It seems the problems around the management of unstructured data multiply at the same rate as the content that causes them. One of those problems is what a recent paper from Forrester describes as “untamed processes," and suggests taking the big stick of dynamic case management to get them under control.

As might be expected, untamed processes proliferate in all enterprises despite the best efforts of IT departments that have deployed business process management software.

Unstructured Content, Untamed Processes

The IBM-sponsored eBook, Dynamic Case Management: A powerful weapon in the war on “untamed processes,”says this happens because of the nature of the content that is used in these processes -- notably, unstructured content.

If unstructured content is understood as information that either does not have a predefined data model, or more simply is not in a database, then what  are untamed, or unstructured processes?

According to eBiz Site Editor Anne Stuart in the book, and citing Forrester’s Craig Le Clair, untamed business processes:

require a balance of human and system support, and cross department, technology, information, and packaged application silos to meet end-to-end business outcomes… The haphazard approach results in processes that lack structure and, over time, grow 'bloated with non-value-added activity.'"

Enterprises, Untamed Processes

Even worse, Forrester adds,

…they literally choke the productivity and creativity out of the workforce.”

And they are everywhere. They can be found in both public and private sectors and can be divided into three basic categories:

  1. Investigations, such as audits and patent filings
  2. Service requests
  3. Incident management that ranges from public security to product quality assurance

In terms of functions, untamed processes are moist often found in:

  • Customer on-boarding: Le Clair cites repeated demands for basic information that the company should already have.
  • Claims processing:  Le Clair cites a single claim may involve multiple departments
  • Invoice processing: Enterprises receive invoices in a variety of ways and formats, including paper, e-mail, PDFs, via electronic billing systems.

On top of that, the situation is exacerbated by attempts to manage all these functions by pulling together a patchwork architecture from a number of business process management, collaboration, business intelligence and enterprise content management systems.

However, Le Clair says, these solutions rarely work and most processes require an approach that is less static and more dynamic, enabling rapid change when necessary.

Why Dynamic Case Management?

And this is where dynamic case management comes in. Dynamic case management software is, Le Clair says, semi-structured, collaborative, information intensive process software driven by outside events.

It responds to incoming information as it is placed into the process, so one of the key elements is its progressive nature.

With more work to do, information workers are using more technology to achieve more, which puts more emphasis on new processes, which require more management.

Compliance issues and new regulations are also putting pressures on companies to deploy more dynamic processes as enterprises are increasingly obliged to respond quickly to requests for information that can be best served through flexible processes.

A final point that Le Clair stresses is that, increasingly, the gap between what people are using at home and in the office is widening, as enterprises cannot deploy as much consumer technologies as individuals can.

Dynamic case management is a way of bridging that gap by enabling the use of social technologies, advanced process models, mobility and other technologies.

Dynamic Case Management vs. BPM, Enterprise CMS

But so does enterprise content management and business process management systems, so why, in this case, choose dynamic case management?

The difference, Le Clair says, is in the changing way we are working now. Enterprise content management systems and business process management evolved out of workflows that emerged as enterprises moved from paper-based processes to electronic processes.

In these cases, every action that might be taken was coded into the process system where all eventualities in a production-based world could be accounted for and scripted.

However, as more work is information-based work, the ability of the worker to respond to different eventualities in those processes is increasingly important to rapidly changing environments.

With enterprise content management and business process management, then, the processes tend to be rigid and locked down with little room for change. Dynamic case management, on the other hand, frees the information workers, places them in the system and gives them the ability to exercise choices.

Business Value of Dynamic Case Management

There are also considerable business advantages, too, in adopting dynamic case management. While traditional ECMs and BPMs focused, to a large extent, on mastering content chaos, and offering records management and compliance around information, it does little for the customer experience, Le Clair says.

From a business point of view then, neither BPM nor ECM produces revenues. Case management, on the other hand, has a strong bearing on the enterprise's ability to innovate and create personality around the experience that a company provides.

It gives more control and standardization of processes that have until now, been largely unstructured.

Dynamic Case Management

So dynamic case management is particularly suitable for getting processes under control as it uses both unstructured and structured content, and combines machine and human control over processes that require the input of knowledge workers and expert guidance.

It provides more flexible approaches to processes, with the result that it can manage processes where there are a large number of unknowns to be taken into account. Instead of trying to get rid of those unknowns, they have the potential to turn it into business value.

However, to do this, enterprises must be able to update and change processes, and while changes in systems can be done within a short time, it is pointless if it takes enterprise policy months to react.

Enterprise Culture

The result is that, for dynamic case management to be effective, there needs to be an enterprise culture that speaks to it, too. As a result, Forrester says business process professionals, while looking at dynamic case management should looking at the following issues, too:

  • Process strategy: Instead of looking at processes that need to be linked, processes should be planned and looked at from a global and goal-driven point of view with emphasis on desired outcomes
  • Retrain business analysts: Dynamic case management will eliminate traditional components like complex flow charges and lengthy requirement cycles. Technical analysts will still be involved in areas like lifecycle design and processes maps, to analytics and reporting.
  • Focus on planning: Plan smaller kinds of functionality using agile approaches. This, Le Clair says, can produce rapid results.
  • Process ownership: Information workers should be given more control over processes by creating a core set of generic capabilities, allowing workers to choose specific tasks rather than following a rigid workflow.

Again, like all other aspects of information management, the key here is planning. Many enterprises deploy business process management systems and expect them to work miracles.

However, even rigid business process software will not achieve anything unless enterprises have identified exactly what their processes should be doing what they want to achieve. This is even more so the case with dynamic case management where the possibility of an unlimited number of variables can come into play.

If your processes are out of control, the chances are that your planning hasn’t been thorough enough, or implemented as rigorously as needs be. Dynamic case management can help stamp out these problems, but the first step starts at the drawing board and planning how enterprise processes need to, and should, work.