ECM – Emerging from the Back Office

Charles Hanna of Hyland Software discusses how enterprise content management shouldn’t be kept behind the scenes
The outlook may remain uncertain, but there are signs that financial institutions are once again thinking about IT investment. However, whether they are preparing for potential future growth or simply fighting for survival, they’re unlikely to go on a spending spree. Most businesses will be wary of committing to large-scale investment unless it promises a fast and robust return.

charles-hanna
charles-hanna

Retrenchment and consolidation are still the bywords. Yet at the same time, companies need to be ready to grab market share when prospects do pick up – and, of course, guard their existing businesses by providing gold-plate customer service.

So where should they turn to find an IT solution that can help make competitive gains on both these fronts? Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has already seen significant take up within the sector, driven by the explosion of data and documentation together with the need for compliance. This trend looks set to continue. In a new report by CEB TowerGroup, the majority of financial services companies polled said that they would be replacing or adopting ECM technology before 2015, with 81% rating this investment as a low to moderate risk decision.

Generally ECM has been seen as a back office repository for compliance-related document processing and for the management of unstructured content types collected via the internet.

Integrated with core banking platforms, it ensures all different types of documents and data from any corporate system are stored electronically in one location and can be easily and quickly accessed. ECM technology can help in gathering all facts together to ensure decisions are made with all the best and most current information in mind, automating manual workflows where possible.

In the CEB TowerGroup study, the majority of respondents said that the need to improve efficiency, optimise business processes and achieve compliance were the main drivers of ECM investment. Surprisingly only 7% named customer service. But ECM can help significantly to streamline, accelerate and add visibility to customer transactions, so enhancing customer satisfaction and ensuring repeat business. The fact that only a small number of respondents recognised this fact suggests that the way is open for businesses to exploit this opportunity to make competitive gains.

First, ECM ensures that all related documents are available instantly when customers call, so helping to avoid the ‘catch-up’ syndrome where a customer has to spend the first minutes of their call explaining what has happened before.

Second, through advances in mobile technology combined with the emergence of the cloud, anyone working away from the office, say visiting a customer’s factory to assess suitability for a loan, can quickly access and update forms, collect other documents from their customer, take photographs or digitally record interviews directly onto their tablet computers. Having all the right customer information available at the click of a button, from anywhere, brings faster, better service and eliminates wasted time and customer frustrations.

Nowhere is this technology becoming more valuable than in the insurance industry where competitive pressures are acute. We have already seen a steady trickle of third-party mobile apps that enable claims and loss adjustors to enter data from the field, on phones, or more likely tablet computers. However, until now, these adjusters have still had to carry several devices including cameras, Dictaphones and mobiles were still taking all data and documents back to the office before the claims process began. Also, tablets weren’t connected to company-wide ECM systems, so the data-flow was one-way.

Now with the release of mobile versions of business critical apps, the whole process is more centralised, streamlined and interactive. This has improved further with the release of Windows 8 which has addressed some previous stability and security issues experienced when downloading onto tablets.

This enables those out in the field to have all key information to hand and complete required tasks on the spot, rather than waiting until they return to the office, safe in the knowledge that their decisions are based on comprehensive and accurate data. This information gathered from the field worker is then immediately available to office-based personnel or other mobile users and so further processes such as approvals and follow-ups can be started without delay.

This means claims can be paid in days rather than weeks – something that could be a real differentiator to ensure on-going customer loyalty. However, this is just the start. There is also the potential for new processes to be developed around this more responsive way of working. For example, certain triggers could be put in place to send out automatic communications via email or text to update customers on the progress of a claim.

It’s only a matter of time before this way of working extends to other financial services providers. The ability to update customers on how their loan application is progressing, for example, combined with a speeded-up process overall, would be a valuable customer-pleaser.

The CEB TowerGroup study shows that almost one-third of customers leave their bank because of its poor quality of service and that good service is the key decider in whether or not to recommend a bank to friends or family.

It’s frustrating enough for a customer to have to repeat their story every time as part of any transaction, whether they sorting out a telephone bill or trying to get a refund on a pair of shoes. Banks are often dealing with major life landmarks such as mortgage applications or a loan application to start a business, so the situation can feel even more stressful for a customer.

By offering transparency throughout the process, so that customers can help themselves to information and are kept up to date on the progress of any application or other transaction, they can help minimise the headaches for customers