In today's challenging market, insurance companies are seekingcreative ways to reduce costs without compromising all-importantcustomer service levels. As part of such efforts, many are taking ahard look at their information technology infrastructure andfocusing on system consolidation across the enterprise–includingtheir document production systems.

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In many insurance companies, it is not uncommon to find morethan 20 document production systems spread across the enterprise,often doing very similar work.

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For example, a company's personal auto department may use onesystem to create identification cards, another to create policypages, a third system to create bills and still another toproduce business marketingmaterials.

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Further complicating the picture, the company's individual life,group life and commercial property departments may have their ownsets of document automation systems. This scattered approach drivesup IT costs and complexity, and makes it difficult to maintain aconsistent look and feel for materials produced across theorganization.

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Several factors have contributed to the creation of thesecomplicated environments.

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In most insurance companies, individual business unitshistorically have selected their own IT systems independent of acentralized strategy. This approach may have allowed the businessunits to meet their own individual needs but has driven up costsacross the enterprise.

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Merger and acquisition activity in the insurance industry inrecent years also has caused siloed systems to proliferate.

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Consolidating multiple legacy document automation systems onto asingle document production platform offers several importantbusiness benefits for insurance companies, including:

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o Reducing IT complexity and costs:

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The point-system approach to document automation increases ITcomplexity and drives up costs associated with licensing andmaintaining numerous systems across the enterprise. With a single,centralized platform, carriers can greatly reduce the time andmoney previously spent on maintenance for multiple systems.

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By reducing the time IT staff must spend on routine maintenancetasks, carriers can redeploy these internal resources to morestrategic, value-adding activities.

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o Facilitating regulatory compliance:

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Insurance is a highly regulated industry, as are the documentsthat support insurance products and marketing practices. Multiplepoint systems across an enterprise make it difficult to ensure theaccuracy of information throughout the various platforms andincrease an insurer's vulnerability to compliance violations.

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By consolidating onto a single document production platform,insurers can reduce their risk by minimizing the number of touchpoints required when responding to regulatory requirements.

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o Optimizing customer communication:

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Insurers that rely on disparate point systems often struggle toensure a consistent look and feel for documents produced across theenterprise. With a single, centralized document productionplatform, insurers can communicate their brand and message in aconsistent manner, both internally and externally.

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In addition, an integrated platform provides the flexibility toleverage new channels of customer interaction–such as text messagesor e-mail. This allows insurers to provide customers withinformation via their preferred communication modes and helpspromote improved service satisfaction.

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After making the decision to migrate to a consolidated documentproduction system, insurers should consider the followingpriorities and requirements to maximize business benefits, ensureconsistent support across all types of output and maintain theflexibility required to adjust to new requirements.

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o Lead with business considerations.

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It is important for insurers to let the business drivers helpguide the selection process for an integrated document publishingplatform. This approach involves collaboration between IT and theoperating units to ensure that technology selections support thebusiness needs of each division, as well as align with thecompany's overall IT strategy.

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Insurers should look for systems that deliver the widest breadthof functionality–business users should never have to compromisetheir requirements for the good of IT.

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A consolidated platform should promote efficiency whileproviding the flexibility needed to tailor user interfaces andfunctionality to the particular needs of each department or line ofbusiness.

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Recent analyst research has identified three distinct types ofoutput required for full breadth of functionality–structured,interactive and on-demand. Insurers should look for solutions thatdeliver strong results across all three areas.

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o Support tomorrow's business today.

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It is important to consider a document automation system thatcan support the business today and tomorrow. Insurers need to keepin mind where the business is going, to ensure that the system hasthe scalability to support the volume anticipated after the initialimplementation is complete, as well as future company growth orpossible expansion into new lines of business.

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In addition, one of the keys in selecting a new solution is thatit needs to be easier and faster for customers to put products intoproduction.

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o Employ an open and service-oriented architecture approach.

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From an architecture perspective, insurers will be well-servedto pursue an open and service-oriented approach when selecting aconsolidated document publishing platform.

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By employing an open architecture, insurers can maintain theflexibility to add, remove or extend system components and reuseservices efficiently. This allows insurers to easily expand andadjust functionality as the business changes.

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Insurers can also loosely integrate document management withother enterprise systems–such as policy administration and customerrelationship management–to further increase operational efficiencyand minimize data entry efforts.

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o Deliver comprehensive, industry-specific support.

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To ensure optimal benefits, a consolidated document automationsystem must pair comprehensive functionality with industry-specificworkflows. Insurers require a consolidated platform that cansupport the business' current and anticipated document needs.

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An industry-specific solution will provide insurers withfamiliar workflows to support user adoption across the enterprise–acritical component to maximizing potential efficiencies and costsavings.

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Another such critical component is the ability to migrate easilyfrom the legacy platforms most commonly found within the insuranceenterprise, and the ability to be run from the widest possiblearray of data sources.

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REAL-WORLD RESULTS

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Industry-leading organizations are beginning to realize thebenefits of consolidating document production operations across theenterprise.

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Recently, a top-five global insurance company decided to pursuea consolidated approach to document management to reduce costs andpromote business growth.

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Plagued by the expenses of returned mail and excess printcollateral as a result of inaccurate and outdated data, the insurerdecided to streamline its document management functions. Byconsolidating onto an enterprisewide platform, the carrier is:

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o Creating a centralized output function and standardized,enterprisewide processes.

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o Reducing print document volumes.

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o Converting select document types to electronic format.

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o Reducing mail return rates with access to accurate, up-to-dateinformation.

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As a result of its consolidation efforts, the companyanticipates an 18 percent reduction in document output costs thisyear.

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Implementing an integrated document production platform is afirst step for insurers to set their business on the path tooptimizing cost efficiency.

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To ensure that the business will reap the potential rewards,business and IT leaders must work together to design and providetraining that empowers business users with the necessary knowledgeto understand and utilize the new system within their respectivelines of business.

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Armed with the confidence and ability to leverage the fullcapabilities of the system, insurers will be well on their way torealizing the cost savings and improved customer service benefitsafforded by a consolidated approach to document production.

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Karin Jessop ([email protected])is senior product manager for Oracle Insurance in Atlanta, andJill Davidson ([email protected])is senior industry strategist for Oracle in Toronto,Canada.

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