Ensuring the highest levels of customer service in the high-volume supplemental insurance business requires a robust, integrated technology infrastructure. In an interview with Insurance & Technology, AFLAC's David Turner, vice president, advanced technology group, discusses how the Columbia, Ga.-based insurer has worked toward the ideal of the real-time, integrated enterprise to ensure superior claims service and reduce costs while serving nearly 290,000 U.S. payroll groups.
Insurance & Technology: How has AFLAC planned, in terms of architectural and infrastructure planning, to establish a foundation for the real-time, integrated enterprise?
Turner: First we established an enterprise application architecture. It is defined and owned by the IT architecture team. Then we extended the architecture to include more detailed architecture patterns required to support real-time integration to our legacy systems. Next we established an architectural governance process within our software development life cycle to ensure conformance to the defined architectures. Based on the constraints of the architecture and our business needs we acquired several new technologies to implement real-time enterprise integration. These included portal, OCR, BPM, EAI, business activity monitoring (BAM), business intelligence (BI), and business rules (BR). Technology adaptation models were established and pilot projects managed the new technologies into our infrastructure and business units. We are midway through the execution of the plan. Our end state is where all business events are digitally managed within BPM, which is the basis for optimal business control through viewing, control and metrics, and where process is the basis for reengineering improvements. All planning for real-time enterprise integration is occurring as an initiative in the context of an overall IT strategic plan that has many more elements.
I&T: What are the business pressures that drive AFLAC toward enterprise integration?
Turner: AFLAC is committed to making sure that the company provides exceptional customer service. The company does this by continually improving the customer experience and paying claims quickly and efficiently. We are constantly evaluating new technologies that will improve customer satisfaction and give the customer more control over their claims experience. Other goals are reduced operating expenses and improved management metrics.
I&T: What iterative steps have you established as interim levels of integration of functionality and data/information?
Turner: Using the automated processes of BPM we are targeting straight-through processing (STP) opportunities first. In this phase the data for processing either comes through over the Web on a "self-service" portal, or is system generated. The goal is to reduce costs. Next we want to provide the BAM/BR/BI/workflow full BPM capability to provide for optimizing work task management (efficiency, quality, and speed). This also supports process management by metrics. Following this, we will provide legacy application integration by combining multiple work step functions into single UIs. In these cases business events that had to traverse multiple departments touching multiple persons and applications will be optimally integrated to reduce costs and improve quality. Around 10-15 core business administrative services are candidates for this transformation over the next three years. Based on the service that is targeted there may be variations of the above phased implementation.
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