Finding the Formula for Successful CM: Managing Financial Content

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Aon Risk Services, a subsidiary of one of the nation's largest insurance brokerage companies, adds about 100,000 documents a month to a base of 1.8 million documents. Its content management system handles 90,000 insurance requests annually, with 4,000 requests opened or closed each day.

This is a far cry from only five years ago when most of the firm's documents were still in paper form—meaning all insurance applications, risk assessment reports, and other content were printed on paper. To share this data among service centers and the company's Chicago headquarters, employees had to ship boxes of documents back and forth between different service centers. Aon stored the mountains of paper in file cabinets until they were retrieved or archived. Employees retrieved and indexed all of this information manually.

Now, the majority of the company's content is handled electronically via a suite of FileNet CM products that store all content on a "farm" of Web servers, which are accessible by each Aon service center through a wide area network. A load balancer server interfaces with the Web servers to ensure a balanced workload among Aon service centers. Employees at each service center can search for and retrieve customer content from the repository using a customized dashboard—a high level informational summary—and field employees can also access the information via a different dashboard. However, this scenario is not yet typical as Aon is far ahead of many other financial services companies in terms of content management, according to analysts and FileNet officials.

"In other industries, 10% of companies are technology laggards; in financial services it's more than a third," says FileNet insurance industry marketing manager John Sarich, who attributes the problem to the industry's growth via mergers and acquisitions. Typically, merged companies have different technology systems that don't communicate with each other, which further complicates content management initiatives. Additionally, Sarich says that financial services firms have been more concerned with business process management, which is only a small part of ECM.

According to Toby Bell, research director for Gartner, Inc., some financial services firms have as many as five disparate systems in which content is stored. However, Bell has found that "Financial services companies are focusing on serving the customer better, so you're starting to see more integrated imaging, electronic forms, as well as use of optical character recognition/intelligent character recognition." Right now, however, many of those systems exist in department or even smaller silos, so many financial services companies still spend a lot of time re-keying information to distribute it across the enterprise, according to Bell. "There's a lot more unstructured stuff than structured stuff, though they're handling a lot less paper than they used to."

The unstructured content Bell refers to includes paper correspondence coming into the financial institution, paper forms, records, etc., which can account for as much as 80% of the information content a financial services company has. For the most part, financial services companies haven't moved into the area of rich media, because there's little need for it, according to Jeff Phillips, senior analyst for Doculabs. Some voice recordings are stored for legal purposes (e.g., verbal stock trade authorization), and some video is stored for training purposes, but most of the econtent in financial services companies involves specific businesses processes rather than enterprise-wide content. Departments within a financial services company, like checking or mortgages, might have CM capabilities, but the systems are often disconnected.

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