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Enhancing the Enterprise

Insurers are rethinking ECM strategies to benefit the entire enterprise rather than business silos, resulting in customer service, productivity and compliance improvements.

As insurers seek to transform their businesses into customer-centric organizations, many carriers are reexamining enterprise content management (ECM) technologies. Providing the ability to manage, distribute and act on information from any source or channel -- from producers and contact center representatives to e-mail and Web content -- ECM tools are driving the continued electronification of data within the insurance enterprise and forcing carriers to break down silos. In turn, ECM can help insurers improve customer service, boost productivity and help to meet regulatory requirements.

Effective ECM establishes a framework for the proper storage, access and sharing of information across all functions and lines of business. ECM technologies include hardware for manually capturing images, such as scanners, as well as the storage systems offered by vendors such as EMC (Hopkinton, Mass.), HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) and Xerox (Stamford, Conn.) for archiving data. But the heart of an ECM platform is the software used to organize and retrieve the information, including image, records and document management applications from companies such as ImageRight (Conyers, Ga.); Web and e-mail content management systems; and document and workflow management systems from vendors such as FileNet (Costa Mesa, Calif.); Pleasanton, Calif.-based EMC Documentum (a subsidiary of EMC); Exstream Software (Lexington, Ky.); Mobius (Rye, N.Y.); Oracle (Redwood Shores, Calif.); IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) and Stellent (Eden Prairie, Minn.).

Eighty percent of insurers already use ECM to manage structured and unstructured data throughout core processes such as policy management and claims processing, according to Dave Hollander, managing director in the insurance practice at Accenture (New York). While ECM has the ability to increase the productivity of customer service efforts by as much as 40 percent, Hollander contends, because ECM historically has been viewed in terms of departmental projects, siloed business processes have developed and redundant programs have limited the benefits.

Hollander draws parallels between ECM and service-oriented architecture, and says the two strategies go hand in hand. ECM, he suggests, creates reusable sets of data that support distinct services. ECM technologies "capture information about consumers and associate that for underwriting different sets of services that hopefully would be reused for CRM, effective underwriting, claims adjudication and handling, and policy processing and servicing," Hollander explains. "All IT executives understand that they have to have the capability for enterprise content management, but they have to view it as a set of horizontal services to be used across the enterprise that is directly tied in with SOA."

"We are seeing a lot of investments in imaging and workflow that are the building block technologies of service-oriented architecture," adds Rod Travers, SVP of Dallas-based management consulting firm Robert E. Nolan Co. "ECM is directly supportive of SOA because the goal is to make all of the information available to all consumers, and the more you digitize your knowledge, the more you can fulfill SOA."

But rather than create reusable sets of data and services, the traditional departmental structure of insurance companies has given rise to redundant tools. "Insurance carriers have all of these systems floating around and are now trying to rationalize what they have in place without ripping it out and starting from scratch," says John Mancini, president of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM; Silver Spring, Md.), an international ECM industry association. "This stems from the way these technologies were viewed five years ago from a departmental perspective."

Now, however, insurers are realizing that disparate systems and siloed business processes are a hindrance to providing a customer with information on demand because the data is not always accessible, relates Robert E. Nolan's Travers. Still, "The most-common challenges to integration and collaboration are the cultural divides inside insurance companies -- the politics of which department owns what data," he says.

Travers notes that large insurance companies each spend in excess of $1 million a year on ECM, and many vendors have developed all-encompassing ECM solutions to help move insurers toward a more-integrated approach. "Vendors are now offering integration strategies along with the technology because by integrating the data across the enterprise a carrier can better serve customers, and imaging and workflow are really core to delivering information to the customer when they ask for it," he says.

Less Is More

As recently as 1998, Waltham, Mass.-based Tufts Health Plan ($2.3 billion in total assets; not for profit) was using different vendor solutions for ECM in each department. To improve customer service in its Watertown, Mass.-based call center, and enhance information security and HIPAA compliance, the carrier integrated its solutions under one vendor in 2005. "Our old system was keeping track of policy and procedures, but it was cumbersome -- and time counts in the call center," says Michael Maholchic, technical lead for Tufts Health Plan. "Plus, our system was not tracking content, and everything we do relates back to HIPAA, so we wanted to produce reports to show who looked at what content."

In December 2005 Tufts Health Plan selected Stellent's Content Management Suite. Maholchic explains that the carrier already had been using Stellent for internal documentation and that the vendor's ECM solution integrated well with Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Office Suite and Lotus (a subsidiary of IBM) Notes, the company's e-mail system. The vendor's solution also included a Web Content Management Suite that would convert documents to HTML. "We wanted to bring together all the structured and unstructured content from our different departments together for the call center," he says. "Previously, we had all the content on separate network drives in the native content form, not HTML." With HTML documents, Tufts Health Plan can store all of its data on one shared drive to make it easier for customer service representatives to locate data for customer inquiries.

Tufts Health Plan purchased five Windows 2003 servers to support the system. Representatives from Stellent and the carrier's IT team configured the servers, and loaded the software and each department's unstructured content codes onto the server. "Stellent came out and wrote custom components to modify the behavior of the program to include functionalities that would allow us to use Word, incorporate pop-up boxes and allow contributors to access data," says Maholchic. The implementation was completed in April 2006.

With the new system, customer service representatives in the call center are able to retrieve data within three seconds, Maholchic asserts. Usage of the system, he notes, has increased from 700 hits a month to 16,000. Plus, the carrier now meets regulatory requirements with an active directory for authentication.

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