1/30/2008

Remote Workforce Management Broadens and Empowers Companies

With the rise in remote workers expected to increase, new ECM technologies extends the boundaries of possibility

By Lynn Lang

New technologies often transform traditional paradigms that are well entrenched in insurance companies. Just as the emergence of the Internet and World Wide Web have changed the way workers communicate, enterprise content management (ECM) solutions allow workers to effectively manage their business processes from remote locations. With ECM technology, insurance companies are no longer limited to operating from within the four walls of their building.

Instead, they are given the freedom to conduct their business from virtually anywhere. Using the Internet, e-mail and an ECM solution to aid document archival and management, employees need only a computer and an Internet connection to achieve the full functionality of a headquarters-based employee.

ECM solutions consist of technologies, tools and methods used to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content across an enterprise. For companies, content management systems demonstrate that finding a better way to manage paper is not the key to effectively improving internal business processes; it is the ability to control the overall cost of processing business. With an ECM solution, not only is it cost effective to employ remote workers, but it also creates a competitive advantage for companies as efficiency improvements are realized.

Since 2001, insurer participants in ECM user groups reported efficiency improvements in claims handling of more than 30 percent from the workflow and document imaging capabilities enabled by these solutions. By employing a remote workforce, claims filed in distant locations can be quickly and more efficiently handled with an ECM solution.

Rather than sending an office-based employee to a remote location to handle a claim, you can simply send the claim to a remote employee near that location. This creates a competitive advantage as the costs to send office employees to remote locations are virtually eliminated and the claim can be processed much quicker.

Operational Benefits for Companies
Managing workflows and processes for remote workers poses new opportunities and challenges for insurers. The ability to manage workers remotely offers insurers greater ability to serve policyholders in their local markets. ECM solutions provide secure access to documents for research, review and appending purposes by employees without limit to their geographical location, and provide many methods to reduce fraud.

According to a recent IDC Report, “Telecommuters and Technology Use,” remote workforces are increasingly popular among both small and large firms. The report stated, “Fifty-seven percent of telecommuters work either in firms of less than 100 people or large firms of more than 1,000 people.”

As companies adopt ECM technology, new operational benefits of using a remote workforce are realized everyday. Some of the benefits include better, more responsive customer service; faster fraud identification; reduced overhead costs; happier employee base; and greater access to a larger, more talented pool of employees.

Better, More Responsive Customer Service
As information is shared dynamically across the organization, business processes are improved and better service is delivered to customers. With access to information, remote workers are empowered and may respond immediately to a claim.

As companies break away from traditional work environments and recruit a remote workforce, they achieve a local presence that is highly valued by customers. It is imperative to hire local claims specialists to provide this high-touch, local response at such a critical time, when the customer is forming opinions about the quality of service being provided.

ECM solutions help insurers not only eliminate the paper chase, but automate their business processes by imbedding alerts and timers to assure they are exceeding state governed time standards. The central office or corporate headquarters can maintain transparency with the remote workforce, easily being able to interact and monitor quality, time standards and service level agreements. Although they could be hundreds even thousands of miles apart, a manager can review, approve, interact or reject work items just as if they were working in the same office.

Faster Fraud Identification
There are numerous advantages to having claims adjusters with local market knowledge and “feet on the street” expertise, including sharper investigative skills that can uncover potential fraud more rapidly. Claims investigations can be handled much quicker as remote adjusters are often only minutes away from the investigation scene. In the auto insurance marketplace, for instance, a remote employee can quickly investigate an accident and finalize a report within the early stages of the claim, reducing the potential for fraud.

The opportunities for fraud are further reduced as relationships are formed and strengthened between remote employees and customers. Customers become loyal to insurance agencies as they come to trust and befriend local representatives, making them less likely to report a false claim.

Reduced Overhead Costs
ECM technology also reduces overhead costs associated with office space. As electronic information is available across an entire organization, employees are no longer required to work at a central office or corporate headquarters. Companies also save time and costs that are traditionally spent to expand office space and create room for new employees by giving employees the option to work from their own home. Additionally, costs associated with office space such as desks, chairs and phone lines are virtually eliminated.

Of the individuals who work remotely, a PC is the most commonly self-owned piece of office equipment, according to the IDC Report. Aside from PCs, commonly owned equipment includes fax machines, copiers, multifunction peripherals and scanners, allowing employers to avoid expensive purchases and significantly reduce overhead costs.

Companies further benefit from the cost savings associated with sending office employees on location for claims investigations. With ECM technology, they can conveniently allow their remote employees to quickly handle claims investigations in their local market, while creating a pleasant experience for customers during a typically unpleasant time.

Remote Workforces are Happy Employees
Employees also benefit from working remotely, including time and cost savings associated with relocating to a new city and commuting to an office each day. Employees are able to maintain their current residence and have a flexible work schedule, allowing them to achieve a healthy balance between work and life. Additionally, the stresses of morning and afternoon rush hours are eliminated. As fuel prices continue to rise, remote employees eliminate commute expenses.

By affording employees the benefit of working remotely, they are able to choose their own working environment. Employees are empowered to have more control over their workspace and are often more productive in these environments. As a result, employee satisfaction levels soar, thus reducing turnover rates and ultimately retaining valuable employees.

Access to a Broader, More Specialized Talent Pool
ECM technology connects workers electronically, thus companies are no longer restricted by geographic boundaries in recruiting the best employees. Additionally, information is made available across an entire organization regardless of location, allowing employees to work remotely and providing employers with expanded labor options. With broader employee selection, organizations have greater access to specialized talent. Not only do they gain a competitive advantage over other insurance providers, but additional benefits to employees and customers help ensure growth and stability in the marketplace.

Embracing an Enterprise View
As the term enterprise content management implies, ECM solutions greatly benefit insurance companies and their employees across the entire enterprise. Allowing employees to work remotely offers multiple benefits, including the reduction of fraud and reduced costs. Employing local, specialized claims workers provides companies with an effective strategy for better customer and employee retention.

Leveraging new technology like ECM helps insurers build relationships and achieve a greater presence in local markets while encouraging customers to develop a deeper level of loyalty. Furthermore, employee satisfaction levels dramatically increase as they are given more control over their own work environments, while achieving a healthy work and life balance.

Lynn Lang is the insurance industry manager for Hyland Software, the developer of OnBase, a rapidly deployable suite of enterprise content management (ECM) software solutions. For more information, visit www.onbase.com or e-mail Ms. Lang at lynn.lang@onbase.com.



Lynn Lang is the insurance industry manager for Hyland Software, the developer of OnBase, a rapidly deployable suite of enterprise content management (ECM) software solutions.

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