The rapid proliferation of enterprise content, such as electronic documents, audiovisual files, instant messaging (IM), recorded phone conversations and e-mail, is having significant impact on the global insurance industry.Insurers now face severe penalties if they are unable to produce legally viable records of business conversations and transactions. Additionally, globalization, the dispersion of data and strict compliance regulations are key drivers of this emerging industry mindset.

Consequently, insurance companies are being pushed out of their traditional business operations and forced to rapidly assimilate technological advances that other financial services firms, such as banks and brokerage houses, have used for most of the past decade.

These information infrastructures enable instantaneous access to information that can be retained in memory, facilitated by e-mail and IM systems, and then recalled for compliance-related reasons.

One large Midwest insurance company implemented a digital claims management system based on an enterprise content management and a content addressed storage system. It provides claim representatives with centralized access to the wide range of information generated in the claims process, including virtual claim files that contain multiple media types and applications. These files enable the firm to document claims more quickly with fewer people and make better decisions.

MESSAGING MANIA

The insurance industry is also embracing new claims management technologies, such as voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) and IM, which enable them to interact with customers.

For example, a customer service representative (CSR) receives a request from a customer via phone. Unable to find the appropriate information, the representative, while still conversing with the customer, sends an IM to his manager, a person in the claims department or to a couple of other colleagues asking for the information. A colleague is able to resolve the problem and sends an IM back to the representative with the appropriate information.

By querying numerous people at once, the CSR's chances of getting the proper information increase dramatically and, most important, the customer is satisfied.

However, because the IM conversation in this example is integral to securing the information and it is part of a recorded telephone conversation, it becomes a legal document that must be stored and made available for future access should it become germane to a legal, regulatory or compliance request.

Saving the IM as part of a legal document is a step in the right direction, but if not stored as part of an organized system from which it can be quickly recalled, its value is vastly reduced. That is why insurers and other companies across a wide range of industries are increasingly implementing new enterprise information infrastructures as part of their business strategies.

MITIGATING MESSAGING RISKS

While IM and e-mail provide many advantages, they can also introduce risks. Public IM, often installed by users without the IT department's knowledge, produces e-communications not captured and therefore not kept as business records. These communications are not searchable and cannot be produced in the event of regulatory audit or litigation requests.

These risks can be avoided by implementing a server-based software package with an IM gateway or proxy server that exports IM conversations in message form via a communications protocol back to the server. With this package, every IM communication is indexed, stored and moved into an archival database in an information lifecycle management system. Full-text indexing and powerful search tools ensure that requested IMs can be produced in minutes.

The software helps companies lower e-mail and IM storage costs by moving data off the messaging server. It also eliminates duplicate incoming and outgoing messages while retaining a record of all users who sent or were copied on a message.

Packages that perform this same function for e-mail are also available, and similar to the IM saving system described here, are optimized if they retain their contents within environments based on timeliness, importance, context and document type. To remain competitive, insurers must be able to instantly access and manage multiple data types, which requires storage in a logical and cost-effective manner.

The exponential explosion of messaging and electronic information is providing a wakeup call to the insurance industry, which, in the past, maintained a relatively low IT profile compared to other financial services firms.

As the types and volumes of e-information proliferate exponentially, insurers are realizing they must adopt e-mail, IM messages, recorded phone conversations and other enterprise content as legal documents and store them within cost-efficient information infrastructures from which they can be easily accessed.

Louis Linder is the global insurance marketing and solutions development director for EMC Corp., Hopkinton, Mass.

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