The days of endless rows of file cabinets chock-full with customer files are numbered as more companies provide their customers with online access to policies, billing statements and claims reporting.As insurers grapple with regulatory changes, mergers and acquisitions and fast-changing technologies, enhancing operational efficiency and providing top-notch customer service has never been more important.
The current wave of content management solutions are providing carriers with new ways to compete by easing the challenging and time-consuming task of information management.
Insurers can use content management solutions to access the most up-to-date policy and claims data about an insured and review all of the correspondence, statements and other materials related to an insured's policy in one, centralized location.
As with other IT tools that can positively impact a carrier's operational efficiency, content management requires some preparation.
Before insurers make any technology investment, executives need to understand the company's current environment. Does the company need quicker access to files, streamlined workflows, decreased paper storage costs or increased document security?
After completing an environmental analysis and identifying organizational goals, carriers can then begin to analyze which processes they need to change.
A thorough review of the existing workflow environment is essential when considering the implementation of new technologies.
Insurers don't want to fall into the trap of facing the same limitations they encountered in their manual environment because their processes were not changed to take advantage of the new technology.
The next step is to develop an implementation plan that accounts for the changes in the new environment. As part of the plan, insurance executives should secure buy-in from all impacted areas and departments; allow for an adequate testing period for all impacted areas to work out the glitches; and establish a realistic timeframe and a contingency plan for any unexpected issues.
The introduction of any new solution to an organization is bound to cause apprehension. That is why it is important to evaluate how the new solution will impact the company's current processes and determine whether the system fits into the company's workflow or requires major changes for the company's staff.
When evaluating compatibility, carriers also should consider what the learning curve is to use the new system, and how the system implementation timeframe fits within their plan.
Today's content management market offers solutions rich with features, but features for features' sake may cause unnecessary headaches.
Decision-makers need to make note of which features are mandatory for their success and find the solution that has demonstrable expertise with these capabilities.
For example, if document security or automatic retention management is high in importance, then a system that offers the right level of security or automates the management of how long a document is kept on file or purged should be considered.
It is important that the solution offers the company enough capacity to store current volumes as well as have the scalability to support future growth.
It also needs to offer sufficient response time for document retrieval; otherwise, users will abandon the solution for a quicker one.
Also, be wary of a solution that is too robust, because the additional features may introduce complexities that the company is not prepared to address or control.
When evaluating a vendor, executives should determine if the vendor understands the insurance industry, has a strong reputation for supporting its clients, and is financially stable.
Check to see if references are available and whenever possible have the project manager speak with the actual implementation team at the referenced company.
Reap the rewards
To reap all the potential benefits from a new content management system, insurers must educate and prepare all impacted areas for the new system; develop a realistic implementation plan the company is prepared to follow; and select a system that will meet at least 80% of the requirements.
With this accomplished, the company is now in a position to reap the benefits of a content management system.
By using a content management solution to create a centralized location for all document storage-both paper and electronic-companies will see improvement in document retrieval, and consequently better client service.
Furthermore, a single repository, which enables document sharing within the office and with remote locations, can provide decreased print, mail, copy and storage costs.
If a company is able to realize just a few of these rewards, it will be able to operate more efficiently and cost effectively, providing an advantage in today's market.
Teresa Douglas is a senior market manager, insurance, for Docucorp.
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