Process Improvement and Paperless Technologies
“There’s gotta be a better way!”
Those were the words that the manager of one large organization uttered when he described the way his department handled the maintenance and updates of crucial insurance information for their clients.
Here’s the way the system worked:
- Every year, prior to the anniversary of the insurance, letters were created in a word processing system to remind the insured to renew their yearly policies.
- Two copies of the letter were printed out.
- One was mailed via US post office to the client.
- One was sent to a service that scanned the letter and saved the file electronically, as a permanent record.
Yes, you read that correctly…
The letters were generated electronically, printed onto paper, mailed and then scanned back into electronic form on another system.
Handling of the return letter from the client to the agency department was just as cumbersome… requiring data input, more paper and more scanning in order to update both the internal system and the agency records.
We agreed with the manager. Not only did there have to be a better way, we knew that there was a better way! Business process improvement and paperless technologies were the answer.
Business Process Improvement
Business process improvement (BPI) is a systematic approach to help an organization optimize its underlying processes to achieve more efficient results.
While we agreed that some paper needed to be involved; specifically, for legal reasons, a letter did need to be mailed via the US post office. However, everything else could be performed much more efficiently.
By identifying and analyzing all of the steps taken in the process, we were able to meet new goals and objectives for increasing performance efficiency as well as reducing both monetary costs and time required to perform the process. Additionally, through implementing the new process and procedures, the organization was able to better serve their clients.
What We Did
The first step was to eliminate the need to generate a new letter for every client. By identifying the most common scenarios for contact, we were able to create standard e-form template letters, so that all the agency employees have to do now is choose the correct template and fill in the client name and address.
They then send the letters electronically to a remote mailing service, where the letter and envelope are printed automatically and mailed; while the electronic copy is stored in a permanent secure cloud system that can be easily searched, viewed and retrieved as needed.
The remote mailing service also receives and immediately scans the paper response from the client, uploads it to the cloud system, which automatically updates and stores the new data.
Once the benefits of these kinds of seemingly small business process improvements are realized, they often serve as a springboard for ongoing efforts, on a larger basis, to improve people, processes, and systems across the entire organization. The ROI on for such changes usually happens very quickly and leads to more incremental improvements over time by constantly evaluating and improving processes. While going paperless is a huge part of any business process improvement effort, analyzing and properly adjusting the process itself is critical.