Managing content effectively across the insurance enterprise has become increasingly important during the past few years owing to the rapid downturn in the economy and the equally swift uptick in consumer adoption of mobile technologies and social networking platforms. Never have insurers had to communicate via so many diverse channels with such speed, and seldom have they been under such pressure to accomplish these tasks efficiently.
Some years before the economy took a nosedive, vendors began hawking enterprise content management (ECM), generally acknowledging that capabilities worthy of the name weren't quite available yet but were just around the corner. But as handy as true ECM would be right now, it remains basically a marketing term for selling software, at least in the insurance market. If the term is overblown, however, the potential of vendor solutions to enable insurers to solve their content management problems is not.
Few insurers have an ECM strategy, per se, simply because the term "enterprise content management" is too broad to be meaningful to most carriers, according to Matt Josefowicz, director of Novarica's (New York) insurance practice, in his recent report, "Deconstructing ECM for Insurers." That being the case, Josefowicz advises, "Insurers should focus on use cases and the impact of the different elements of ECM on customer experience, marketing and operational efficiency."
Josefowicz deconstructs content management into two major areas: document management, which involves the intake, indexing, storage and routing of external documents in areas such as claims and underwriting, and which primarily impacts operational efficiency; and document creation -- aka document automation or customer communication management (CCM) -- which has its greatest impact on customer experience and involves the creation of outbound documents. Josefowicz adds the subcategory of content management that provides the authoring and storage environment for preapproved or variable blocks of text used in areas such as product design, marketing, service and policy issuance.
Whether on the customer-facing end or in the document management realm, insurers have plenty of opportunity to introduce operational efficiency, often while improving service levels significantly.
The automation of content creation offers insurers the best chance to keep up with an exponential expansion of content resulting from both the changing definition of the document and the proliferation of communication channels, according to Jim Mullarney, senior product strategy director, Oracle Insurance (Redwood Shores, Calif.). "The notion of documents has been changing from locked-down PDF to living, breathing organisms adapted to a range of communications platforms," he says.
Insurers face a kind of Wild West scenario, Mullarney opines, wherein more than 80 percent of the content created within the enterprise is unstructured. That content is projected to grow at rates ranging from 60 percent to 200 percent, depending on the analyst, Mullarney claims. "If you take the most conservative estimate, 10 years from now each insurer will have 1,000 times as much content."
In addition to the challenges of sheer volume, insurers must deal with the impact of changing customer expectations on their ability to filter and package external content, Mullarney asserts. "Many insurers are trying to allow customers to choose the channels for various kinds of communication, and this can get very onerous to manage," he says. "Publishing eight or 10 types of communication becomes very difficult unless you have a single system to manage it."
A single platform for either document and content creation, or document management (but not both), may be as far as insurers can get on the road to authentic ECM, but it's a worthwhile destination, suggests Donald Light, a senior analyst with Celent (Boston). Insurers generally have accumulated a plethora of point solutions for content management, he notes. Today, many insurers are driving rationalization of these applications parallel to policy administration consolidation, he adds, pointing out that content management presents a greater opportunity to consolidate down to a single platform.
"Policy administration systems tend to be tuned to different lines of business, and it's hard to shoehorn all your lines of business into one policy admin system," he explains. "Content doesn't present the same problem: Content is content is content."
On the document management side, available platforms specifically present an efficiency opportunity because they share a gray area with workflow and business process management systems, much as document/content creation overlaps with web content management. Madison National Life ($220 million in gross annual premium), a wholly owned subsidiary of Stamford, Conn.-based Independence Holding Co. (consolidated assets of more than $1.3 billion), recognized that opportunity when the company was building a new claims system to accommodate an acquisition.
"The acquisition was going to increase our statutory requirements for managing and reporting death claims," recalls Brett Gates, software architect at the Madison, Wis.-based insurer. "The way we were managing claims was not going to work with the new requirements or volume."
The carrier needed both to automate business processes to speed work for claims examiners and to provide transparency into the work queue for the examiners and their managers, according to Patti Lark, Madison National Life's claims supervisor, who was tasked with evaluating the existing systems and processes after joining the company in 2009. Based on prior experience, Lark says, she considered building a web portal leveraging Microsoft SharePoint that would pull content from the carrier's Hyland (Westlake, Ohio) OnBase document management and workflow system, which had been in place for nearly a decade.
"Initially we looked to build a portal outside of OnBase, but it never caught on," Lark recalls. "Everyone spent a tremendous amount of time on OnBase, so we decided to use it as our centralized portal for business process."
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio