiveness,” Taylor noted. But to do that, you need to think about the decisions required in the successful application of analytics.

To apply analytics and drive effectiveness, you must also apply it to your organization’s operational decisions. Some such decisions, as Taylor has noted, have little individual impact. However, their cumulative impact can be substantial. For instance, the loan-approval process for one customer may be a negligible business event.

But when multiplied by hundreds or thousands of similar events, such decisions can become very important indeed. “So if you want to get operational effectiveness by applying analytics, not only do you need to know what decisions you make in your business, you have to know where those operational decisions are so that you can effectively apply analytics to it,” Taylor said.

There's a crucial concept for making it all work, in Taylor's view: You have to think about decisions services. Most likely, you will be implementing your analytics on top of a service-oriented architecture (SOA), “so you're already thinking about orchestrating and pulling together a whole series of service components that together help you deliver this business process,” he said. “Now what you need to do is say ‘I’ve got lots of different processes, I’ve got lots of different systems supported by those processes and I need to understand the decision services that will support that.’”

Looking at it from the DCM side of the equation, consultant Dortch says you also need to know everything about the interactions you have had “up to this very second” with the people or entities that inhabit your cases.

“To be successful at DCM with every person or business that represents your cases, you need a technology infrastructure that is business-driven and supported by effective processes aimed at that goal,” Dortch says.

Rounding out the picture, Gartner's W. Roy Schulte notes that the intelligence for operating business processes has traditionally resided within individual employees’ heads; its migration to the infrastructure is a new phenomenon. “When we’re talking about intelligent business operations, we're talking about augmenting people’s decisions,” Schulte, a Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, told the ebizQ audience.

People can still be in the loop. But their decision-making can be helped by applying some of the same analytics techniques that are used in traditional offline business intelligence to make tactical and strategic decisions. “What we're talking about, really, is embedding business intelligence directly into the process,” Schulte added. That can mean applying various kinds of analytics and tools for describing, predicting and prescribing activities and what should happen “based on what's happening at the moment.”

Getting decision-makers to share this vision is generally pretty easy when it’s framed as “intelligent business operations,” Schulte said. This kind of transformation is unlike many other changes in IT because it focuses on providing visibility and then turning that visibility into action. In contrast, he said, many other IT changes typically aren’t directly visible to business users. Such changes may dramatically affect how the IT department runs, but provide only indirect benefits to businesspeople.

“When you’re talking about this idea of intelligent business operations, however, you're really talking about something that is visible to people,” Schulte said. In this instance, employees can get a better grasp on what's happening in the business and, as a result, make that business operation more intelligent.

“You can think of DCM as a lens through which you can start to focus on larger goals,” says Dortch. “Again, analytics is the key because you are also really focusing on business knowledge optimization.”

Such optimization should cover what your business knows and how that knowledge is managed. For example, in parallel with DCM, you should consider whether you’ve got a managed institutional memory. “Who captures what the smartest guy knows and, if he leaves, where are the processes documented?” asks Dortch.

DCM becomes a feeder into that process, he says, and part of a repository of business knowledge. Done right, DCM can provide a good starting point for such big-picture business goals.

READER FEEDBACK: Are you using analytics in case management or related functions? What tips or best practices can you recommend for others interested in doing the same? Please e-mail Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Alan Earls, a journalist who specializes in writing about technology and business, is based in the Boston area.

More by Alan Earls, ebizQ Contributor



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