Document Automation Faces New Industry Challenges Older solutions are unable to meet todays stringent demands
By Neil Betteridge
The insurance industry continues to face significant challenges. Consolidation activity in the life and health sector is not expected to slow down any time soon, and carriers are finding they must be more flexible, responsive and efficient than ever to keep pace with increasing competition from different market players and product offerings.
Ironically, while consolidation implies simplification, it in fact adds a greater variety of products and services into the mix that need to be managed. This has a direct impact on the role of document generation and deliverywhich are the mainstays of the industry.
Having the right product in the right hands at the right time (error-free and up-to-date) is absolutely critical to maintaining revenues and profitability. However, any regulatory change and any alteration to product mix, even a simple information update, can involve extensive labor, integration and document coding costs, ultimately impacting bottom line resultsnot to mention increasing the risk of potential errors.
The need to manage change to even one single item can be a mind-boggling exercise in logistics. But it must be managed efficiently, since even the most minor of issues can create a significant risk. A single alteration, for example, might affect 20 to 50 state variations for a single insurance policy form. Responding to even minor changes such as these can increase the risk of redundancy and clerical errors while adding to the administrative burden.
There is no question that the quality, accuracy and consistency of documentationfrom policies and booklets to statements and personal correspondencealso directly impact an insurance companys credibility. If not managed properly, ones credibility factor, and competitive advantage, can be jeopardized.
While most insurance and financial services operations have automated some document generation on a basic level, many are finding that these first-generation solutions are neither flexible nor scalable enough to meet present day needs. They often are tied to older systems or require extensive modification and integration by IT programmers to interact effectively with administrative functions. These tend to be slow and costly, thereby creating a barrier to business agility and responsiveness.
Also, many of these automation efforts have been applied on a departmental basis and as such, cannot easily be expanded to encompass other functional areas within an enterprise. And because document generation and production is an extremely complex function that requires extensive specialization, it is one key area that is not included in the recent generation of enterprise content management (ECM) solutions, the host of technologies that includes imaging, Web content management and multimedia.
Therefore, even with the increase in ECM implementations, it is still not unusual to see organizations running multiple platforms and document generation solutions within various divisions. This is a challenge that increases as acquisitions continue to bring more variables into the equation.
In other cases, document automation solutions are fragmented according to function. For example, policy production may be managed separately from customer service correspondence. All of this translates into greater costs, reduced productivity and unnecessary duplication of effort.