A dynamic approach to case management: Craig Le Clair explains

Editor’s Note: In this Q & A, ebizQ Contributing Editor Peter Schooff speaks with Craig Le Clair of Forrester Research, who offers insights and tips about getting started with dynamic case management (DCM). Le Clair, a Forrester vice president and principal analyst, is a leading expert on case management and related issues. This conversation was excerpted from a more in-depth ebizQ podcast. It has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

ebizQ: What is dynamic case management, and why is it getting so much attention right now?

Le Clair: Dynamic case management is a semi-structured [and also] a collaborative and dynamic, human- and information-intensive process that is driven by outside events, so that events, as they come in, will incrementally change dates and context for the caseworker. A key element is the progressive aspect. That's where the dynamic really comes from with case-based processes, so it's going to get attention now. A number of big and small factors are making it important.

There's an increased need to manage the cost and risks of servicing customer, or citizens on the government's side. The jobs that we work at now, particularly in the developed countries, are less structured and more ad hoc. In a sense, we've outsourced or automated a lot of the more production-oriented tasks. It's been a gradual trend from Henry Ford and the assembly-line type of production to where we are today in an advanced-services economy. There's been this maturity in process type and in information workers—who, as we all know, have more to do and less time to do it in—and we're leveraging technology more and more to be more productive. That emphasis on new process types and doing more work with less and leveraging technology—that's why dynamic case management is getting very important now.

Also, because of all of the regulation and compliance issues that we have, there are new demands by regulators and auditors and litigants on business to respond to external regulation. And, of course, demographic trends are really important. You have an impending shortage of skilled workers as the baby boomers exit the workforce, so you need to be able to provide this virtual and guided intelligence to make up for the lack of skills, that gap that's going to be occurring at a linear and progressive rate as we go forward.

Finally, and this is a big point: Forrester does a lot of work in this area of empowerment, where you have consumer technology racing ahead with social and video and mobility and the information worker that, in most companies, is locked down and not able to respond to customers in the way that they expect to. This gap between what the customers want and what information workers have inside their companies [can provide] is growing and growing and growing. Case management is a way to close that gap by leveraging social technologies, mobility, advanced process models and so forth.

That's a bit of a long answer. But it's important to understand why "case management" as a term has been around for quite a while, but today is taking on a new life, with the combination of process maturity and the technology that's now available.

ebizQ: What does DCM provide for an organization that BPM and enterprise content management (ECM) don't?

Le Clair: A lot of the BPM that is there today evolved from workflow, which came out as we tried to replace "paper factories" with imaging and capture. The predominant model there was to take production-oriented workers who were reviewing documents and opening up new accounts, and to keep them at high RPMs, to have a process view that every action that they might take, all exceptions, were scripted and could be monitored and managed.

That was great in a production world. But today, we have to invest more in that information-world worker and in these knowledge workers that are becoming, more and more, the embodiment of our intellectual property and are critical to providing the higher level of services required. So whereas BPM and traditional ECM tended to script and lock down a process, dynamic case management frees the information worker so that the driver of the system is a combination of technology and that human being who must make decisions and must use judgment. A lot of that judgment will be influenced by the information contextually as presented, but they have to have a lot more control than the previous BPM and ECM generation of technology.

ebizQ: One big issue with IT that comes up on the ebizQ Forum a lot is how to get business buy-in. How does DCM address this?

Le Clair: In a number of ways. The traditional ECM-type approach focused top-down on compliance drivers to reduce chaos of information, to prevent leakage of intellectual property, to provide good records management. Those are infrastructure elements and they're important. But they don't affect the customer experience, so they're not as important to the business. The business does not increase top-line revenue with the traditional ECM infrastructure, BPM infrastructure type of approach. Case management has a very strong effect on your ability to innovate and to create personality around the experience that a company provides. It also gives much more control and standardization of processes that traditionally have been very, very unstructured.

For most companies, when we talk with them, one big focus is, "How can I standardize a process and get insight and get more of a metric-driven approach and more of a performance management approach into what's going on?" There are two aspects. There's standardization control that's very important to the business, and there’s also being able to differentiate and create more personality around that interaction with the customer.

A third aspect is that there's more business-side control with these new DCM platforms that are evolving. Whether you're changing a template, whether you're changing a process model, whether you're changing business rules, those can be done more on the business side and with less dependence on IT, so it's really not hard to get business attention in this area.

About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at pschooff@techtarget.com.

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