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GCN : November and December 2014
MOVING case management to the cloud may be an idea whose time has come for government. Case management often has been described as too complex to make it a prime candidate for cloud. That s because a robust case management sys- tem often has interfaces into content management, contact management, scheduling and calendar systems, client data- bases, investigation systems and more. But as case management has grown to one of government s larger business functions, it s slowly becoming a target for cloud residency -- especially as agencies work to consolidate system sprawl. The main goal of any case management system is to pro- vide a way to help case work- ers improve client outcomes. Case workers today focus heavily on specific govern- ment programs and resource delivery, and they often need to react to new rules, program changes and shifting client needs. Need to plug in new busi- ness analytics or template outcome reports? As-a-service solutions often can be con- nected faster than an in-house solution that needs separate procurement and licensing. And agencies whose case managers work in the field find that cloud-based solutions are easily adapted for a highly mobile workforce. But traditional case man- agement systems often have been designed as more stand- INTERNAUT BY SHAWN McCARTHY alone than what government workers need today. If a case management system can be updated with only new programming or a software release, the quality of work can lag, or employees may find themselves spending time doing work that should be automated. For most government agencies, case management is a workflow management problem, involving business decisions and resource al- location. Typically, a business process workflow is made up of a series of specific func- tions, activities and decision points. These help move an initial request (when filed with an agency) toward a set of specific deliverables. Using a workflow manage- ment system as the founda- tion of a cloud-based case management solution is a way to leverage both cloud and a more robust case man- agement system. As govern- ment agencies move some of their IT functions to the cloud, the have the oppor- tunity to refine the business processes related to case management. It s also an ideal time to ex- amine new workflow design tools and adjust how new requests move through the enterprise. Using workflow manage- ment, this can be done on a common platform using an iterative development ap- proach. A well-designed case management system can be like a factory assembly line -- rigid in its rule set and service assembly requirements, but flexible if it needs to be oc- casionally reconfigured. Like- wise, a highly flexible case management system can o er predefined business processes that can be adjusted through a configuration management process, rather than having to rely on a full software update and release. This description makes the transition sound easy, and obviously it s not. Any transi- tion to a new platform can be fraught with consequences. But the approach is worth considering. Case manage- ment needs to be treated as a full information life cycle, from capturing a variety of data points to providing correct client services and evaluating the outcomes. Increasingly, portions of that life cycle are moving to the cloud. For many agencies, email and data storage are al- ready hosted with cloud pro- viders. Content management systems, ranging from Share- point to a Drupal framework, are there too. Moving case management is really a matter of planning the workflow so that it interacts with informa- tion that s already there. One final point: In this type of system, all relevant information -- whether it is stored in an agency s own data center, or somewhere in the cloud -- needs to have a vigorous and well-managed metadata environment. Whether Dublin Core or some other schema is used, a cloud/workflow transition is a perfect time to develop the metadata needed to track and fully leverage all data stores related to case management. It s also a good time to fo- cus on enterprisewide master data management, which helps provide a single point of reference for all information. With all of these things in place, using a workflow management system to de- velop cloud-interactive case management is a powerful step toward improving citizen services. • --- Shawn McCarthy is research director for IDC Government Insights. 16 GCN NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 • GCN.COM Moving case management to the cloud is a matter of planning the workflow so that it interacts with information that's already there. Workflow key to cloud- based case management