Once buried in thousands upon thousands of paper-based documents, insurers have made headway converting them into digital formats and using document management systems to oversee them all. But wait, there’s more.

These days, insurers also need to capture, manage and effectively use content from email, Web forms, social media, video and mobile apps. Next-generation enterprise content management (ECM) solutions let them do that, too.

The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), a global community of information professionals, defines ECM as “the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization’s unstructured information, wherever that information exists.”

It’s hard to pinpoint just how many documents and how much content an average-sized company has. What’s better known and widely reported is the sheer volume of data that organizations are accumulating. IDC forecasts that 40 zettabytes (ZB) will be generated on a daily basis by 2020. Another recent study from IDG Enterprise found that within the next 12 to 18 months, organizations expect the amount of data they manage to increase by 76 percent.

The data explosion and associated increase in content and documents is impacting insurance carriers. “The biggest challenge insurers have regarding content is really the increase in volume and type of content they have to manage,” says Jeff Hiegert, ECM solutions manager with Perceptive Software, a business unit of Lexmark International. “It’s no longer just about scanning paper documents. They have to contend with Web forms, emails, social media feeds, even videos. And in many cases, they need to integrate all of that with back-end systems, which weren’t designed for this.”

Converting paper into electronic formats has only gotten insurers so far. “Insurance companies were some of the first companies to use imaging and scanning to reduce their paper volume,” says Doug Miles, director of market intelligence at AIIM. But he says all too often, insurers have simply pushed paper through the requisite processes and then scanned it right before archiving. “This is obviously a wasted opportunity,” Miles says.

Despite being first-movers on paper-to-electronic document con- version, insurers have been slower to implement more automated and integrated content solutions such as ECM. “Managing risk and reducing exposure is what the insurance industry is all about,” Hiegert says. “So they are cautious about rolling in new technology or modifying a host system.”

Regulatory compliance is driving the industry forward. There are state and federal regulations related to document management, and insurers can be fined if, for example, claims aren’t processed properly and in a timely manner. Moreover, insurance content is typically spread across multiple systems and business divisions, in multiple applications and formats, making access and control time-consuming and costly. And plenty of organizations have legacy systems that cannot effectively leverage all the digital content insurers must work with today. Also, there’s no central view. “A real challenge is integrating all that content so it can be examined and leveraged, alongside these older systems, in a holistic manner,” Hiegert says.

Customers, too, are demanding new avenues of interaction. They want to review, price and purchase insurance plans − sometimes in a matter of hours or minutes − using self-service portals and mobile apps. They also want to file claims from their smartphones and include photos and videos, using apps such as State Farm Insurance’s Pocket Agent. All of that content, however, has to be collected, managed and shared across systems.

GETTING RID OF PAPER

Transitioning from paper and paper-based processes is clearly a plus. According to a Web-based survey conducted by AIIM earlier this year, 60 percent of respondents that have paper-free projects have achieved a return on investment within 12 months. That figure goes as high as 77 percent within 18 months. Per the AIIM study, faster customer response topped the list of benefits, followed by productivity improvements and better monitoring of workloads. Improved remote and mobile access, along with cleaner audit trails and better regulatory compliance, were also widely perceived as benefits.

Eliminating paper and integrating multiple businesses systems is helping Physicians Insurance streamline its content and improve customer service. The provider of medical professional liability insurance for doctors and clinics in Washington, Oregon and Idaho is using tools from Perceptive Software’s ECM suite to help it manage documents and content associated with claims, underwriting and accounts payable. Previously, Physicians Insurance had a file room that housed volumes of policies in files sometimes five inches thick.

Now, it has instant access to digital claims files and can render updates, such as new policy jackets or endorsement changes, automatically. Those updates can be sent off to customers with a click of a button via email. Underwriters also have real-time access to documents; if a doctor calls in with a question, the relevant records can quickly and efficiently be accessed.

Moving beyond the digitization of paper documents and leveraging straight-through processing (STP) that automatically feeds the content into functional systems will open new doors for insurers, says Nicolas Michellod, a senior analyst in the insurance practice at Celent, an IT research and consulting firm. For example, insurers can apply analytics to the information and more easily track content lifecycles.

ECM solutions are designed to facilitate STP and more. They can help insurers manage cases, capture information from multiple channels and sources, and meet compliance requirements. Core components should include document management, Web content management, records management, image-processing applications, social content and content workflow, according to Gartner. Document management, a more mature feature of an ECM system, is designed to help companies manage document check-in/ check-out, version control and more. But next-generation capabilities are being layered in, including digital rights management and metadata-driven views of documents, rather than strict taxonomy-based structures.

Image-processing applications help insurers capture, transform and manage images of paper documents. This can be done either using native capabilities or via a third-party solution, but the system has to be more comprehensive than simply scanning a piece of paper and converting it to a PDF. In fact, image-processing software should be able to store images of scanned documents in a common repository, and those images should be able to get routed through an electronic process.

Web content management is designed for controlling a Website’s content and can include content creation functions and delivery of pre-packaged or on-demand content to Web servers. Records management is used for long-term archiving, automation of retention and compliance policies, and ensuring legal, regulatory and industry compliance. Components that help insurers manage social content and rich media are increasingly important. Not surprisingly, social content, including video, is the fastest-growing category of new content in enterprises, Gartner says.

It’s still the early days for insurance companies’ ECM programs, particularly for mid-sized and smaller companies. But as insurers begin to leverage ECM, especially alongside multi-channel product and service initiatives such as mobile applications and self-service portals, Celent’s Michellod says these companies need to think broadly. “They need to make sure they map ECM to more global, digital transformation programs,” he says. “What that will allow is data that can be entered once and then turned into valuable information that can be used across multiple business lines and processes.”

AIIM’s Miles offers this straightforward advice: “Insurance companies need to make every process paper-free. And whenever they can, they need to capture information as close to the customer as possible. Don’t let electronic signatures hold anyone back. Put forms on mobile devices so business can move at the speed of light.” ?

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