With digital transformation on their minds, insurers are making significant investments in foundational and emerging technologies, and they have more investments planned for the future: A 2018 Accenture survey found that 90% of insurers surveyed have a long-term plan for technology innovation.1 Naturally, the expectation is that these new digital technologies will streamline workflow processes to reduce operating costs, improve the customer experience and more effectively use big data.
While insurers are thinking ahead and envisioning a digital future, achieving digital transformation can pose complex challenges. As such, it requires a systematic approach that involves a number of steps taken over the course of a few years. The first step is to integrate technologies that standardize and optimize insurance processes, such as underwriting and claims. In doing so, insurers increase resource utilization by redistributing volume peaks and valleys across all resources. Data digitization and workflow automation follow, thereby reducing paper flow and standardizing the way digital documents move throughout the insurance process.
With the incoming content chaos now tamed, the next step involves routing the now-indexed content to the relevant parties, like adjusters and underwriters, so it can be processed. To do this, the content must be fed to the insurer’s legacy core systems. Ideally, this tedious and time-consuming process would be automated. But most legacy systems are inflexible and complex — and not optimized for automation. Redeveloping them to support automation would require a level of effort and expertise — not to mention time — that’s beyond the capability of many IT teams and outside of many insurers’ budgets. As a result, insurers continue to run legacy systems and their employees continue to manually feed content to them.
Here is where robotic process automation (RPA) comes in: RPA bridges the gap by feeding indexed data into the systems in an automated, cost-effective way. An insurer using RPA tools can configure software to capture and interpret applications for processing a transaction, communicating with other digital systems, triggering automatic responses and manipulating data. RPA won’t automate all tasks, but by tackling many of the most mundane and repetitive ones, RPA improves processes and the customer experience, all while reducing cycle times and overhead.
RPA deployment: Best practices
As with so many technology implementations, after the initial cost and time investments, the realized benefits of RPA aren’t far behind. With RPA, however, there’s no need to dive into a big, expensive RPA project from the get-go. An RPA project can start small to avoid significant upfront financial and resource investments. A carefully chosen process with well-defined success criteria can demonstrate a quick win to senior leadership within your organization. Then, with an initial win under your belt for a project that required minimal funding, it will be easier to build momentum and gain additional buy-in for the long-term RPA vision.
Here are three best practices to consider as you gear up for your RPA project.
1. Take baby steps. Certainly, a “crawl-walk-run” approach isn’t a new concept for any company implementing complex IT or business process management solutions. The “crawl” phase — the initial pilot program with RPA — may take eight to 10 weeks for an insurer. While there’s no set timeframe, what matters is that during this phase, RPA is applied to a process that can establish its credibility and show enough ROI for the insurer to want to extend it. In the “walk” stage, the insurer should look for other processes that would benefit from RPA to build in additional ROI (more on this in the next point). This phase might take as many as 12 weeks. The “run” stage is where the majority of the effort comes in. Perhaps a six-month-plus endeavor, the “run” stage is where the center of excellence emerges and where, when the insurer is evaluating RPA, it’s strategically regarded as a tool that drives ROI. At this point, the insurer is evaluating processes across divisions that could benefit from RPA and building a team of stakeholders that also brings technical and process expertise.
2. Select repetitive processes to enable with RPA. As with any significant implementation, challenges will crop up throughout an RPA journey. One possible pain point is selecting the right first process to enable with RPA. To this end, insurers should look for low-complexity, repetitive tasks and high-volume processes. This is a critical early decision that a partner can help with.
3. Find an RPA-savvy partner. RPA implementation partners can help by filling the gaps in expertise that may emerge during the implementation process. Working with a People, Process and Technology partner like Canon complements an insurer’s center of excellence, significantly reduces deployment time and ultimately puts RPA plans into action so the insurer can reap the benefits of RPA faster.
Digital transformation is a multiyear journey dotted with many technology and process implementations that set up insurers to thrive in the future. RPA emerges as an important part of that journey. Insurers that embrace RPA as part of their operating model will optimize their employees’ time and reduce costs — two critical elements that are foundational to future success and to winning in the digital age.
1 Lees, C., Poppleton, A. and Strutz, J. (2019) Get Comfortable Outside Your Comfort Zone: Insurance, Digital Transformation Remaking an Industry. Accenture and Oxford Economics
is a certified enterprise content management practitioner (ecmp) and director of corporate communications for Canon Business Process Services, a leader in managed services and technology.