So Far, the BPM Revolution Has Bypassed Agent Networks
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 27, 2009
Insurance organizations have been making notable progress on applying business process management (BPM) principles, such as automated workflows, against their enterprise systems. However, when it comes to agent or producer networks, the old-fashioned way of doing business still prevails.
On many levels, the industry is “fraught with the 'but-this-is-always-the-way-we’ve-done-it' mentality,” says Zach McCoy, SVP at Kaplan Compliance. This is especially the case with agency or producer systems, he explains. I recently had the opportunity to pick McCoy's brain about some the challenges the industry faces with BPM.
This may change, however, as more members of Generations X and Y start working within agencies.
“As they recruit newer and younger producers into the business, that translates into an expectation that agent systems are automated, easy-to-use and accessible from just about anywhere,” he points out.
There are multiple benefits to BPM. For example, at the front end, “customers—including producers— expect to be able to login and perform self-service transactions,” McCoy says. However, while there has been a great deal of focus on the consumer end-user experience, “the producers have been left in the dark,” he adds. “This often means producers have to download and print paperwork, fax or mail it to multiple destinations and call multiple places to get a status on their paperwork.”
Another area in which the industry lags in terms of BPM adoption is in licensing and compliance—an area McCoy works with firsthand. This has occurred, he says, because of the “extremely complex regulatory environment in which insurance companies operate, and also by the intricate distribution models in the industry.”
McCoy has four recommendations for those seeking to move into BPM:
Prepare the organization. “Identify those who will fight the change early in the process and provide specific coaching,” he says. “Management must prepare staff for the need to adopt those new and improved processes. If technology solutions are implemented, but business processes aren’t reworked, you will simply execute poor processes more quickly.”
Check all egos at the door. “There should be no sacred cows within your organization as you enter into this process.”
Seek out experts who can provide best practices recommendations. “Major improvements can lead to cost savings, efficiencies, and improved customer and producer satisfaction,” he says. “This can be accomplished by implementing best-practice processes within current workflows. Most best-practice recommendations also will include technology-based automation solutions.”
Consider taking the next step to business process outsourcing (BPO). Within the insurance industry, BPM has manifested itself the most in the area of business process outsourcing (BPO) because BPM has provided BPO vendors economies of scale, and associated hard-dollar expense savings, McCoy says.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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