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Improved Corporate Content Management

New regulations and competitive pressures have insurers turning with renewed urgency to document technologies to manage corporate information.

Q: How are document/content management technologies helping insurers assemble data to respond to compliance requirements (e.g., Sarbanes-Oxley)?

A: John Graham, Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.: I believe that all of these types of companies have always been concerned with the ability to provide accountability. Since the Enron and MCI fiascos, organizations are stepping up and proving that these technologies are sound and stable and are a very effective way to produce and secure document integrity.

A: Jan Scites, Scites Associates, Inc.: Document and content management technology products in current form can meet the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley. The key is a well-defined document management plan supported by a committed business leader. Additionally, there are three new vendor developments: archival capability with potential storage and retrieval up to 25 years; efforts to integrate software with enterprise platforms, like SAP, Siebel, Oracle; and creation of vertical industry applications that respond to very specific compliance requirements.

A: Don Elias, ImageRight: Document and content management gives you immediate access to material that otherwise would be difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to find. Not only does this lower the time spent satisfying the many compliance requirements issued by the different levels of government, it also allows the insurers to spend more of their time focused on not only managing expenses, but increasing revenue.

A: Philip Faulkner, EMC: New technology provides the ability to access years of history on auditable, online, compliant non-erasable disk systems. Insurers that once stored records on microfilm, tape libraries or older WORM (write-once-read-many) optical drives can now take advantage of cutting-edge content-addressed storage arrays-at Internet speed with the price points of tape.

Q: What are some of the specific technologies that need to be implemented to successfully manage corporate information?

A: Graham, Mountain West: First will always be security. Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, you have to make sure the client documents are secure from prying eyes. The next most important technology is redundancy and a solid backup solution. Too many times a company feels that a backup tape will be the "save all." They should be able to recover faster than that using a mirror system or some other means.

A: Elias, ImageRight: Technology alone does not provide management of an insurance company's information. It is the software combined with a thorough understanding of the insurance industry's business and information requirements that supports a company's successful management of corporate information. Since much of the new legislation promulgates a "need to know" to obtain and work with information, the document solution must provide a secured environment where information can be accessed.

A: Faulkner, EMC: Today, insurers worldwide are facing unprecedented scrutiny and regulation of how they store, retrieve, and manage information assets. Information lifecycle management is a model for managing information throughout its life, from creation and use to archiving and disposal. Insurers investing in a networked storage infrastructure today are positioning themselves to realize the benefits of information lifecycle management tomorrow.

Q: Where do document management technologies fit into the drive to create an integrated, real-time enterprise?

A: Graham, Mountain West: These technologies should be a major focus. Consumers are becoming much more tech-savvy. These forces are going to make insurers adapt the way they do business so that the consumer can see what they have insured at their leisure. Insureds want to manage their own policies more and more. Enron caused a lot of distrust in fields that were normally thought of as trustworthy. Because of that, consumers are becoming proactive and document management will help.

A: Scites, Scites Associates: Document management has always fit with process redesign. Electronic capture of documents is part of reengineering and an absolute fit into the insurance value chain. Whether it is real-time computing or STP (straight-through processing), document management should be embedded in the process to gain cost efficiency and meet regulatory requirements. Document management technology gives you the ability to store and retrieve the now infinite types and iterations of documents cost effectively, whether virtual or paper-based.

A: Elias, ImageRight: People have thought for a quite a while that paper would soon disappear due to electronic Web applications. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of ACORD, the many different types of documents required in the industry make it very difficult to convert to completely electronic means unless you use document management technologies. Due to the lower costs of equipment and the easier justification of systems today, companies at every level of the industry pyramid are able to electronically exchange data and image information. This is going to make a major difference in the way carriers, brokers, and agents work with each other.

A: Faulkner, EMC: The two areas where document management is effective for linking partners and customers are in policy management and claims processing. Most insurers are originating policy and claims in electronic form to eliminate paper documents. These electronic forms enable firms to extend document workflow automation out to partners and customers, eliminating costs through time and physical handling of paper.

Q: What do you see as the next step for document management technology?

A: Graham, Mountain West: The next logical step I see for these technologies is to be pushed down to the handheld remote device. As the world becomes smaller and faster, the need for either insureds or agents to be able to get the necessary information delivered to a Blackberry or other handheld device will be imperative. The technology will continue to improve, the workforce, as we know it today, will be more spread out. We used to build huge buildings to house documents and people to process them. Now, we don't build space for files and workers can access the data from anywhere via the Web. The faster we get the information, the faster we can work it. This technology will make that easier.

A: Elias, ImageRight: There still is not as much sharing of data throughout the industry as there could be. This will change as more companies go on-line with their documents. Major document management vendors will be forced to work closer together to provide standard interfaces. You will also see more policy issuance and claims software suppliers providing standardized interfaces to the most popular document management solutions in the market.

A: Scites, Scites Associates: Document content technology must integrate with major enterprise application providers and be embedded in their suites of offerings. The document and content space will evolve to be a component of Web services capabilities. As a Web service component the functionality will be available as part of an enterprise computing solution or as part of a network service available to any end user, i.e., agent or customer. Additionally, there will be a merging of document and content vendors.

A: Faulkner, EMC: Insurers are demanding software to manage the complexity and vast amount of content they have generated over the years. Most insurers are focused on implementing technology: to eliminate paper through conversion to electronic records; using rules-based software tools to mine information to identify risk and new opportunities; and/or creating online archives for compliance and customer service. Over the next several years, insurers will follow the model of information lifecycle management, from creation and use to archiving and disposal.


This Month's Experts

John Graham
Information Technology Manager
Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. (Laramie, Wyo.)
Jan Scites
Scites Associates, Inc. (Basking Ridge N.J.)
Don Elias
ImageRight (Conyers, Ga.)
Philip Faulkner
Financial Services Segment Manager
EMC (Hopkinton, Mass.)

Peggy Bresnick Kendler has been a writer for 30 years. She has worked as an editor, publicist and school district technology coordinator. During the past decade, Bresnick Kendler has worked for UBM TechWeb on special financialservices technology-centered ... View Full Bio

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