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Colin Dean is account manager EMEA insurance and financial services of Hyland, creator of OnBase. www.onbase.com

Colin Dean
Colin Dean

The financial services sector has enjoyed significant efficiencies from digitisation in recent years but there is widespread agreement that a fully paperless system offers even bigger advantages to businesses, eager to enhance customer care and automate existing processes. However, many find the idea of implementing such an IT project daunting.

This need not be the case, as enterprise content management (ECM) can do most of the hard work, by allowing digitised documents and files in a wide range of formats to be accessed across the organisation. While the path to success may be manageable, the outcome will be significantly enhanced by addressing some fundamental issues.

What are the steps organisations should take to turn the vision of a digital strategy into a reality?

First of all, it is important to have a clear vision of what you want, and why. Managers seeking approval for a new IT infrastructure need to think beyond the technology and instead try to define their vision for the project in terms of how they see the business working in the future. Too often they focus on what is changing, rather than why. Therefore, it is a good idea to start by considering the full potential of digitisation through ECM for the specific business area, before moving on to more practical concerns regarding implementation.

How can the digital strategy deliver maximum efficiency and seamless customer service across all aspect of a business?

Most financial services businesses have already grasped that digitising their documentation and processes can save time and office space, and provide a clear audit trail for regulatory compliance. But the digital revolution that has happened in consumer devices provides a way for forward-thinking companies to make a leap in customer service levels and provide valuable differentiation in the marketplace.

Many consumers are now more comfortable filling out a form on a tablet than on paper. Therefore, a health insurer could follow the model being set by online retailers and the challenger banks and offer an app that sits on the customer’s smartphone or tablet, providing a guarantee of instant access to the claims system with maximum user-friendliness. ECM becomes the interface between the customer-facing digital system and the digitised files of the policies and claims departments.

How can the digital strategy save costs and improve management overview and regulatory compliance in an increasingly strict environment?

Placing ECM at the heart of the digital strategy allows both new business and ongoing client relationship processes to become paperless and instant in their entirety, giving staff access to all the information they need all from within their own familiar working environment. screen. To insurers, for example, it helps meet increasingly stringent regulations on both data and the speed of the claims process. It also works smoothly with the systems of hospitals and medical centres which are generally also adopting ECM.

At the same time, it gives managers straightforward tools to control who accesses what. Part of the claims process can be automated as it flows from one digital input system to another, while tasks that do require human decision-making and approval are instantly flagged to an appropriate member of staff. Should the task not be actioned in a given timeframe, a manager can be alerted or the task reassigned with a suitable red flag.

What is the role of the digital strategy in analysing customer trends and supporting future change?

One of the key aspects of the wider digital revolution, which started in the retail sector, is the harnessing of vast amounts of data on customers. The key pioneer, Amazon, has built a vast business on the back of its ability to create accurate individual profiles of its customers and tailor offers to their needs. More and more industries are adopting this approach, often with the help of ECM. Whether linking into a customer app or simply bringing together a number of different digital input methods, it provides a straightforward way into the world of analytics and the possibility of not just understanding customers as a whole better, but tailoring business to their needs. A good ECM system also has the agility and flexibility to work with developing digital platforms as well, so that new interfaces and devices can be catered to quickly as and when they emerge.

How can advisers take control of the document journey without requiring a large IT team?

ECM is designed to work with existing systems and allows documents to be viewed in a variety of familiar formats. It can be installed in a phased approach and does not require a large specialised IT department to run.

Designed to be user friendly, it allows an otherwise complicated array of files to be viewed easily and within their original format, on a desktop computer, a tablet or a smartphone. Following the successful implementation of the basic ECM structure, staff will often find further uses for it as they adapt their day to day work processes to the new model. Its flexibility means that these changes can be implemented easily, again without the need for costly technical back-up.

What are the hurdles to installing ECM and how can these be overcome?

Once you have a vision of a new digital way of working, you will need to think about designing it from a practical viewpoint. Many IT projects fall far short of their full potential because they are not widely adopted by staff. Engaging staff is the key challenge when implementing an ECM system.

A good approach is to involve the people who will actually be using the system from the very beginning. Talk to them, find out what their challenges are and ask for their input and ideas. This helps build end-user buy-in and vastly increases the chances of achieving full adoption once the technical installation is complete.

Appropriate planning and vision are key to swift adoption across the business. Target quick wins, thereby building confidence and belief in the new approach.  As the new way of working evolves and customer trends are taken into account, the system will be flexible enough to allow further business processes to be automated, with others changed into more appropriate digital formats.