October 28, 2009, 12:01 PM — For financial institutions to be viable, they must be cost efficient. Even high-profile giants aren’t immune to closures, mergers, and takeovers if they neglect to control costs. Competition today is fierce; only the fittest survive.
If you read industry literature, you’ve noticed the plethora of information about streamlining and automation, from banking journals highlighting productivity tools to technologies that enhance credit unions’ member services, or the benefits of going paperless for tax preparers and accounting firms. Yet despite the focus on streamlining and automation, many financial institutions continue to overlook the fundamental barrier to cost efficiency: cumbersome access to the information they need. Why? Because they lack an integrated approach to the digital workplace.
Digital capture and storage make information easily retrievable and useful, but don’t necessarily enable enterprise-wide efficiency. Data housed in customer relationship management (CRM) software, accounting, human resources, and other applications has limited value if it’s not reused efficiently everywhere it’s needed. The solution? Instant, secure, central access to all of your digital content. A work management system that systematically drives work forward, drawing on your business systems for pertinent documents and information. Electronic document management (EDM) and business process management (BPM) do both and more, unleashing great power by connecting people with information and transforming both service and institutional performance.
EDM: an integrated approach to information access
Extensive information gets trapped daily in business systems, mostly in unstructured documents and communications systems such as email. Employees who don’t use the applications or can’t access the email accounts where work-related information resides are challenged with limited access to information as they make decisions. Sometimes, they might as well work blindfolded.
Stringent regulations require adherence to strict policies regarding information access, complicating organizational connectivity. EDM makes it easier, allowing or blocking access according to preestablished rules. Whether data is stored in legacy software or line-of-business applications, with EDM it can be imported, extracted, viewed, and manipulated according to permissions. Thorough indexing ensures workers with different needs find answers. Efficiency and productivity rise without compromising security.
Today, browser-based EDM is the standard, enabling 24/7 access to information and projects via desktops, laptops, and mobile devices anywhere around the world. If you’re using anything less, you aren’t leveraging your business information, maximizing your staff’s talents, or offering the service your customers deserve.
BPM: an integrated approach to work management
The typical tangle of business processes resembles a spider web in 3D, with many intersecting points, spin-offs, and possible outcomes for each routine process. Late payments, loan defaults, or a customer opening an additional account affect multiple processes and require information from several sources.
To automate effectively, you must navigate the complex web of processes that drive your institution, understand their interaction, and leverage stored information wherever it has potential value. Integrating line-of-business systems and adding browser-based electronic BPM opens the gate to true efficiency, mechanically pushing and pulling documents and stored data to wherever they’re needed, following your business rules. Rather than spending 25-35% of their time looking for information, staff can view tasks and documents as they’re needed. No more delays and errors from missing information or duplicated data. Employees process more work, but with less hassle. Task distribution and reallocation follows business rules. Jobs are automatically prioritized, timelines are met, and service is consistent.
EDM, BPM, and integration redefine connectivity and enable substantial savings:
Loan applications: Contact information isolated in CRM must be re-keyed by staff or applicants. Data replication wastes time, causes costly delays, and results in errors.
Solution: Customer data is pulled automatically into loan applications from CRM and other software systems when a unique identifier is entered on each form, eliminating mistakes and saving considerable time.
Late payment notifications: Cumbersome processing of loan payments inevitably results in inappropriate penalty notifications. Inefficiency wastes time and negatively affects customer relationships.
Solution: Integration with receivables software ensures receipts are logged instantly, ensuring late payment letters are accurate. Staff saves time. Service improves.
Address confirmations: Manual address confirmations are slow, expensive, and fairly ineffective at reducing fraud. (Financial institutions spend roughly $300 million annually for poor results, according to a recent Financial Management Institute study.1)
Solution: Automating alerts regarding unusual account activity and scanning bar codes on returned mail dramatically reduce manual review time, errors, and mailing expenses.
Financial reviews and audits: Tax documentation stored in Excel sheets, emails, and correspondence are typically only accessible by logging in and out of separate software systems, resulting in cumbersome and time-consuming reviews.
Solution: BPM gathers required supporting documentation, flags missing files, launches separate follow-up processes, and verifies documentation is complete. Integration enables seamless access from tax return PDFs to related documents for instant review, saving time.
Customer service: Customers frequently have to wait for callbacks on questions requiring research and access to information stored in diverse systems.
Solution: EDM integration between accounting systems, CRM, and portals ensures payments are recorded instantly and check images are available securely on each customer’s mini-portal. Self service increases. Customer representatives can answer remaining inquiries instantly and confidently.
Work distribution: Staff struggle to balance regulatory demands, customer service inquiries, managerial expectations, and SLAs with stringent timelines. Poor judgment, mistakes, unexpected work absences, and turnover result in costly delays and stiff fines.
Solution: Managers increase control by establishing hierarchies for document approvals; distributing work by job role, common queue, etc.; and reassigning work based on vacation schedules, work volumes, or other criteria. SLAs or other deadlines at risk of not being met can be sent to priority queues or given managerial attention, keeping work on track and minimizing penalties.
Compliance: Proving compliance—one of the greatest drivers of automation—typically means querying and reporting from disparate systems. Compliance demands can distract staff from focusing on customers and revenue-generating business.
Solution: Whether employees are experienced or new, trustworthy or undependable, EDM and BPM facilitate their compliance. Digital rules enforce consistent information gathering, file access, and routine processing. By integrating multiple systems, you avoid duplication and errors, and unify your approach to governance, risk and compliance. Centralized searches let auditors see every file interaction, facilitating audits and electronic discovery. Automation keeps your staff focused on customers—not buried in tedious search.
Integrated EDM and BPM gives everyone the ability to make quick and informed work decisions, from the top to the bottom of your enterprise.
Connectivity: 24/7 access means more than convenience
Web services—now a mature technology and the standard for robust integration—have replaced hardcoded software integrations that existed for years. Browser-based products completely underwritten in Web services have several distinct advantages:
Instant access to additional functionality offered by your EDM and BPM vendor by adding on-screen buttons or drop-down choices;
Access to work, wherever your workers are, whenever they need it;
Added power at users’ fingertips without the need to learn new software.
24/7 access to information and work provides far more than convenience. It results in increased productivity, time and cost savings, a stronger bottom line, and dramatically enhanced customer service.
Dressing for success versus being successful
Make sure your EDM and BPM solution is truly enterprise capable and possesses more than good looks. Misguided expectations and uninformed buying inevitably lead to costly implementations and disappointing results. A modern, flexible interface is valuable only when it’s matched by robust features, functionality, and services that will ensure the product will grow and change with your institution. Even carefully designed processes are bound to change:
New ways of doing business emerge, requiring new processes.
Regulations change, requiring process re-engineering.
Institutions grow, requiring more touch points for integration and demanding that staff handle increased volumes of information efficiently.
If you have a clear vision for your institution, a good understanding of what you expect to achieve with ECM, and experienced vendors who take ownership in their clients’ success and deliver on expectations, you’re off to a good start. By developing an integrated approach to digital information management, you can hit the ground running, experiencing the power of true connectivity, significant cost savings, and improved service. Your institution will not only survive—it will flourish.
1www.bankinfosecurity.com (Online Fraud: How One State is Fighting Back)