Like most insurance industry players, New York-based Delos Insurance Co., a provider of a range of products and services in the insurance program business, once struggled to manage the overwhelming amount of paper and electronic documents floating around its physical and electronic offices.
For anyone who has tried to manage both paper and electronic files, mimicking the filing structure of the typical--and antiquated--paper system can prove immensely time-consuming and, as a result, bad for business.
A little over a year ago, Delos found it practically impossible to achieve, as documents--especially burgeoning e-mails and documents attached to them--were distributed across the company and throughout its client base.
Documents that required collaboration existed in several versions and locations, which caused confusion when specific business decisions had to be made, and made quickly. Overall, it was getting much too unwieldy, says Mary Sbaschnig, Delos' chief administrative officer.
Across the Atlantic, London-based Carvill, one of the largest privately held global specialty reinsurance intermediaries, also was feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of managing paper and electronic documents, according to Carvill CIO John Furlong.
In short, neither Delos nor Carvill was having an easy time finding a reasonably simple way to deal with the growing complexities driven by the explosion of both electronic and paper-based documents in the insurance industry.
Within the last year or so, the two companies have turned to a new strategy in what they hope will eventually be an effective weapon in the war on document clutter and confusion. Delos and Carvill have adopted an "associative filing" technology to manage their document flow, as opposed to the more common "hierarchical" filing approach where files, both paper and electronic, are put into folders and either stored or shuffled among employees, making them extremely hard to track when decision time rolls around.
Delos and Carvill contracted with Q.Know, a Reston, Va.-based technology provider that offers a document management solution embedded within Microsoft Outlook, the ubiquitous e-mail application that is part of Microsoft Office. Q.Know's associative filing technology operates directly within Outlook, so not only is the Q.Know interface familiar, it requires little training and can be implemented fairly quickly, says Vineet Kalucha, Q.Know president and CEO.
According to Delos' Sbaschnig, about a year ago the company implemented Q.Know's enterprise solution across its entire organization, enabling users to file, retrieve, organize, share and manage all electronic information. In the process, Delos created a true paperless office by moving from its heavy reliance on single dimension filing structures to the virtual, real-time accessibility that Q.Know offers for all electronic documentation.
Sbaschnig says when she saw Q.Know firsthand, it immediately became apparent how Delos would be able to get a more comprehensive view of all its business contracts under way.
"When we saw how it works, we knew Q.Know understood our business and had created an easy-to-use IT platform that offers comprehensive information tracking that brings not only transparency, but the integrity achieved through open client communications," says Sbaschnig. "Internally, our senior underwriters feel this technology offers complete visibility to all business documents, tasks and related communication to truly enhance information flow."
For underwriting, this means more easily managed underwriting processes with all electronic information instantly accessible across the organization.
"Since we began using this technology, we've been able to centralize and organize all electronic information--relating it appropriately by client, risk, underwriting year," adds Sbaschnig. "This enables a complete, real-time view into our pipeline and provides a powerful view into the engines that drive the business for effective, real-time decision-making."
She explains that it also became quickly apparent that Q.Know also could be used for the company's HR, claim and finance departments, because each of these areas relies on the same client details to perform their related functions. In fact, Delos is using Q.Know to manage not just its insurance-related documents, but its day-to-day business-generated paper.
In HR, for example, Q.Know enables all relevant documentation, such as personnel, hiring and policies to be distributed and archived without any paper duplication.
Simply, Q.Know organizes all documents and e-mails that come into a company via Outlook and sorts and segregates data and documents into Q.Know "containers" that track every version of every document and e-mail related to business contracts. When a user needs that information, Kalucha says, it is a single mouse click away.
"Q.Know is extremely well-suited to virtualized environments. It has allowed us to organize all our electronic information in a way that pushes it out quickly and comprehensively to our managing general agents and TPAs in a secure, central environment," says Patrick Santos, Delos' CIO.
At Carvill, headquartered in London but with five U.S. locations, the main business segments include treaty reinsurance, retrocession, financial products and customized programs for clients when their business, or market conditions, require more than a transactional approach to provide an effective product. Carvill's tailored specialty products cover the needs of the clients, including medical malpractice, directors' and officers', errors-and-omissions liabilities, major property catastrophe and financial products including retrocessional business.
Q.Know's "Information Desktop" enables Carvill to have a single interface to manage all its electronic information across the company, including e-mail.
"For brokers, the volume, complexity and variety of documentation involved in the deal process can become difficult to manage, particularly with the responsiveness and speed of communication required to deliver premier client service," Furlong says. "Our brokers are able to manage every electronic file type--whether research, e-mail, modeling reports or back-office data--in a singular, customizable view."
With associative filing technology, Furlong explains that audit and compliance capabilities are enhanced without building additional systems, as all relevant information is now organized and managed in a central location and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with all information up-to-date and accessible.
Carvill initially chose Q.Know to be the foundation of its international NIMBLE program, a business-led technology initiative to improve client service.
"After looking thoroughly at other documentation management and collaboration technologies, it was clear that Q.Know's Outlook-based platform was designed with a deep knowledge of our business and an insight into what it takes to gain competitive advantage in a highly regulated marketplace," Furlong says. "We wanted to arm our brokers, support staff and management with the tools they need to continue leading the market in delivering quality business."
Furlong says that in the past five years, like many companies, Carvill has experienced a big increase in e-mail traffic. In fact, about 90 percent of documents within Carvill come in as e-mails or attachments to e-mails. That situation proved the perfect scenario for an application like Q.Know.
"We needed a system that treated e-mails like any other documents," he says, adding he first saw Q.Know at one of the firm's U.S. locations.
"Having e-mails and traditional documents in the same place and being able to quickly locate and act on them is a tremendous productivity boost," he says. "Plus, it's all in existing user interface, with Outlook. E-mail has become so important. It's the single overriding application everyone uses at the same time."
According to Kalucha, associative filing delivers several benefits.
"If you have 100 employees and every person gets 50 business-related e-mails a day over the course of a year, that's a lot data that can be easily lost, misplaced or even just hard to find," Kalucha says.
"I certainly find the filing much more intuitive and easier to do than before," says Carvill's Furlong.
"Most communication is not one-to-one, it's almost always one-to-many, and that can be very difficult to manage when it comes to e-mails and attachments."
TOM STARNER lives in Philadelphia.
February 14, 2008
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