The case for Case Management - and Business Intelligence

  • 8-Jun-2010

Both IBM and now EMC have recently touted their improved "Case Management" capabilities, so I thought it timely to take a look at this area in a little more detail. As our customers know, we have always considered Case Management functionality as a key element of our ECM product evaluations.  But outside of traditional sectors such as Insurance and Legal, few people are really familiar with the term.

Essentially Case Management means applying rules (either automatically or manually) to documents to ensure that they recognize their relationship with one another, as well as with the people who use them and any associated business processes.

To give a practical example, a healthcare professional will need awareness of all the documents related to a particular patient. These documents and records are sorted and managed through their lifecycle as a "Case" even though they may reside in different locations, have different owners, other relationships, and different retention policies.  Other individuals may also need to interact with these documents for the purposes of billing or insurance. Same documents, different purpose. There may also be multiple legal and compliancy requirements to attend to.

In theory at least, Case Management provides you with the tools to pre-define and orchestrate those requirements. Permissions, rules, metadata, and processes all play a part in what can be a highly complex system. 

For some organizations, Case Management applications built from ECM platforms form the core of their business, and more will in the future. The need to better manage the massive volumes of transactional documentation is growing more acute, and Case Management will certainly play an increasingly important role. 

Yet almost more than any other scenario, Case Management demands good information governance and squeaky clean relevant data. Without it everything falls apart. The fact that so many organizations are lacking here is another key reason Case Management is not as widely deployed as it could be. 

Selecting the right software to meet your Case Management needs is difficult, since everyone claims to do it,  but very few do it well.  The nightmare scenario for a buyer of a Case Management system is to buy a vanilla ECM software system and then just bring in a .NET or Java developer. You are not only buying technical functionality you should also be buying deep and very specific domain expertise, and without the right combination of the two you can be in trouble quick.

ECM vendors such as Hyland, Objective, Open Text, EMC, Autonomy and IBM all have deep expertise and knowledge in the particular industry sectors that they design systems for (Pharma, Legal, Government, Intelligence, Healthcare, Insurance,  Law Enforcement, Retail etc). They know (mostly) what works and what does not, and they understand industry specific business processes right down to the task level. You are paying as much for that knowledge, as you are for their software.

Assuming though that you do have your document house in order, and already utilize Case Management, there are some interesting developments on the near horizon -- most notably the use of business intelligence and analytics tools to extract further value from what is already a rich information set.  Consider the possibilities of early fraud and discrepancy detection or new and emerging trend analysis from the very rich data within your documents.  BI has long been locked solely into the 20% of data that is structured in the enterprise, and is a valued tool set. But very large and clean volumes of documentation that have been given a tight structure can be mined these days too, and those documents theoretically at least, represent the other 80% of the data we deal with in business.  In fact some organizations are already starting to use tools like Cognos, Hyperion, and Business Objects in Case Management deployments, and they are liking what they see.

And remember it's our job here to ensure that technology buyers make the right decisions via the use of our research, and one of the best ways for us to do that is to continuously talk with buyers and users who are at the coalface.  So if you are an organization that is using Case Management along with some kind of BI tool, then  I would love to chat with you in confidence to hear more about what works and what does not just drop me a note and we can chat.

Ironically, it's early days for a combination of technologies that have been with us separately for many years. Yet this could prove to be a very good long term marriage.