There hasn’t been a lot of press covering the insurance industry’s enterprise content management business function lately. Yet this area has been subject to a great deal of change over the past few years, especially as it applies to the move many insurers are making toward digital transformation.

Consider the fact that at least 53% of insurance executives expect “massive” digital disruption within the next 12 months, according to “Digital Pulse 2015” by Russell Reynolds Associates. Yet admitting that digital disruption is upon us doesn’t necessarily equate to the reality of a response adequate for the pace of changes being introduced. Insurers are now ingesting more data than they can swallow from a host of new sources, including Internet of Things sensors, such as telematics, geospatial, weather and biosensors—melding with existing sources such as actuarial, claims and third-party data. Making sense of that this mix is just the beginning—we are facing an evolution of data to content to context, and the industry is still struggling forward.

This can be explained by the latest views on digital transformation: Keep the end goal in mind and look forward, not backward. When planning for the type of enterprise content management changes required for digital transformation, it’s usually because there are KPIs that are no longer being met, or efficiencies are no longer experienced with existing systems. Yet insurers may feel that looking back at our technology path doesn’t suit much purpose. We lived it, dealt with it, ultimately changed it, and moved on.

But how did we change it? We layered it—i.e., we found ways to lay new software—even systems—on top of older systems and make them talk and transact. This “succession” behavior also applies to enterprise content automation. No longer driven by IT specialists, end users and the business side now control the direction the path is taking, accommodating the customer with digital information that’s securely available on a variety of channels.

That glut of new data combines with succession behavior to add pressure to both the IT and business sides of the business, and begs the question: Going forward, how will we accommodate data in such a way as to provide value? Change it in a way that’s sustainable—configure it or customize it? In other words, instead of collecting data and information, what type of technologies are required to operationalize data and information?

John Mancini, chief evangelist at AIIM, the content management association, cautions insurers to start with the end in mind. “They probably shouldn’t be looking first to content management technologies, but rather to ways in which the business could be disrupted by technology,” Mancini says. “How do changes in technology disrupt the way underwriting is done? Or how agents conduct their business and interact with customers? Once the business needs are defined, then turn to how content management and other technologies can play a role.”

In other words, the ECM evolution requires a stepped approach to extracting value from content. This makes sense, especially when it comes to business intelligence, but Mancini cautions that BI tools are but one way to look at value extraction.

“Usually organizations have work to do before BI tools can be useful,” he says. “The various forms of content in an organization represent not only unmanaged big data, but often dark data. Often this information was originally processed primarily with an eye to storage and retrieval, not focused on integration into ongoing business processes or understanding what potential insights it might reveal about customer needs and behaviors.”

Mancini suggests using semantics and text analytics to understand exactly what is in a document, standardize its core metadata, and then move into the application of BI tools. “Organizations still need to organize all the “stuff” from the document, web, and mobile/cloud era, automate as much of this task as possible, extract as much value from it as possible, and prepare it for the machine era.”

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