Forms Management Software Cuts Errors And Saves Time
The point of forms management software for the insurance industry is not just reproducing the form itself, notes Vince Grieco, managing director of insurance technology for KPMG Consulting, Liberty Corner, N.J. Its managing the information that goes on the form.
“Any business forms are good only when viewed in the context of their content,” Grieco points out.
In a business like insurance, where traditionally nothing gets done without a veritable flurry of paperwork, document management and forms processing software can help a company get maximum use out of customer information while saving prodigious amounts of work, time and money, experts say.
To be successful, the software must make information entered on a form work over and over again, to help avoid the need to fill out additional paperwork–thus eliminating keystrokes, duplicated effort and the chances for error.
A single form should do as much as possible for the agent, the insurance carrier and the customer who is applying for an insurance product, says Grieco.
“One of biggest problems for the industry is the number of information systems that are unable to talk to each other at the enterprise level,” he adds.
In looking for document management software, insurers and agents should look for products that work well with existing software, advises Grieco.
“We have seen consolidation of software manufacturers in the industry,” he says. “One of the important considerations in buying a product is the financial viability of the vendor and the ability of the software to play nicely with others. Yes, a product may have interesting, easy-to-use features, but will it play nicely with others, if I have a store of information that I want to share among a variety of users, some using different software? Thats the single most important thing to look at right now.”
In addition to ease of use with other products and ability to work with a number of different products, Grieco advises buyers to look for software with scalability, or the ability to grow with the user firm. It should also have the ability to work across firewalls. Finally, he says, look for firms that are likely to be around for a while, to service their products. In an era of business aggregation and consolidation, he counsels, its a good idea to look at a vendors financial statements, where available, to assure it is on a solid footing.
Among software vendors in the field are the following. All vendors software programs cited below are compatible with standards set by ACORD, Pearl River, N.Y., and most have the ability to publish, expedite workflow, produce forms and consolidate data from other sources.
Xerox Insurance and Financial Services, Rochester, N.Y., says about 1.5% to 2% of net premiums written in the insurance industry is spent on documents, in the form of direct costs for equipment, labor, services and supplies. Add indirect costs, such as for queue times and professional productivity losses, and the figure can be substantially higher.
Xerox provides carriers with the option of outsourcing all their documents management and forms to Xerox on a contract basis, but it also offers Web-based forms management services.
Its Web-based system offers a wide suite of software that enable users to streamline paperwork, says Patricia Calderon, general manager of solutions development for Xeroxs financial services and healthcare industrial business, Rochester, N.Y.
The company helps the business customer to analyze uses so that in many cases, it can eliminate the need to stockpile certain forms and instead print them on demand, she says. Or users can requisition multiple forms with a single visit to a Web-enabled requisitioning site.
The companys Spectrum Plus software allows customers to automate forms ordering.
“It also allows a profile of the end-user so if you are a carrier, you can create a profile for, say, each broker and specify that a given broker is allowed to use only certain forms associated with specific products you have licensed him to sell,” explains Calderon.
Xerox offers a variety of ways for businesses to use its forms management software. For instance, the customer can put it online on his or her own server, using a Windows NT system, or Xerox can serve as a host site.
Typically, if a customer buys software for use on his own site, prices start at $100,000, the company says. If Xerox hosts the software, prices may begin at $45,000 for setup, plus a monthly transaction-based fee, based on the users consumption of services.
Napersoft, in Naperville, Ill., offers Bridge, a module of related products that can work on a Windows server or a variety of mainframes.
The 17-year-old company provides document management software and consulting services.
“We analyze the customers needs through a business function review, we go in and determine the clients needs and how our products can be applied to those needs,” says Edward Evans, president of the company. By helping insurers, agents and others transform to a paperless environment, Evans says his firm can help clients significantly cut costs.
Because customers have a wide choice of plans, prices can range from $200,000 for a site license to well over $1 million, the company says.
Silverlake Software, Bordentown, N.J., offers Virtual Paper Designer Publisher and Designer, a product with property-casualty insurance applications.
“Publisher will take a source form which we provide and output it to a print device or PDF file,” says Jamie da Silva, company president.
The software allows large companies to create their own customized forms in significant quantities. “For smaller projects, we usually create the forms for them,” he explains.
Prices for the system start at $10,000 but due to the many variables involved, such as form quantities and number of users, da Silva says it can run much higher. The software runs in any Windows system.
PaperFree Corporation in Livingston, N.J., offers Lightpaper, which can support forms processing and document management at most any personal lines insurance company, although most of its customers are p-c carriers, says Joel Benisch, president.
Lightpaper is actually a family of products designed to provide a real-time document interface between agents, carriers, adjusters and brokers, he says. The end user is generally any employee in an insurance agency or insurance company. The product enables them to complete forms on-screen.
“The end user doesnt have to do anything special to send or receive data from or to any partner,” says Benisch. That means that no special training is needed to use the software.
The product operates on any Windows or Mac system or a Unix workstation, the company says.
Declining to site specific prices due to varied factors such as licensing requirements, Benisch says prices are generally scaled to the number of workstations a customer has.
Allen Beggs, president of QualCorp, Valencia, Calif., descries his companys FormsPlus software as a forms-driven database that carriers and managing general agents use to issue and manage personal and commercial lines of business, including life-health and workers comp in all 50 states.
It can also feed data from an agencys or carriers claims system to its accounting systems.
FormsPlus charges customers based on three components: a database, the number of lines of business used, and form charges, the company notes.
Beggs notes that prices have recently ranged from $25,000 for a managing general agent to $500,000 for a carrier that bought 35 copies of the program.
“Most users, large or small, can see a complete return of their investment in six to eight months,” says Beggs.
The company also introduced a new product this year, ProjectPlus, a workflow management and imaging software package.
“ProjectPlus is used by MGAs and carriers to manage workflow,” says Beggs. For instance, they can readily check the status of an existing account–whether it has reviewed a policy yet, who in the agency has it and for how long.
Other companies producing document management/forms processing software for the insurance industry include ELF Solutions, Fraser, Mich.; InSystems, Markham, Ontario; and Docucorp, Dallas. By press time, these companies could not be reached for comment.
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, June 3, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.