By integrating document management and workflow, Vermont Mutual Group (VMG; Montpelier, Vt.; $284 million in assets) was able to convert its paper documents into an electronic format and make them available to employees online. "What the insurance company wanted to achieve was a further refinement in workflow efficiencies, as well as to speed transaction turnaround and improve customer service," says Joanne Currier, vice president of information systems, VMG.
"We also wanted to standardize and automate the process," she adds. "People have a tendency to follow their unique ways to process. With automation, exceptions could be minimized, which reduces inconsistencies with the overall process."
In the first quarter of 2003, Vermont Mutual Group selected three vendors to present their solutions. Ultimately, VMG selected ImageRight because of the vendor's focus on the insurance industry, which resulted in a more customizable offering, according to Currier. "ImageRight knew how to approach automating the workflow and [how to] effectively teach people how to use their product," she asserts. "We did not have to explain our business to ImageRight, and there would be no learning curve. We didn't have to talk about files and how they are usually organized."
Currier reports that implementation of the ImageRight solution took about 10 percent of IT's capital budget and approximately 12 percent of its line item budget, though she declined to cite specific figures. To prepare for the implementation, VMG purchased a Microsoft SQL server and supporting application and document servers needed to load the software from Compaq in the summer of 2003. PCs were given memory upgrades and equipped with large-screen monitors.
The carrier's 40-person personal lines underwriting department was the first area of the company to use the ImageRight system. The vendor provided training through a train-the-trainer program - which offered instruction to key VMG personnel, who in turn trained the remaining users - and spent one month working with the personal lines staff during the managed rollout.
Easy as 1-2-3
Before the solution was deployed, VMG staff had received content from multiple sources, including regular mail, faxes and e-mails. Now, all content is received electronically. ImageRight's solution stores data on a dedicated server and supports backup. Once an employee identifies a new content item - such as a change to a policy or a new policy application - and enters it in the system, it gets routed through the established workflow. One of the important features of the software is that information is sent to each employee through an online "to-do" list, which the employee is able to prioritize.
"If a person is on vacation, managers can reroute the work electronically to someone else in the area," Currier says. "If you have 50 outstanding requests in your queue, but another employee only has three, the supervisor can determine why this is happening."
According to Currier, the company is pleased with the results; there is faster turnaround, better accuracy, more volume and more consistent processing. Plus, the insurance carrier is able to grow its business with the same number of employees. "Our original goals have been exceeded," she says.
"In March 2004, commercial lines underwriting implemented this system. Claims will be implemented next and should be completed in the first quarter of 2005," Currier notes. "In time, areas that support IT, accounting and human resources will also be added to the system," she says.
Currier acknowledges that there was one unexpected problem: The company didn't understand initially how many documents needed color scanning and how much more disk space they would require. VMG eventually purchased high-speed Kodak (Rochester, N.Y.) scanners that could dynamically switch between color and black and white to minimize the disk space used and avoid having to separate color documents from black and white ones.
Case Study Closeup
Vermont Mutual Group; Montpelier, Vt.; $284 million in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
Personal and commercial P&C.
ImageRight's (Conyers, Ga.) ImageRight Desktop and ImageRight Workflow System.
Speed transaction turnaround and improve customer service through workflow automation.