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Insurers Advance on the ECM Ideal

By stressing context over content, next-generation insurance enterprise content management (ECM) solutions transparently and efficiently access information from disparate source systems.

Information as a Service

Warzecha pitches a concept of "information as a service," in which there is one place to go for information, regardless of from which channel or medium that information originated. He speculates about the increasing emergence of information delivery governed by industry standards and built on a Web services or service-oriented architecture (SOA). "We will see much more of this concept of information made available as a service as a means to deal with the issues of multiple content channels and the multiple back ends that house the content," he says.

In this respect, SOA is a catalyst to developments in content management, and ECM is beginning to emerge as a pillar of information management, converging with SOA, business process management (BPM) and master data management strategies. "We are seeing a huge increase in requests for organizations that are beginning to think about their information strategically -- in many cases, for the first time -- coming out of the SOA movement," Warzecha says.

For insurers, the driver for SOA often is the effort to make business processes more flexible and less costly. But driving such process improvements across SOA requires content management capabilities superior to those traditionally available within the insurance enterprise. "You can't have an agile business process unless you are surfacing accurate information on which the business rules and processes are going to work," Warzecha reasons.

That need is even more acute within insurance because of the prevalence of exceptions to automated processes, such as within underwriting and claims processes. For example, when a medical claim has to be touched by a person, that person will need the policy number, claim documents, the explanation of benefits, etc. "There's a whole raft of information that has to be pulled together in order to resolve such exceptions," Warzecha says.

The ability to access that information from disparate systems is dependent on different thinking about content systems and, in fact, a different way of thinking about content itself. Within the traditional framework of multiple, disparate content management, what constituted content was clear -- it was the stuff users wanted to get at, according to Mark Farone, director of Web enterprise services for Boston-based Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA; $2.1 billion in 2006 premium). But in a world in which content can be accessed by an enterprise system, the means by which relevant content is identified and accessed becomes content itself, Farone explains.

"As some of the technology has changed, what we consider to be content has changed," Farone says. "The content is the value, as a beginning; but further value emerges through how you are able to manage and find it, putting that content in context across different technologies -- the context becomes the defining characteristic."

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

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