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BPM: More Than Faster Way of Pushing Papers

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, September 29, 2009

I’ve been talking about business process management (BPM) in recent blogs here at INN, as well as articles in the works. In “Building BPM Solutions Into the Front Office,” I talked about how one insurance carrier was able to deploy BPM technology to automate its online sales and renewal processes. The effort has enabled the company to transform the way it does business.

Traditionally, insurance has been a paper-pushing industry, and much of the BPM work that has been done to date focused on automating and digitizing these processes. But just as paving cowpaths won’t handle the next generation of traffic, the arrival of BPM as a transformational initiative is creating new opportunities for carriers to think about new ways of doing business.

As part of my exploration of BPM within the insurance industry, I had the chance to talk with David Sherriff, chief operating officer with Microgen, a provider of business process outsourcing, BPM, and other solutions for the financial services and insurance sector.

I asked Sherriff about the conventional wisdom that would dictate that insurance companies be applying BPM to speed up or improve the efficiency of workflow and paper-intensive processes. Sherriff says this “conventional wisdom” should be turned on its head.

“Some insurance industry leaders are transforming the way they use BPM technologies to create measurable competitive advantage,” he points out. “Previously the BPM technologies available had evolved from a traditional workflow environment and were used as a system for automating the movement of paper from point A to point B. BPM technologies have to deliver much more if they are to deliver value at an enterprise level.”

BPM is taking on a more strategic hue, he adds. “Organizations are now choosing BPM platforms whose performance and capability aligns with strategic business objectives -- such as large-scale transaction-based systems, operational risk management and cost containment.”

But just as every long journey begins with a single step, there are practical measures BPM proponents need to take to ensure that the effort can catch hold. Sherriff makes the following recommendations for moving BPM efforts forward within the organization:

•    Get the right stakeholders involved early. “This should include senior management on both the IT and business user sides,” Sherriff says. “Without input from both groups, you’ll end up with a system that doesn’t meet the needs of the whole business.”

•    Recognize that changing business processes, particularly across existing silos, means significant cultural change. “Ensure all stake holders are on-board with this change and that it is championed from the top,” he adds.

•    Be realistic in a tight economy with tight IT budgets. “In today’s market where companies have reduced the workforce to a minimum, the ability to take on change is significantly restricted,” Sherriff points out. “Pick a scope of delivery that the business and IT have the bandwidth to deliver.”

•    Be demanding of vendors. “Choose a provider that truly understands your business and the market challenges it faces, and has the capability and the technology to deliver fast, measurable ROI.”

As BPM gains traction within an organization, it evolves into a cross-enterprise initiative that starts right from mahogany row, versus a stock technology implementation driven by the IT department. But grassroots initiatives are also critical to BPM success.

“Successful BPM platform implementation comes both from the top down and the bottom up,” Sherriff explains. “In order to align the system’s capabilities with strategic objectives, you’ve got to have senior management level buy-in. But you’ve also got to have both business and IT users on board to make the platform work day-to-day.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology. He can be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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