DCM drives change, new opportunities for business

Relatively speaking, dynamic case management (DCM) is the new kid on the block in the case management community—but it’s already driving other new trends as well.

The change has to do with the understanding of casework itself, according to Janelle B. Hill, analyst at Gartner Inc. No longer is it seen as the structured, predictable discipline it once was, she says.

And while DCM has traditionally been associated with case-oriented industries—for instance, health care, social services, law, insurance—the approach is now attracting interest from businesses in many other fields as well, analysts say.

In fact, Forrester Research's Connie Moore warned in a recent blog post that DCM represents the future for business process management suites (BPMSs) overall, adding: “Vendors ignore it at their peril.” The reasons for that upswing in demand: DCM is more flexible, adaptable and people-centered than earlier products, says Moore, a Forrester vice president and principal analyst. True process transformation depends on supporting employees and giving them the tools they need to make decisions, not simply complete transactions, she says. DCM fills that role.

Moore notes that oil-and-gas giant BP’s challenges in the Gulf of Mexico leading up to the 2010 oil spill went beyond extracting and marketing oil to reaching out to local communities and dealing with complex contingencies for environmental issues. On a smaller scale, businesses may want to treat each customer as a case, using credit information and other factors to tailor individual offers—a customization process—to individual needs. “It is part of the trend toward mass customization,” Moore says.

Technology is rapidly catching up with the shift toward DCM, Hill says, citing a range of technologies—such as event-driven architecture, rules engines, complex event processing engines and workflow systems—“that are all individually quite mature.”

But now vendors are beginning to combine such capabilities in integrated platforms. “I think of DCM as the leading example of an unstructured, well-running process. So vendors are bringing together a platform of technology to support that long-running, less structured approach,” Hill says.

While several vendors provide DCM capability, there’s no uniform agreement about what technologies are needed to support DCM, she says. For that reason, the vendor landscape is in flux. Companies are focusing on bringing together capabilities that specifically address the dynamic aspect. Case management vendors are trying to carve out pieces of the market. At the same time, newcomers—with the newest technology and “maybe some of the better technology,” Hill says—are threatening the long-term, industry-specific providers that have addressed case management for years.

Will DCM become the dominant way of looking at case management? Hill won’t go that far. But she notes that some fields that have long been viewed as transactional, such as financial services and pension administration, actually rely on cases, although their teams may not view their work as case-based. “Some of them feel they need DCM and others say no,” she says. “So I think there is a lot of need for basic education about what casework is and when it is appropriate.”

Meanwhile, use of DCM is growing in other fields as well. For instance, Hill noted, some colleges now use the casework model to manage their admissions processes. “Schools want to increase the student acceptance rate; that has been their focus,” she says. “But now some colleges are realizing they want to manage that relationship from the first visit through the alumni experience. So they are starting to treat each student as a case.”

Currently, mobility is among the most exciting emerging aspects of DCM, says Nathaniel Palmer, executive director of the Workflow Management Coalition, a professional and standards organization. “If you think about DCM, a lot of its focus is really about activities that happen at the edge of the organization. Mobile access will be a big deal and it is potentially critical for DCM,” he says. “It’s a process of expanding boundaries and giving a 360-degree view of business activities.”

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About the Author

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

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