By Leroy Mason, Global Chief Technologist, Applications Innovation Services, Hewlett Packard Company
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) products - like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce.com and Siebel - often get applied in non-obvious ways. An example of such an application is case management.
Forrester Research defines case management as follows:
A highly structured, but also collaborative, dynamic, and information-intensive process that is driven by outside events and requires incremental and progressive responses from the business domain handling the case. Examples of case folders include a patient record, a lawsuit, an insurance claim, or a contract, and the case folder would include all the documents, data, collaboration artefacts, policies, rules, analytics, and other information needed to process and manage the case.1
Using this definition, all orthodox CRM processes (pre-sales and post-sales) are case management. Under close analysis we see that such products are agile enough to provide case management functionality when combined with information management tools that provide document management and integrated into enterprise systems. Indeed for CRM application solutions in enterprises, integration with existing data and processes is the norm not the exception, with up to 30% of the value of the delivery project being effort other than core CRM.
The backbone of case management solutions is a rigid workflow process reminiscent of a factory assembly line. Value is added incrementally by each specialist worker until the product, or case, is completed. Work for these specialists is predictable and highly repetitive. The CRM application and the business process are well-mapped. Figure 1 shows a sample Sales and Marketing process implemented by Salesforce.com out-of-the-box. Other products define similar processes by default.
Figure 1 Salesforce.com Sales and Marketing Process – Generate More Leads - from Salesforce.com Learning Centre
Increasingly, such rigid and repetitive processes are being handled by straight-through processing (STP). Far from simply replacing the staff in such processes, business leaders are looking to case management solutions to take responsibility for other workloads that are not easily automated. Such workloads are becoming known as “untamed business processes”. Previously such workloads would have been handled, indeed if that is even the correct term, by adhoc internals teams frequently requiring much executive effort. For an oil company, this might be a large oil spill. For a bank, it might be new emergency prudential controls in response to an economic crisis.
Untamed processes existing in almost all industries. See Figure 2.
Figure 2 Untamed Processes by Industry from Forrester Research (2011)
Looking across these industries, three primary types of use cases are evident:
- service management scenarios with unpredictable customer needs
- investigative scenarios that unfold over time
- incident management scenarios that respond to unpredictable events
The simple rigid process model does not apply. A new breed of tools is required – dynamic case management (DCM).
In contrast to the simple rigid process model, the DCM application solution does not rely on a predefined process, instead the case moves through loosely coupled states. Users of a DCM application, called case workers, view the information stored in and linked to a case as historical content to drive activity to a close. This means they deliberate on the case, employ human judgment to recognize and handle variation and even selectively make “in-flight” changes to default processes for specific cases. Also, the case worker may initiate several sub-processes in parallel. Instead of each case worker being a specialist in one part of the process, they are generalists able to direct often considerable resources toward the case resolution.
A DCM platform must include functional components not seen in a simple case management system including:
- business process management (BPM)
- rule and event engines
- enterprise content management (ECM)
- advanced analytics
- pattern recognition
- skill management and work sampling
- case definition templates
- version control
- security mechanisms balancing control and adaptability
Figure 3 Dynamic Case Management As Loosely Coupled States from Forrester (September 2011)
There are a number of well-regarded specialist vendors of DCM which feature proprietary architectures (see references). As with other IT products, those with proprietary product architectures get an early lead and help to define the category. In the long run though, open architectures become more successful. Given a well-defined application architecture model for DCM, it is possible to assemble a DCM application from commodity components. The effect is less expensive for the customer to deploy the needed functionality without becoming locked in to a single vendor.
We are nearing the end of the era of proprietary DCM and this type of application is becoming known as “smart process applications”.4
Read Leroy’s viewpoint paper – Improving application design to support natural change
Other blogs by Leroy Mason:
- Using Functional Programming to Reduce Spreadsheet Risk
- Social Business – The next wave of Enterprise Application Innovation
- A Transformation Framework that will put all the pieces together
- The Future of Applications Design. Part 1 – Design-for-Engagement
- The Futures of Applications Design. Part 2 - Work Systems
- HP Enterprise Applications Services
- HP Applications Cloud and Mobility Services
- HP Converged Cloud Solutions
- HP Applications Transformation Solutions
- HP Enterprise Application Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM
- Forrester Research “Dynamic Case Management – An Old Idea Catches New Fire” (December 2009)
- Salesforce.com Learning Centre Process Maps (public website)
- Forrester Research “Dynamics Case Management: Definitely Not Your Dad’s Old-School Workflow/Imaging System” (September 2011)
- Forrester Research “Smart Process Applications Fill A Big Business Gap” (August 2012)
About the author
Leroy Mason, Global Chief Technologist, Applications Innovation Services, Hewlett Packard Company Leroy Mason is global chief technologist of Microsoft Application Innovation Services for HP. He has 30 years of experience in large-scale enterprise application services including Wall Street banks, Microsoft, and HP. His professional interests include adapting the applications lifespan economics to cloud platforms.