Successful ECM Requires
Both Tools and Strategy
There are a number of key steps carriers should take in creating
a successful enterprise content management strategy.
Enterprise content man- agement (ECM) systems can help carriers automate workflows to trim process- ing time, meet compliance
requirements, enhance disaster recovery
preparedness and facilitate straight-through processing. Yet, the systems are
often difficult to implement on a enterprisewide basis. Insurance Networking News
asked Yasir Hussain, a senior architect with
Farmington Hills, Mich.-based consulting
firm X by 2, what carriers can do to ease
INN: What are ECM’s business
YH: ECM promises carriers a path to
achieve the elusive goal of “going paperless,” often viewed as a competitive
advantage that will help cut costs and
enable process efficiencies by streamlining workflows across the enterprise.
ECM is a set of tools and strategies
that help capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content across the enterprise to employees, agents, policyholders and business partners.
With many business benefits at stake,
IT departments are under a lot of pressure to implement content management tools and strategies that can cut
across departmental lines while at the
same time also support, scale and respond to evolving business needs.
INN: What is the first step toward a
successful ECM initiative?
YH: A key steppingstone to creating an
ECM strategy is to select the right solution architecture, which often revolves
around the selection and integration of
one or many ECM vendor solutions.
Prior to evaluating ECM vendor solutions, it’s critical that carriers develop not
only functional “business” requirements,
but also create a conceptual solution architecture to drive non-functional “
architectural” requirements. Identifying
non-functional requirements will help
evaluate a solution’s staying power, total
cost of ownership and integration fit into
a carrier’s existing solution landscape. In
a market where vendors quickly achieve
feature parity, underlying architecture
often becomes the sole solution differentiator.
vendor solutions. This analysis includes
the creation of a vendor evaluation process and an experienced team, both of
which should be vendor-neutral and
can rise beyond organizational politics.
Carriers often turn to research firms,
such as Forrester and Gartner, which
can help differentiate the pretenders
from the contenders. However, one
needs to move past the “magic quadrant” and use the evaluation process to
measure vendor solutions against a carrier’s unique requirements.
Scalability, for example, can be a requirement that is unique between middle market and large carriers. Middle-market carriers should avoid overpaying
for unnecessary solution scalability that,
on the other hand, may be a necessity
for a large carrier.
INN: With all of the requirements gathered, how does a carrier identify the
right solution for its environment?
YH: It’s a tough process. There are the
internal departmental politics; business
people just want a powerful tool and
typically don’t—and shouldn’t—care
much about a solution’s underlying
technology; and vendors make many
promises about their solution’s ability
to meet a carrier’s needs.
Identifying the right solution for a
carrier requires an objective analysis of
INN: Is business buy-in a necessity?
YH: The evaluation process needs to be
transparent to all of the business and IT
stakeholders, and must be seen as a joint
effort between business and IT. The process should act as a framework that dictates key evaluation criteria that vendors
should meet, and drives what information should be supplied.
A common pitfall is to allow the vendor
solution to drive the evaluation criteria
and the flow of information.
The team needs to have a balance of
business domain experience as well as a
strong architecture background. Business needs to come first; however, “
architectural” needs such as performance,
scalability and flexibility should not be
overlooked. The team should be able to
look under the hood and probe further
when evaluating vendor solutions
against technical and architectural requirements. Simply cataloging features
and functional capabilities and doing
demos alone won’t cut it. Conversations
must be held with product architects to
truly establish fit. Asking the right questions requires expertise; evaluating the
answers requires experience and judgment.
By executing the up-front objective analysis of vendor solutions, carriers will be able to create and support
a successful ECM strategy. Without it,
ECM initiatives will likely fail and result in time and money investments
in solutions that do not perform, scale
or integrate well within the enterprise. INN
For more about ECM search “How to Realize the Full
Benefits of ECM” at www.insurancenetworking.com.