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Q&A: Will knowledge workers drive cloud-based dynamic case management?

As more organizations turn to the cloud to support mobile knowledge workers, cloud-based dynamic case management applications might gain traction.

The number of mobile knowledge workers is on the rise -- and driving demand for cloud-based tools, experts say. Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. reports that 40% of knowledge workers work from their current location via tablets and smartphones. Increasingly, they rely upon mobile and cloud computing for access to information, collaboration and maximum productivity. Business process professionals are no exception. As more organizations turn to enterprise cloud to support mobile workforces, cloud-based business process management (BPM) tools -- such as dynamic case management (DCM) applications -- might gain traction.

In recent years, dynamic case management has emerged as a powerful approach for knowledge workers looking to tame unstructured processes. discussed DCM, its close relationship to knowledge workers and its potential for a cloud-delivery model with CEO Glen Schrank and Chief Strategy Officer Alex Stein of Eccentex Corporation, an enterprise-grade cloud applications and services provider.

In February 2013, Eccentex teamed up with global consultancy Capgemini to roll out a cloud-based DCM solution for energy and utilities companies. In this Q&A, Schrank and Stein weigh in on DCM, the role of the knowledge worker in driving adoption of cloud-based applications and why cloud should be top of mind for process professionals.

What's the current state of DCM, and how does it relate to the knowledge worker?

Glen Schrank: [There's a] new wave of applications which encompass component technologies of BPM, [such as] data, rules, collaboration and business intelligence, to name a few. The DCM world -- some analysts are calling it adaptive case management or advanced case management -- is really based around the people using these applications, and they're knowledge workers.

BPM historically was more about taking structured processes and automating them. The more you could make them straight-through processes, the more value you could get. The future of BPM is really in the world of the knowledge worker. Knowledge workers have dynamic capability when they do their work.

Glen Schrank, CEO, EccentexGlen Schrank, CEO, Eccentex

The other part is that cloud is an enablement of a new way that people work. Fifteen or twenty years ago, knowledge workers were primarily behind the firewall, they were working on a particular process that they owned themselves, and they were doing most of the work.

Now, BPM applications aren't necessarily [being worked on by] one knowledge worker -- there are multiple people in collaboration, and they don't necessarily work for the same company. These people, instead of being in one location, are all over the world. And that's the future.

[DCM vendors are] focused on knowledge workers and on cases -- the beginning, middle and end of particular business processes. Data comes into play with that. Fifteen or 20 years ago, data was in one monster location, whereas now data is fairly distributed.

Mobile devices are exploding, as everyone knows. We feel the best delivery mechanism [to address] that is the cloud. Part of the cloud is designed and architected for these new devices, and the new knowledge worker has more and more devices [because of] BYOD and IT consumerization.

What's one major benefit of cloud-based DCM?

Alex Stein, chief strategy officer, EccentexAlex Stein, Chief Strategy Officer, Eccentex

Alex Stein: Cloud delivery really provides much cheaper delivery infrastructure for solutions [like DCM] for small and mid-sized businesses. It's much easier for them to maintain. Since they don't need to buy hardware, they are getting very high-end functionality.

Are there particular industries where cloud-based DCM has already taken hold?

Schrank: Financial services, healthcare and the public sector would be the top three. Utilities, too, because there are a lot of processes. That's an emerging use of DCM applications.

Stein: The big market is the public sector. Look at what the public sector does: 75-80% of solutions in the public sector are DCM.

What are the challenges of implementing cloud-based DCM?

Stein: There's different [levels of] complexity in different DCM solutions. Some [use cases] require more security. Some of the data that we store can become very sensitive. Some case management systems could still want to store the data in-house.

Schrank: That's more of the perception of an end-user customer, when they hear the word cloud. It turns out that cloud is more secure than being behind the firewall. Most security breaches are done by employees.

The future of BPM is really in the world of the knowledge worker.

Glen Schrank, CEO, Eccentex

Another challenge is that most companies have multiple types of DCM apps.

Why do you think cloud-based BPM tools are more relevant today than in the past?

Schrank: The consumerization of B2B [business to business] is happening. People are saying, "I get all of this value in cloud [in my personal life,] but at work I'm stuck fifteen years ago." More enterprises are adopting cloud. Cloud adoption is becoming mainstream -- it's not just the early adopter [anymore].

There are some trends going on globally, and one of them is the consumerization of IT, but another one is rapid regulatory changes. There are tons of regulations coming out, and businesses need to adapt to those. They need to enforce corporate governance.

There are also lots of competitive challenges. Perhaps a competitor comes out of nowhere [with a cloud-based DCM app] -- you don't have years to take old client-server DCM systems and change them [to catch up].

But the underlying reason is the knowledge workers themselves. They need a better way to get their job done. A lot of business managers need a better way to work. Organizations have been attacked over the last 30 years in technology: Machines are automating the office environment where BPM is. ERP is highly automated. The last remaining area where there's opportunity is this category of knowledge worker apps -- and that's the area of DCM applications.

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