It is an undeniable fact that in current times, technology has provided both people and organizations with endless tools that allow them to interact in a more efficient and effective way with both their physical and virtual surroundings.
The results of the incorporation of the different technological disciplines to people's daily lives are so strong and evident that they have generated a fast adoption of technological innovations, in fact, the adoption process has been so quick that both people and organizations alike have been caught off guard on the necessary preparations for the technological adoption procedure.
In organizations, and in the specific case of information technologies and information systems, the results of these technological adoptions motivate both horizontals and verticals to make important strategic investments that allow them to accelerate its technological conversion without asking themselves the key, critical question that
Is automation the next step?
There is no doubt that it is, when we are in the context of the industry as a whole, however: Is automation the next step for your organization? Is your organization ready for a technological conversion?
The answer to this question is more complex.
First, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of “technological conversion”. Technological conversion means: the adoption of a new technology, whether in substitution of an older one, or in substitution of a manual process.
Having said this, to answer the question, it is important to concentrate on the preparation that the organization has in order to make this technological adoption. To make sure the process works properly, it is necessary to decompose the organization into its different parts, and then, answer the question separately with each part of the organization.
In this case, the organization is planning to create a change in its tools through a technological conversion. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that the other three components are also prepared to undertake such dynamics.
THE QUESTIONS ARE:
Do people who belong to the organization, have the necessary skills and competences in order to adopt the new tools in a successful and timely manner?
Are the guidelines that govern the company facilitators of the implementation of the new technology?
Each of these questions deserves a wider explanation in order to be able to evaluate effectively the preparatory state of the organization to adopt a new technology successfully. However, there is a critical, high-importance component that deserves specific, stronger attention, particularly when discussing information systems.
The quality of an organization, primarily of a company, is, most likely, a direct representation of the trust that both clients and users can place in it. Thus the critical importance of processes. The quality of a company increases in line with the maturity of its processes.
One of the main reasons why the adoption of new technologies fails in numerous companies is the expectation that by itself, the adoption of the new technology represents a change factor, which is false. At least partially false. Technology is a tool, which subsequently habilitates its users to operate in a more effective and efficient manner through automating certain processes, particularly information systems.
Companies must audit its processes frankly and cautiously to be able to determine the development and maturity level that they possess, since an immature or fictitious process will lead the company to automate non-deterministic operations that by definition, tend to produce results that can't be properly anticipated. In simpler words, a process that is not completely and correctly adopted by the organization should not be automated, since otherwise it will result in prolonged system implementations that also incur the risk of being ultimately rejected, leading to failure in the process of technological conversion and to the potential loss of a relevant investment for the organization.
Many organizations consider, erroneously, that processes can be defined on the analytical and requirement determination phases of the IT project. These phases, in a project, are designed so that analysts, developers, and testers can discover the processes of the organization. To attempt to define, improve, or change processes during a development project that is already established will lead to important problems that can cause a significant impact in both the timing and the cost of the project itself.
THEREFORE, IS AUTOMATION THE NEXT STEP?
There should be congruency between the documented process, the process described by management and the process that was observed during the operation. Any discrepancies between these three should be solved for a minimum period of time (determined by the organization), in order to be able to establish a process as “adopted”. This is the next step.
Doing this step correctly will facilitate the adoption of any technology and to be able to effectively keep and maintain the projects that derive from this adoption within the previously established time and budget frameworks, as well as guaranteeing the sustainability and the return of the financial investment, which is, at the end of the day, a primary objective of every Board of Directors.
Insurance company Select Benefits Group (SBG) in the United States is one of the main insurance companies in the North American Mid-West. Currently, SBG has important expansion plans, and it is also currently redefining its different business lines in order to be able to grow at a faster pace. One of the main challenges that the company is currently facing has to do with the old, outdated information systems and operational tools, which were developed when the company was in a different stage and are now slowly becoming more of a counterweight, holding the company back from its ambitious growth targets.
Bestowing this challenge, ITNNOVATION, together with the Head of Information Technologies for SBG, will redefine and rethink one of the systems that has a wider operational use within the organization: the document management system.
The document management system stores all the back-up information that has to do with accident reports. In other words, any document such as registration forms, x-rays, prescriptions, contracts, group policies, and any other document that is involved in the processes of check-in, risk management, accident claims management, and service payments to suppliers (doctors, hospitals, agents, agencies, etc), of its
Currently, SBG has a system to manage these documents. The main problem is that it is obsolescent. Some of the reasons to undertake the modernization of this system, and therefore, the new system's goals are the following:
In the case of SBG the development of a customized, tailor-made solution, was not only the best option, but it was practically a mandatory requisite. Some of the reasons for this have been:
The development of Software as a Service (SaaS) consists of a few variables. Opposite to the popular belief that software development is reserved for companies that offer digital products or merely for Internet companies, the custom-made software development practice is a powerful tool for organizations that require a high level of flexibility, adaptation time, and independence from product life cycles that they do not fully control. One of the possible applications of custom-made software development is the upgrading of previously developed systems that are currently at the end of their life cycle. It is no surprise that this concept is known formally as modernization.
The modernization of Legacy systems is one of the main services offered by ITNNOVATION. At the same time, the modernization of information systems is a global tendency, since many of the systems developed in the 90s and early 2000s have become or are starting to become obsolete, presenting serious limitations and shortcomings on its functionalities, capabilities, and performance.
In the case of the document management system of SBG, it perfectly fits in the aforementioned definition. Therefore, the presented solution involves a modernization, but also a cycle that involves a reengineering of their internal processes so that the results of the modernization can be maximized.
The new system has been developed on the .NET Microsoft platform (ASP.NET MVC). This stack platform is ideal given the integration with the client's internal systems and services, besides, the .NET platform is one of the general purpose technologies that is currently enjoying higher popularity with an ever-expanding roadmap. This helps to guarantee a longer life cycle and usability for the new system, as well as eases the maintenance procedures. With the proper updates performed through system maintenance, it is expected that the system will have a life of no less than 20 years.
Dental Select, a company of dental insurance in the United States, operates with a growing base of clients that is obligating the company to modify its processes and incorporate tools that allow it to provide proper and timely attention to its insured clients, to comply with the regulatory framework of information privacy, and also, to increment their operational efficiency while reducing its cost.
Facing this challenge, ITNNOVATION, together with the department of Member Services of Dental Select, would implement an information system that will reduce the time spent by the Member Services department solving clients´ inquiries, primarily in regard to the topics of coverages, privacy policies, waiting periods, maximum coverages and deductibles. At the same time, the system allows to reduce significantly the costs associated with generating a physical backup of all this information, by presenting it electronically, which in turn, habilitates the ubiquity and reliability of the information.
Every time that a new insured member signs up to one of the coverage plans offered by Dental Select, a package containing certain standardized documents is generated through a massive printing supplier, and subsequently mailed to the insured member, to the company that the member works for, or both. (Company and member).
The information package is composed by various independent documents that altogether, conform a larger document, which includes:
Letter of coverage
Letter of rates
Insured Member Contract – with variables depending on the insured member's status
Other legal notices – with variables depending on the insured member's status
Some of the incurred costs and main problems that this situation presents are the following:
Printing and physical mailing costs
Printing and/or mailing mistakes costs
Short durability of the information
Time of the operational personnel is spent providing information instead of solving problems for the Insured Members, which increases waiting times and thus increases the operational costs of the department, without necessarily providing a superior customer service
Lack of ubiquity of the information creates accessibility problems
The goals for this technological implementation should be:
To improve the experience of obtaining the necessary information of the Insured Member
To ensure the ubiquity and uniformity of the information
To reduce the possibility of mistakes in the provided information
To reduce the workload of the Member Services Department by reducing the number of calls made to obtain information
To reduce the telephone waiting times for Insured Members
To reduce the cost of presenting information to Insured Members
The reason why the pros have a higher weight than the cons in the development of a tailor-made system is that in this case, they have to do with the circumstances that surround the company that is looking to implement the solution, as explained:
The proposal was to undertake the development of a web-responsive system that could achieve the following objectives for the organization and its insured members:
The aforementioned points were achieved through a web application that performs the following functions:
Is responsive. The website adapts its shape and form so that it can be visualized properly and comfortably from any device (PC, Tablets, and Mobiles) that has a web browser installed in it.
To create a web-responsive application, together with the popularization of mobile internet access for both individuals and businesses, guarantees the ubiquity of information and enables virtual access to such information from anywhere. If the user has access to mobile data, the user will be capable of accessing the relevant information directly, therefore, unburdening the telephone lines of the Member Services department and reducing the waiting times for other Insured Members that require the department's attention to solve problems related to their policies or to specific incidents, which in turn improves the user experience for everyone.
In addition, to focus the personnel of the Member Services department to solve the insured members' problems instead of taking care of merely informative inquiries reduces the need of contracting additional telephone lines and support personnel to perform the same tasks. This generates a reduction in the operational cost of the department as the measures increase efficiency by being able to increase the number of members served with the same budget.
The development of a native application for mobile platform such as iOS or Android is discarded, since the system does not have specific characteristics of a mobile device and to develop one for each of the existing platforms would generate an unnecessary development and maintenance cost, while this cost is non-existent with a responsive website.
Since the insured member is the only person that has access to the e-mail address registered to use the service, as well as to the user's member number, and by being the member the person who operates the system to generate access to the site, the possibility of information ending in the wrong hands is completely eliminated.
In addition, the fact of the system being electronic eliminates completely the need of printing and physically mailing the documents, together with the possibility of the same being delivered to the wrong address or any other mistake in the delivery process. This also translates to a reduction or elimination of several costs that end up being unnecessary with the proper technological solution such as the one developed.
The insured member has a real-time visualization of the information, which creates certainty and trust in the process since it is no longer depending on what other person is saying on the other end of the line.
Any change to information concerning the insured member, the member's policies, politics, or any other legal notice required by the federal or state authorities are reflected into the user's account immediately.
The need to print and sometimes, reprint insurance policies is completely eliminated by having a system that provides this information in less time, in a simpler way, and without the possibility of a mistake by an operator.