Insurance Request and Software

Taking a new request for a life insurance is a very complicated process. One
of the most interesting things I find is how they ask these strange questions to
determine the probability of you killing yourself. But, even if it matters or
not, the whole insurance industry is built in probabilities. Nobody though
possible the catastrophe that happened in 2005 with the hurricanes for example.

An interesting thing I also find is the length of these forms. They always
have multiple pages and have a huge amount of fields. The majority of the time
the forms have to be filled in an office or desk or a table. Is almost
impossible to do it standing. But with the technology like Tablet PCs these
forms can be made electronic and be filled remotely (in the field). This is an
area, the insurance industry, that greatly
benefit from
BPM solutions
. That’s why we have made a movie that represents a life
insurance form been automated with Procx.
A simple process was put in place for approving the form in which if the initial
insurance amount is greater than 50,000 then needs to be routed to a credit
analyst. Hope you like it.

See the movie
here.

A visit to Kinko’s

An interesting story and how an idea surged. A couple of days ago I had to go to
Kinko’s for
printing some pricing and marketing material for a customer I was going to visit
the next day. I asked for normal color printing with a special paper, something
that made it look good. This was in kind of a rush mode. I was on the trip and
visiting the client was a pure coincidence.

When the person in the front desk took my order, he took out the huge form (it
looks something like a poster for some movie or concert) and he fills it out
with my order request. I couldn’t understand anything he was writing but I know
there are a bunch of fields in the form. He entered the color preference, the
paper type, the number of copies, my name, address and phone number. After
finishing, he marks every field in the form with a green highlighter (I still
don’t know why is this). Then he takes the form and puts it in sealed bag (like
a huge Ziploc) and then calls somebody in the background to handle the new
request.

First, nobody answered. He didn’t know who was free to work and who was working
with something (and nobody was paying attention to him either). Then he needed
to copy my PDF files to the machine where the printing was going to be done. He
didn’t remember the files I just told him to print so I had to go back and point
him the files I wanted. I noticed that with every printing work they have, they
create a folder with the customer name. Inside the folder they create three more
folders: Original, Process, and Final. Then he placed my files in the original
folder. I think the folders mark the workflow that needs to be followed for
printing. I suppose it goes something like this: they first open the files in
the original folder, then edit them with some program for best printing (still
haven’t figured out what they edit; documents always have this blank border and
they say it’s impossible to take it out). Then they put the edited files in the
final folder.

After copying and filling the request and everything was done, he told me the
estimated time that everything will be ready and that’s it, ready.

When I got out I started thinking (in critique mode) the whole process. I said
why they haven’t done something more automatic for handling these request and
assignment. Maybe they would only need one person in the front taking the
requests and something behind prepares the environment of work and assigns the
right person in the back.

Using a workflow application would help them great automating the manual
process. And how they can do that? I came with something simple for the problem.

First I though the best way to port the paper forms to an electronic form was
InfoPath. In InfoPath you have the ability to create sections inside the form
and digitally signed them preventing these sections to be tampered (we don’t
need anymore the plastic Ziploc bag for protecting the form). One issue
resolved.

In InfoPath you can define an attachment field that allows you to attach a file
to the form. You can attach as many files as needed and they traveled inside the
form always. Now you can take the files needed for the work and attach them to
request. They are never loss and you just have to ask for them one time. Another
issue solved.

The form is going to be electronic in first place. You can publish it to a
SharePoint site for
example and have a central repository form them, allowing searching and
indexing. This is not an issue, but maybe would be a great add on.

And now for the workflow part. A simple process can be made for handling the
request form. You would have the start activity with permissions for only the
front desk person to start the process. Security. Then a second activity for
handling the input request form.

As an improvement, we could create a web service that generates a unique number
for the request. This can be the second activity in the process. The third
activity would be to assign this number to a field in the form. Next?

The next thing we can do is actually create another web service that creates the
folders they need for processing the files. We don’t need the first folder, the
Original folder, because the original files are already attached to the form.
The web service would only need to create the other two: Process and Final. A
good improvement would be to create them directly in SharePoint and have a
central repository for them.

The most important step would be the assignment of the request to one of the
back office personnel that actually executes the job. I though the best way to
do this was to use the workload feature. I could specify the personnel available
for this and assign requests on a one by one basis or a least busy basis. Then
let the software manage the work queue. Maybe every personnel in the back office
can have like a Pocket PC and they can receive their tasks and immediately know
their new assignments.

The final step would be to send an email to the front desk person notifying that
the job was finished. An improvement here we could consider is asking the
customer for his email and place it in the form. Then we can put another
activity in the process for sending an email to the client saying that his job
is finished (customer service improvement!!).

Now the whole process is automated. Errors in the process will be far less.
Security in the form cannot
be compromised. And we guarantee that every back office personnel are receiving
their tasks in a balanced way. The next phase for this would be to make another
web service for saving the information in the form to a database table for
future statistics and analysis.

A major thing? To simply enabled Procx
to receive the form requests via email and have the form publish to the
Internet. I can fill the form myself from my house and I only have to leave to
actually pickup the final work after I have received the notification. A simple
step towards the
electronic
enterprise
. An example of how the process will look like is on the right.

SharePoint Workflow

I think SharePoint is one of the must have components everybody using Windows Server 2003 should have installed. As a free piece, the WSS version allows you to share files and collaborate with peers in the organization. It has document versioning capabilities in the web site and acts as central repository for document storage.

One of the coolest thing I find about it, is the integration with Microsoft Office InfoPath. InfoPath allows you to create forms that are routinely use in the business like purchase orders, expense reimbursement and management, vacation requests, etc. in an easy to use interface. Then you can publish these forms in SharePoint and every employee will be able to see them and fill them. Then you also have a central repository of forms.

The next step in this document and form collaboration environment is to add workflow or approval processes to these documents. That’s why we have made it easy to combine Procx and SharePoint workflow. Procx has features and activities for integration with SharePoint and InfoPath giving already established users of these platforms a huge return on their investments.

See more information about Procx and SharePoint here and see the movie here.

Procx 2.1 is out!

Today we have gone live with the new version of
Procx. There are some exciting
new features in the
product including:

  • The ability to start a process from an email.
  • Create Microsoft Word and Excel documents in the process.
  • Start a process from a database table.
  • Support for global variables.

Also an important offering we now have is the
services offering.
Now you can buy from our online store, besides the licenses you need for Procx,
also services like the creation of InfoPath and other type of forms, Web
Services for database integration and other related services, allowing you to
buy the whole solution and starting to benefit from Procx right away.

There are many other details in the product that will make the creation of
processes and flow definition event more creative.

We have also made available a series of movies where you can see Procx in
action and how the integration with SharePoint and InfoPath works. You can see
them here.

Study shows SOA and BPM implementations provide more benefits

An interesting article shows up how SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) implementations are related to how business processes are executed in the organization.

I think SOA is the way for developing applications in the future. The concept is very simple: to build applications, data stores or what is important to the organization, to save information about the company. The next step would be to expose services around this information already store so other applications (or maybe the same application) can extract it. This services also will provide the mechanism for insertion and deletion of information.

The great thing about developing applications this way is that those services are made conforming a standard of the industry, so any other application, regardless of the platform or technology it was built on, should be able to call this services and get the information. There won’t be those ugly cases when you couldn’t get the information because it cannot be accessed in a standard form. So imagine you opening your favorite application (Excel, InfoPath, SharePoint, etc.) and telling it to extract this kind of information that you need from store one, store 2 and store 3 and then combine it.

The study, from where the article gets the information, shows that the biggest benefit from implementing SOA is faster and more flexible reconfiguration of business processes with a 48%. This benefit can be better yet when using a BPM software implementation in conjunction. Although the survey shows that only 14% is implementing BPM.

I think that the greatest benefit of these service oriented applications is that you can take advantage on it by putting a business process management software in the middle and let it manage the resources. For example, imagine that your ERP application exposes services for letting you create an expense reimbursement or a vacation request in your human resources store, you can draw a workflow specifying the steps required by any employee in the organization to request a reimbursement and, at the same workflow, you can specify at which point you are going to call the service and what information you are going to send. That’s why Procx has the ability to call web services since the beginning.

You can manage and coordinate every process in the organization using the BPM software, and push information to your backend systems using these services and at the same time pull them out for reports and alarms, letting you have a real view and knowledge of the business.

This kind of application will let business users get to a new level of understanding of their company, implement and control business processes in a more standard way leading as always to lower costs and increase performance.

ROI Areas

Calculating the return of investment of any anything that you do in your business is vital, that’s the easiest way you can decide if in the long run the money you are pouring in is going to be of value to the organization.

As I have said earlier, one of the biggest ROI that you can get when implementing a software in the organization comes with business process management. Automating day to day processes and approvals transforms in real benefits almost immediately. The ROI can be calculated from the lower amount of time that it takes to execute a process to the reduce costs involved.

According to an article by Terry Schurter there are five areas where you can calculate the ROI of BPM or workflow solution:

- Automation

- Compliance

- Management

- Process Optimization

- Quality

The easiest one to calculate are the process concerning automation, because this leads to reduce time running the process and increments the ROI since day one of implementation.

If you are planning on installing a BPM solution, find out first on which of these areas your process or goal falls and proceed on calculating your ROI.

Automation

Automation is the type of business process automation where the highest ROI
can be reach in the implementation of a
workflow or BPM solution
. Converting processes in the organization that a
lot of human intervention is needed to electronic matters in an automated way,
lots of improvement can be achieve. the majority of those interventions can be
diminished and transform to an automated way of responding or even letting the
process makes their own decisions thus increasing productivity for the humans.

And we haven’t considered yet the integration with others applications. If
you are only automating a simple process (for example expense reimbursement or
absence request) productivity is increased, but if you are integrating this
information with other systems in the execution of the same process, event more
productivity can be achieved and more costs can be reduced. That’s why
automation provides high ROI.

Calculating the return of investment is very easy. Can measure the amount of
time taken to execute the process and the amount of time after implementing the
solution. Also you determine how many more requests you are able to handle after
the implementation. One thing to notice also, is that in this kind of
automation, the benefits and the increase performance can be appreciated after
deployment making the investment in the solution an immediate success.

Business Process Management for Insurance

The insurance industry is one of greatest beneficiaries of BPM solutions. Automating business workflow in the organization, has shown to produce huge performance increases in productivity and reduce costs in areas like claims processing.

Analysis has shown that performance increases are around the 40% and 50% and that abandon call rates in call centers went down and service levels went up. I think this is because an organization, like one in the insurance industry, has a lot of processes that need to be executed and doing them manually always results in errors and slow response time, all of which are not good to the eyes of the customers. Automating these process leads the way to letting employees in the organization to focus on how to do their tasks in a much better way, how to please the customer and stop thinking about what the next task in the process is or whether or not I have made the necessary tasks for internal policy compliance.

And not only the insurance industry can benefit from automating business processes. They also perceive a huge benefit in areas like compliance. Insurance companies are required to comply with section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. One way to enforce these procedures is to use a BPM solution that assign the necessary tasks internally to persons that need to audit the information. All this information is recorded in the system for future references and clearly reduce the burden of knowing every procedure and we are sure the anything that has to be audited, has been audited.

Also, areas regarding the Anti-Fraud and Anti-Money Laundering initiatives can benefits from these kind of solutions enforcing policy controls in the process that assures that every customer is checked, tracked and investigated to prevent frauds in the organization. In the case of money laundering, policies can also be enacted in the processes to check for activity of terrorism or drug-dealing, triggering alerts and notifications to managers or responsible persons about the risks.

In general, BPM solutions provides great benefits to an insurance organization leading to increase performance and reduce costs in the execution of their processes.

UPDATE: See a life insurance request automated here.

Management

One of the primary benefits on implementing a BPM (Business Process Management) solution, is the information organization management receive.

Before, knowing the actual performance of business processes, resource usage and key indicators was difficult because there was no automated way of gathering this information. Now with these solutions, management can have an overlook of how the processes on his charge are doing, how resources distributes along the way and also, how activities are being completed, the time that is taking and which are the most efficient in certain tasks.

For example, the manager on an accounts payable department. He is in charge of the process for expense reimbursement and approval. Right now, employees from around the organization fills out a paper form detailing their expenses and sends them for approval to their managers and ends up in the accounts payable department. At this moment, the manager of A/P doesn’t know about the request, or when it is coming. It’s almost impossible to him to plan for the week. Also, when the request arrives, does he know who of his staff has the request? How much time did the person spent on the request? To whom should he assign the next request? What about statistics about the requests?

All this kind of questions can be answered when we implement and automate a business process. The expense request becomes electronic, and all the steps, integration activities and assignments become part of the automated process. The organization is becoming more, the electronic enterprise. Management will have all their questions answered and proper decisions can be made in the future.