Replacing and consolidating two outdated systems became a longer journey than Great American Supplemental Benefits Group (GASBG) expected when it began an enterprise content management initiative in early 2005. "We were having various challenges with our existing imaging and workflow vendors," recalls Bill Arney, manager of imaging and workflow application development for GASBG, who declines to name the providers. "Our workflow solution lacked the functionality we needed, and the two vendors tended to point fingers over support issues."
GASBG, an Austin, Texas-based group of life and health insurance companies and a subsidiary of Cincinnati-based American Financial Group ($27.7 billion in total assets), kicked off the project by sending its requirements to three prospective vendors, ultimately selecting Hyland Software's (Cleveland) OnBase ECM solution in November 2005, according to Arney. "OnBase provided point-and-click configuration for even the most sophisticated functions. The other solutions required writing code," he explains.
To support the solution, GASBG built a Microsoft Windows-based server environment running SQL, Arney relates, and the OnBase implementation began in May 2006. "Our first deployment phase consisted of three units that were familiar with automated workflow and imaging from our previous system -- new business, underwriting and annuity administration," he says.
A Minor Detour
After smoothly rolling out the first phase in October 2006, GASBG intended to migrate the balance of its operational areas. "But we took a detour due to acquiring a company," notes Arney. In order to manage the acquired company's book of business, he adds, the insurer needed to migrate its 21 million imaged documents into OnBase. Plus, GASBG still had another 20 million of its own documents in its old imaging system.
While the imaging migration proceeded, the rollout process resumed, Arney says, adding that four more functional areas were moved onto OnBase in 2007 and 2008. The final two functions -- agent licensing and agent commissions -- were added during 2009. "The final two areas were paper-based," Arney notes. "This required more end-user training than the others." Still, the deployment was completed by year-end.
Over the course of the rollout, OnBase has more than met expectations, Arney says. "Using a GUI [graphical user interface] saves a tremendous amount of time over writing code," he comments. "The only drawback is some inefficiency in promoting changes from development to production. While it's improved in the recent upgrade, there is still work to be done."
Yet Arney quickly acknowledges that this shortcoming is minor compared with the enterprisewide benefits provided by OnBase. "Rather than logging onto multiple applications, ... our 250 users now sign on once and input information into worksheets that guide them through processes," Arney says. "Departments interact with each other, and with documents, online instead of filling out forms or sending e-mails."
Among other metrics, new policy applications are processed 50 percent faster than before, according to Arney. In addition, GASBG has grown its business -- with minimal additional staff -- while simultaneously reducing, or eliminating, mandatory overtime in many business units, he points out. And similar efficiencies have been realized in IT. "We have three times as many end users and have provided them with at least twice the functionality," says Arney. "But my team of three remains the same."
GASBG plans to build out automation capabilities ranging from forms processing and indexing to optical character recognition (OCR) for reading and importing data into its policy admin system. "We're also looking at integrating our bank lockbox to eliminate manual scanning and indexing," Arney says. "Overall, OnBase is allowing us to do more with less, in a faster time frame, which helps our business profitability while also improving customer service and retention."
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio