More information leads to better decisions, and big data is providing companies with enough background to take much of the guesswork out of decision making.

“The larger the data set, the greater the context. Big data promises the tools to make observations much sharper and guide decisions based on facts or highly likely predictions, as opposed to intuition or sheer courage,” says Satyendra Rana, vice president at HTC Global.

Smart Business spoke with Rana about how companies can take advantage of big data and its potential for improvement and innovation.

What is big data?

Big data is a paradigm shift in the way businesses view and use data. For a long time, businesses focused on people, process and technology; data was considered a pain rather than an asset or an opportunity. Companies need to innovate and can no longer do so with the old approach. The new triangle is people, process and data, with technology as a substratum enabling all of those.

The first step to using big data is to look at what business outcomes are desired, then work backward and determine what data needs to be captured to glean those insights. A lot of that data might be internal, but business is not conducted in a vacuum — it needs to be understood in the context of markets, customers and suppliers. So there may be a need to gather external data to be correlated with the internal data. People have conceptions that big data initiatives have to necessarily use outside data, or that it’s only about outside data such as social media. It’s really more about what is done with the data than the source.

There are opportunities to collect data through various applications and sensors. Historically, it was a problem to collect data because it wasn’t readily available. For example, surveys were the main mechanism for collecting market data; you would need to approach 100 people to get 10 to respond. Now, people are volunteering information through mobile platforms and social media. Data is also being collected through instruments such as sensors on cars. Technology has made it cheaper to collect and store data, but businesses still have to take another step and leverage that data.

What are some of the applications?

The applications are everywhere, even though the most frequent uses are seen in marketing. Understanding customers better leads to improved relationships and more cross-selling and upselling. But big data insights can also improve operational efficiencies. For example, supply chain decisions about what products to stock in the warehouse can be influenced by big data. Insights could also lead to entering into new lines of business that weren’t considered. Further, a consumer using his or her credit card at a large retailer might be sent an alert offering a coupon for lunch at a partnering restaurant. The credit card company knows from its data that the customer eats lunch at this time and one of its restaurant partners is nearby, so it tries to predict behavior in real time. When the person uses the coupon, the credit card company gets a share. That’s a new line of business based on information the company had and was not utilizing.

How can companies get started on big data initiatives?

That’s an issue companies are struggling with. A data governance strategy is needed to deal with the amount of data that is received. You have to understand what is coming in and how it can be used. The most important step is to realize that big data is not just a technology issue, which can be a difficult task internally. Big data requires the business and IT sides to work together more closely than in the past. If big data is approached as an IT issue, its full benefit will not be realized. If it’s a business process and IT is involved only in terms of what storage to buy or application to install, companies may not quite understand what is possible.

Big data is changing the way businesses approach the fundamental need to innovate and create differentiation. For the past 20 years, innovation was about streamlining processes such as supply chains. Big data provides a new field for innovation by providing insights quickly and in more creative ways. Eventually, businesses will not have a choice; they will have to deal with big data in order to innovate and survive.

Satyendra Rana, Ph.D. is vice president at HTC Global. Reach him at (512) 773-0357 or satyendra.rana@htcinc.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by HTC Global Services

Published in Chicago

Microfilm does the job of preserving your company’s documents and publications for up to 500 years. But content digitalization offers an archival-quality storage method that allows convenient, searchable access to these materials.

“Digitalization allows you to unlock the potential of the content,” says Natraj Kumar, general manager of Business Process Outsourcing (BP0) Services at HTC Global. “The Financial Times, for example, already has the content and most is available in physical form. They wanted the content posted on their website so people can access it and they can make revenue from it.”

Smart Business spoke with Kumar about the process of transferring content to digital form, the value it provides and the types of companies that are benefitting from digitalization.

What businesses are utilizing content digitalization?

The companies that are transferring content to digital form are e-research businesses like ProQuest and Gale, which is part of Cengage Learning. They maintain databases of reference content used by libraries, schools and businesses. Their revenue is based on a subscription model, so they want to have their content on the Internet.

Another set of customers is national libraries, like the National Library of Australia or the Library of Congress.

Content digitalization helps anyone with a huge amount of paper or a large library. When the Enron and Arthur Andersen scandal hit, quite a few legal firms had to go through the paperwork and find liability and assets. The contract to convert that into digital form was for $25 million, so you can imagine how many pages were involved.

How is content digitalized?

Normally, material is scanned from books and microfilms. Sometimes it’s also from digital content. We’re working with National Geographic magazine and they send PDFs of issues.

But conversion from scanned to digital form is only part of the story. The indexing and granularity of the content is the engine behind the digital archive. Scanned images are fine, they’re still accessible, but if the indexing is good it helps people locate their content of interest quickly.

Indexing is a painstaking process; when it’s scientific, medical or biology related content it’s important to have people with degrees in those fields read through the material and do the indexing because it’s not just about English, it’s about subject knowledge. You have to know which terms to index.

What are the advantages of going digital?

Looking up all pictures of Mount Everest that appeared in National Geographic magazine would be a tedious task if you have to sift through 50 years of magazines. With the type of metadata utilized and the indexing that is done, a search brings out all of the details. These photos are not available on Google; this is copyrighted material and not available in the public domain.

It makes research materials so much easier to find. For example, Cengage has a platform featuring different content sources. When you search the term ‘Wall Street crash of 1989,’ you’re going to get articles from The Economist, the Financial Times and quite a few newspapers that they are hosting.

What should you consider when choosing a company to transfer content to digital form?

There are a lot of companies that offer this service and throw people into the job. It’s important that the company apply technology wherever possible, because of the cost benefit and speed to market. The typical archiving project runs from 750,000 to 1.5 million pages. If the project takes two years, your product could become irrelevant. You need a company that can get the job done in six months.

The company also needs to know what they’re doing to the extent that they will not be asking a lot of questions and tying up your employees. In short, they need the capability to deliver good quality and a large volume in a short period without engaging most of your resources.

Natraj Kumar is general manager of BPO Services at HTC Global. Reach him at natraj.kumar@htcinc.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by HTC Global Services

Published in Chicago

The federal government provided $600 billion in grants in 2011 for more than 1,000 programs. It takes considerable time and paperwork to apply for and monitor these grants, which is where a grants management system can help keep everything organized and on track.

“Automation really allows grant-giving organizations to focus more on the actual content and performance of the grant rather than get bogged down in the administrative and manual tasks of the grant process,” says Joseph Rodrigues, director, projects - Electronic Grants Management and Administration System at HTC Global Services.

Smart Business spoke with Rodrigues and James Joseph, vice president, government services, at HTC Global Services, about grant management systems and the advantages of automating the grant process.

What are the benefits of automated grants management?

Among the benefits of automation, the most important is that the grant administration staff can provide quality services to their grantees and focus their efforts on the core aspects of grants performance and monitoring as opposed to spending considerable time on administrative tasks, such as paper management, manual verification and validation. The second most important benefit is timely completion of the various steps in the grant life cycle process. Other benefits include consolidated repository of grants data that enables timely and effective information retrieval, analysis and reports.

Automated review process enables accuracy and consistency of reviews across reviewers. Automation of post award processes and notification ensure compliance and timeliness.

What are the challenges faced by grantors in automation of grants?

The biggest challenge is to find a truly configurable grants management software that can be configured to automate all the grant programs in an agency. Most grant giving agencies give out multiple grant programs that have varied requirements in terms of regulations and business rules. Most grant automation products available may address a specific grant program or a specific kind of business rule set. The most cost effective and efficient solution is configurable software that can automate all the programs that an organization has to offer through configuration rather than expensive and time consuming customization.

How does automation benefit grant applicants?

The biggest challenge that grantees face is submission of a complete and error-free grant application by the submission deadline. This is enabled through an online application that is intuitive, has context-sensitive help and validation features with recommended corrective actions.

An automated system assists grantees in identifying potential grant opportunities, based on eligibility. The application process enables multiple grantee staff to work on the same application, thus facilitating collaboration. In addition, it also provides transparency of status, online progress reporting and improved communication and responsiveness.

Good automation software is user friendly, does not require any third party software or plugins and caters to all levels of computer proficiency.

How does a grant management system cut down on inappropriate payments?

The reduction and eventual elimination of inaccurate and inappropriate payments is one of the major goals of the federal grantors. Automation has been identified as the primary strategy to ensure that payments made are accurate, appropriate and verifiable.

Automation verifies that payments are spent in the approved expense categories. When payments are made, they are normally made against the budget specified in the application. If an award of  $100,000 is made, the award may be spread across several expense categories such as salary and wages, fringes, supplies, etc. When expenses are booked, they can be submitted only against the approved expense categories and/or within any deviation limits, if applicable. In the absence of an automated system, the grantor would have to manually match these expense categories and ensure that the expenses do not exceed what has been requested in the budget, which may lead to errors. With an automated system, all the validation and cross-verification is done by the system, thereby saving a lot of time, avoiding errors, overpayments and payments misapplied to the wrong categories.

What is the future of grant management systems?

The federal government has been trying to mandate transparency in grants. With the paper process through which the grants are given out, it’s very difficult to maintain transparency because it’s lost in the paper. If you have a system, it is possible to make the grant process transparent and minimize inappropriate payments. This is possible only through automation. The expectation is that the federal government will start insisting that a higher degree of automation is utilized in the grant management process.

With the proliferation of tools such as tablets and smartphones, grantees will demand that they can apply for a grant using these devices. Enabling mobile devices for grant management will be a trend in the future.

State governments will increasingly use software to automate the grant-giving process, submit their reports and help get all the grant money they can. Some already have. In addition, Software as a Service would be the preferred acquisition model.

JAMES JOSEPH is vice president, government services, at HTC Global Services. Reach him at (248) 530-2528 or james.joseph@htcinc.com.

JOSEPH RODRIGUES is director, projects at HTC Global Services. Reach him at (248) 530-2554 or joseph.rodrigues@htcinc.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by HTC Global Services.

Published in Chicago

Enterprise Content Management (ECM) enables organizations to go beyond traditional document management by providing an integrated enterprise platform for managing the complete life cycle of information, automating content-centric business processes and enabling records management.

“Companies are using ECM in a wide variety of ways to solve diverse business problems. New technology innovations are rapidly increasing the capabilities of ECM, making it an even more useful tool,” says Prashant Kothari, head of ECM practice for HTC Global Services.

Smart Business spoke with Kothari about ECM and how it can help organizations manage ever-growing content and information.

Why ECM is important?

An ECM platform can help organizations to gain better control of content and information. It also helps streamline business processes to increase productivity and efficiencies, thereby reducing costs. An ECM platform brings all the information together in a way that helps knowledge workers to make decisions faster.

What types of businesses can benefit from using ECM?

It can benefit nearly every business that deals with content in both forms – paper and electronic. Content could include documents, emails, faxes, multimedia, transaction records and other digital assets.

ECM is critical for any business that is dealing with challenges such as large volumes of content that need to be made more accessible and usable, inefficiencies in completing operational tasks that require content for decision making, or regulatory compliance mandates that require greater control over unstructured information within the organization.

How does business process management tie in, and what benefit does it offer to a business using ECM?

Business process management (BPM) enables automation of manual business processes. It provides a comprehensive set of workflow capabilities for the end-to-end automation. This helps automating task assignments, triggering tasks on a specific event or decision making using predefined rules.

It integrates content with business processes, thereby helping an organization to make timely decisions using the most accurate information available. Such capability can reduce cycle times and improve productivity across the entire organization and deliver significant return on investment.

What is the process of setting up an ECM system for a business?

The ECM platform provides software components that can be used in standalone mode or with other components as a unified platform.  At a high level, these components can be grouped by functionality for imaging, content and data capture, content management, process management (workflow), records management, electronic forms, collaboration and business rules management.

The process starts with the assessment of content management needs and process management needs (if any). Identify the type of content that needs to be managed and the format of the source content. How and who all will need access to the content once it is stored in a repository?

This assessment is then used to identify the ECM software components that will be used to implement the solution. Once the ECM components are identified, hardware and infrastructure requirements are defined.

The solution is then designed by defining configuration for content capture, management of various content types, users access, user roles and security, system integration, storage for repository, and reporting. The software is then configured and customized as per the design.

There are several ECM software products in the market to choose from, and these products can be procured and set up in-house, or hosted by external vendors. Some ECM vendors are now offering their software via cloud (or SaaS) model as well.

Typically, to setup an ECM environment, one has to set up ECM software components and database software on appropriate hardware (server/s). Configure storage devices such as Storage Area Network to set up content repository. Configure network administration and a security server such as Active Directory for setting up user authentication and defining access privileges. Configure content ingestion tools to import content from various source such as email, fax and online. Set up scanners and/or multifunction copier machines for scanning paper documents.

Implementation of advanced features could require configuring workflows, deadlines and content retention policies. Some products provide features to define search templates that can be configured for each business group to enable easy way to search, retrieve and view content.

What should a company expect to invest in an ECM system as far as time for installation, training employees to use the system and updating and maintaining it?

That varies depending on the size of the organization and its needs. Implementation of a basic system requires minimum time and training. Users can easily learn the system within a couple of days. However, if it’s a complex solution that incorporates business process management, then the implementation and training could take few weeks.

From a support perspective, these products are very stable and don’t require significant effort to maintain and support. However, periodically, one has to review database growth, and storage needs to handle the growth in content and transactions. Manage user accounts and also monitor logs for transactions occurring within the system and verifying users accessing the system.

What is the return on investment?

It increases as you move up from basic imaging and document management features to advanced workflow automation and legacy integration to electronic discovery and content analytics features. However, for a business that primarily relies on paper for all type of information could achieve significant ROI with just a basic system. This basic system could address challenges of managing paper, content sharing and delivery, disaster recovery, business continuity and regulatory compliance.

ROI is calculated on a case-by-case basis by considering factors such as the current cost of information capture, information management, storage, sharing, processing, and communications management. Typically the efficiency gained by implementing ECM goes from 20 percent and beyond.

Prashant Kothari is head of ECM practice for HTC Global Services. Reach him at (248) 530-2555 or prashant.kothari@htcinc.com.

 

Insights Technology is brought to you by HTC Global Services.

Published in Chicago

The big buzz in the insurance industry today is around Core Systems Modernization.

“Core Systems Modernization is the process of insurance companies adapting to the needs of customers by bringing their processes and technologies using the numerous possibilities available today,” says Vani Prasad, vice president of Insurance Technology for HTC Global Services.

There’s a big push toward modernization as companies continue expanding their web presence and establishing mobile solutions to make their products accessible to more customers. By using new technologies such as mobile, virtualization and cloud, companies are building bridges with their current core systems, creating new value from existing assets. Modernization is helping companies not just improve their bottom line but transform the way their core systems such as policy administration, underwriting, distribution, billing and receipts, and claims are functioning to enable businesses to grow. Some companies are going beyond operational or technology improvements and are reshaping their business models.

Many large and mid-sized insurance companies are in the process of executing modernization projects to keep up with technology and increase customer engagement through powerful analytics. The last two years have seen a big growth in modernization projects, and this wave is gaining intensity.

Smart Business spoke with Prasad about what insurance companies need to know when it comes to modernization and its effect on business.

What is driving modernization?

Modernization has come from many forces in the marketplace, such as innovation in new types of insurance products. Introduction of products poses new challenges to execute through the current operational and technology setup in an organization. This is one of the biggest drivers for core systems modernization.

From a technology standpoint, one of the prominent driving forces is popularizing the use of mobile technology for business purposes to improve customers’ ability to view and change products and their coverage. This also makes it easier to communicate with customers, for example, after an accident, getting them back on track faster. Customers today expect to get what they want, when and where they need it, making it critical for companies to connect smart devices to core insurance systems. CEOs want to address business growth and operational efficiency at the same time and are looking for smart ideas that fuse these two aspects.

Also driving modernization is analytics, the intelligent use of data stored by a company to target consumer-oriented marketing specific to customers’ needs and to develop new products. Previously, the agent was the key source of analytics. That person had contact with customers and could offer products as the need arose. But now, as customers are rarely present when deals are made, companies are using technology to do this.

What are the benefits of modernization?

Companies should modernize either to increase their top line through new sales that capture market share, or improve their bottom line through internal efficiencies. Those wanting to increase market share have to simplify processes and be able to adapt to changes and make improvements quickly. These days, customers relate to businesses differently, and the old ways of doing business aren’t as effective anymore. Businesses have to evolve and change to keep pace with the market to retain their market share. In today’s marketplace, it’s easy to take their foot off the gas pedal for just a brief moment and find themselves with lost sales or retention issues.

For example, customer inquiries need to be processed quickly. If a web page takes too long to load, the customer drifts off. If a phone call takes too long, the call is lost. If the number of pages, clicks or paths on the customer contact is too many, the customer moves away. By modernizing the technology systems, these seemingly simple adjustments are resolved. No one drops the ball on the customer and one can better capture those customers who are trying to engage and reach out to them a second time if the process was not finished quickly enough.

How does modernization differ from fixes or repairs?

Modernization goes beyond maintenance. Everybody feels they are contributing to improvements in their own way; every department has their own ‘quality circle.’ But going beyond semantics, look at modernizing from a leadership perspective and ask what will actually make a difference to the top and bottom lines. How does it help in reputation, reduce operating costs, enhance customer satisfaction, increase market share, increase earnings per share or maintain a healthy underwriting ratio? If the impacts are at that level, then that’s a modernization project.

Companies that perform maintenance work, such as keeping software up to date or fixing bugs, are still modernizing in that they use newer and better technology to better meet consumer needs. However, performing maintenance work on its own doesn’t allow companies to easily add new features or embrace new technologies. The main difference between maintenance work and the modernization described above is one of scale and adding business value: Rather than fixing and repairing smaller systems, everything is being fixed and repaired. This allows for future growth because the large-scale changes can be structured to make it easier to add features such as a mobile presence or a shift to cloud-based technology.

Some businesses put off modernization because it requires time, effort and new technology skills to execute. However, over time, the problems these companies face worsen. If a company is more than two or three generations behind in the use of technology, it is very difficult to fix even minor problems. While it is possible to sustain in the short-term, these companies are in danger of becoming obsolete in the long-term.

What are some tools used to modernize?

Insurance companies are struggling to deal with the massive amounts of information they collect. It is not enough to just add more hardware or network bandwidth if the processes are inefficient and are not yielding the desired outcomes. Sometimes, companies fear that it costs too much to modernize. However, there are numerous tools and approaches available in the market, depending on the scale of improvements intended, and the extent of modernization requirements can be taken up.

While everyone knows the power of mobile and cloud computing, companies are also looking into techniques such as crowd-sourcing to maximize their benefits. Cloud computing is not yet leveraged in many insurance companies, but it provides the ability for insurers to leverage large-scale technology with little or no investment up front. To insurers, this means easier storage of the huge amount of information coming to them, such as photographs, depositions and other documents. A lot of managers are being designated and groomed to help focus on using cloud technology and how it can reduce the bottom line. It also enables customers to access information anywhere, any time, with minimum fuss. Insurance companies can leverage the cloud to ease the transition to mobile devices, using them as vehicles for meeting the increasing amounts of data gathered and processed. It is not just technology tools alone that matter, it is the newer processes and approaches that make a big difference in modernizing.

It is also common for companies to wait for a silver bullet to remove inefficiencies. Is this the right time to modernize? Of course it is. Technology is never static, it is ever changing and driven by innovation. There are numerous options available, and these will only increase over time.

How can modernization be executed?

Strong leadership that focuses on building a solid approach to modernization is vital. Building a roadmap to modernizing with options and scenarios is a big step. Modernizing should bring a positive impact to everyone in the company for it to have lasting value.

Once an approach is chosen and an investment decided upon, it is important to dedicate specific people for the planning and implementation. Projects are initiated with the right scope based on the investment and professionally managed. Process engineers that have a broad understanding of company operational processes are vital ingredients to the modernizing journey. Sometimes, the changes to technology or a business process need to be tested on small groups to refine the approach, measure the benefits and then apply to the rest of the company.

Some companies have the aptitude and skill to modernize in house. There is a vast amount of information available online on how to approach and prioritize modernization projects. Consulting companies and third-party product and service providers can also help an organization reach its goals.

Vani Prasad is the vice president of Insurance Technology with HTC Global Services. Reach him at (309) 287-0229 or vani.prasad@htcinc.com.

Published in Chicago

The big buzz in the insurance industry today is around Core Systems Modernization.

“Core Systems Modernization is the process of insurance companies adapting to the needs of customers by bringing their processes and technologies using the numerous possibilities available today,” says Vani Prasad, vice president of Insurance Technology for HTC Global Services.

There’s a big push toward modernization as companies continue expanding their web presence and establishing mobile solutions to make their products accessible to more customers. By using new technologies such as mobile, virtualization and cloud, companies are building bridges with their current core systems, creating new value from existing assets. Modernization is helping companies not just improve their bottom line but transform the way their core systems such as policy administration, underwriting, distribution, billing and receipts, and claims are functioning to enable businesses to grow. Some companies are going beyond operational or technology improvements and are reshaping their business models.

Many large and mid-sized insurance companies are in the process of executing modernization projects to keep up with technology and increase customer engagement through powerful analytics. The last two years have seen a big growth in modernization projects, and this wave is gaining intensity.

Smart Business spoke with Prasad about what insurance companies need to know when it comes to modernization and its effect on business.

What is driving modernization?

Modernization has come from many forces in the marketplace, such as innovation in new types of insurance products. Introduction of products poses new challenges to execute through the current operational and technology setup in an organization. This is one of the biggest drivers for core systems modernization.

From a technology standpoint, one of the prominent driving forces is popularizing the use of mobile technology for business purposes to improve customers’ ability to view and change products and their coverage. This also makes it easier to communicate with customers, for example, after an accident, getting them back on track faster. Customers today expect to get what they want, when and where they need it, making it critical for companies to connect smart devices to core insurance systems. CEOs want to address business growth and operational efficiency at the same time and are looking for smart ideas that fuse these two aspects.

Also driving modernization is analytics, the intelligent use of data stored by a company to target consumer-oriented marketing specific to customers’ needs and to develop new products. Previously, the agent was the key source of analytics. That person had contact with customers and could offer products as the need arose. But now, as customers are rarely present when deals are made, companies are using technology to do this.

What are the benefits of modernization?

Companies should modernize either to increase their top line through new sales that capture market share, or improve their bottom line through internal efficiencies. Those wanting to increase market share have to simplify processes and be able to adapt to changes and make improvements quickly. These days, customers relate to businesses differently, and the old ways of doing business aren’t as effective anymore. Businesses have to evolve and change to keep pace with the market to retain their market share. In today’s marketplace, it’s easy to take their foot off the gas pedal for just a brief moment and find themselves with lost sales or retention issues.

For example, customer inquiries need to be processed quickly. If a web page takes too long to load, the customer drifts off. If a phone call takes too long, the call is lost. If the number of pages, clicks or paths on the customer contact is too many, the customer moves away. By modernizing the technology systems, these seemingly simple adjustments are resolved. No one drops the ball on the customer and one can better capture those customers who are trying to engage and reach out to them a second time if the process was not finished quickly enough.

How does modernization differ from fixes or repairs?

Modernization goes beyond maintenance. Everybody feels they are contributing to improvements in their own way; every department has their own ‘quality circle.’ But going beyond semantics, look at modernizing from a leadership perspective and ask what will actually make a difference to the top and bottom lines. How does it help in reputation, reduce operating costs, enhance customer satisfaction, increase market share, increase earnings per share or maintain a healthy underwriting ratio? If the impacts are at that level, then that’s a modernization project.

Companies that perform maintenance work, such as keeping software up to date or fixing bugs, are still modernizing in that they use newer and better technology to better meet consumer needs. However, performing maintenance work on its own doesn’t allow companies to easily add new features or embrace new technologies. The main difference between maintenance work and the modernization described above is one of scale and adding business value: Rather than fixing and repairing smaller systems, everything is being fixed and repaired. This allows for future growth because the large-scale changes can be structured to make it easier to add features such as a mobile presence or a shift to cloud-based technology.

Some businesses put off modernization because it requires time, effort and new technology skills to execute. However, over time, the problems these companies face worsen. If a company is more than two or three generations behind in the use of technology, it is very difficult to fix even minor problems. While it is possible to sustain in the short-term, these companies are in danger of becoming obsolete in the long-term.

What are some tools used to modernize?

Insurance companies are struggling to deal with the massive amounts of information they collect. It is not enough to just add more hardware or network bandwidth if the processes are inefficient and are not yielding the desired outcomes. Sometimes, companies fear that it costs too much to modernize. However, there are numerous tools and approaches available in the market, depending on the scale of improvements intended, and the extent of modernization requirements can be taken up.

While everyone knows the power of mobile and cloud computing, companies are also looking into techniques such as crowd-sourcing to maximize their benefits. Cloud computing is not yet leveraged in many insurance companies, but it provides the ability for insurers to leverage large-scale technology with little or no investment up front. To insurers, this means easier storage of the huge amount of information coming to them, such as photographs, depositions and other documents. A lot of managers are being designated and groomed to help focus on using cloud technology and how it can reduce the bottom line. It also enables customers to access information anywhere, any time, with minimum fuss. Insurance companies can leverage the cloud to ease the transition to mobile devices, using them as vehicles for meeting the increasing amounts of data gathered and processed. It is not just technology tools alone that matter, it is the newer processes and approaches that make a big difference in modernizing.

It is also common for companies to wait for a silver bullet to remove inefficiencies. Is this the right time to modernize? Of course it is. Technology is never static, it is ever changing and driven by innovation. There are numerous options available, and these will only increase over time.

How can modernization be executed?

Strong leadership that focuses on building a solid approach to modernization is vital. Building a roadmap to modernizing with options and scenarios is a big step. Modernizing should bring a positive impact to everyone in the company for it to have lasting value.

Once an approach is chosen and an investment decided upon, it is important to dedicate specific people for the planning and implementation. Projects are initiated with the right scope based on the investment and professionally managed. Process engineers that have a broad understanding of company operational processes are vital ingredients to the modernizing journey. Sometimes, the changes to technology or a business process need to be tested on small groups to refine the approach, measure the benefits and then apply to the rest of the company.

Some companies have the aptitude and skill to modernize in house. There is a vast amount of information available online on how to approach and prioritize modernization projects. Consulting companies and third-party product and service providers can also help an organization reach its goals.

Vani Prasad is vice president of Insurance Technology with HTC Global Services. Reach him at (309) 287-0229 or vani.prasad@htcinc.com.

Insights Technology is brought to you by HTC Global Services

Published in Chicago

ICD-10, an international disease coding system, is mandated for adoption in the U.S. by Oct. 1, 2014, and will require health care organizations to switch from the soon-to-be outdated ICD-9.

Srividya Thyagarajan, head of Healthcare Center of Excellence for HTC Global Services, says the change will impact providers of health care services, insurance companies, billers that deal with health care claims, government agencies that report statistics on morbidity, disease outbreaks, and researchers who are looking to prevent diseases. The changes will allow for capture in greater detail about the disease diagnosed and the procedures performed. This additional detail will provide better tracking of outcomes of care, severity of disease and conditions and management of risk and health status.But first, organizations need to train their personnel to understand and interpret the additional detail.

“At the end of the day, all of this is to improve health care quality and lower costs,” Thyagarajan says. Smart Business spoke with Thyagarajan about what organizations in the health care field need to be doing ahead of the deadline.

What is ICD-10 and what changes will it bring?

ICD-10 is part of the International Classification of Diseases coding system, defined by the World Health Organization to normalize the standards by which diseases are coded throughout the world. This helps us better understand and manage morbidity, mortality and disease outbreaks around the globe. ICD-10 is the 10th revision of the code set.

The revision will offer more specific details that can help analyze and prevent diseases. As an example, in ICD-9, the current coding standard, you would classify any type of injury to the arm as a fracture of the arm. In the new code set, you would provide more detail, such as where on the arm the fracture is, which arm is it on, whether it is an open or closed fracture and whether this is the initial encounter or subsequent encounter.   Such additional detail will help in understanding the severity of the condition and the type of care provided. This will help better manage care, cost and outcomes.

What areas of payers’ business cycles will this impact?

Almost all areas of the Payer’s business cycle will be impacted, including strategic processes, operational processes and support processes. A big part of a payer’s operation is receiving and processing claims, all of which carry the disease/ diagnosis codes, as well as a description of the procedures used to remediate the disease. This part will be heavily impacted. It will also impact a Payer’s strategic processes like utilization management, network management, disease management  because ICD-10 has a lot more data that can help Payers make decisions on paying for performance and incentivizing positive and preventive health services.

ICD-10, through its more detailed descriptions, can help in Payer support processes such as Fraud detection. It allows more detailed reporting to the government agencies that collect data and statistics on areas such as immunizations, disease outbreaks etc.

However, while providing additional details could help in understanding the cause and location of the disease, it could also lead to a decrease in reimbursement. As in the previous example, if, in ICD-9, only ‘fracture of the arm’ could be listed to classify a number of injury diagnoses regarding the limb, in ICD-10, the greater detail would require you to specify if it was the first encounter or subsequent encounter in the Claim. The Claim may be reimbursed at different levels for the first encounter and subsequent encounters.

To help ease into the transition, many payers are pledging financial neutrality for the first two years that the new code is implemented. This will mean a continuation of the reimbursement levels paid through ICD-9 until the Provider contract is up for renewal.

Can the required changes to an organization’s information technology systems be handled internally?

If an organization has a large IT department, it could handle the changes internally, but because IT is not part of their core business, they should look at IT vendors and suppliers that have expertise in large application system migrations. Many in the industry are thinking of this simply as an IT problem, but IT is the least of the worries. The larger part of it is the business policy and process changes to accommodate and deal with the greater specificity.

Is there a penalty for not complying with ICD-10?

No, there have been no penalties announced by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Studies, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be an announcement later. Moreover, whatever has been negotiated in existing Payer-Provider contracts will have to be respected. Not being in compliance could result in delayed reimbursements for Providers and administrative overheads for Payers.

How much time should organizations dedicate to preparing for these changes?

If you really want to position your organization from a strategic standpoint, invest in ICD-10, make it part of your future and embrace it now. Decide how you’re going to code and determine how it will affect your bottom line. While organizations should have started preparing in 2010, there is still time if you start now. The fact that the deadline has been moved from 2013 to 2014 should not make organizations use it as an excuse to procrastinate.

Many have been approaching the change as if it’s a small problem that will go away after October 2014 as long as they accept the codes. However, after ICD-10 is implemented, crutches such as mapping services -- which link claim language from one version of the code to another -- will have to be thrown away for a more permanent adoption of the new standards. You have to make policy, process and system changes to ensure you leverage the additional detail to your advantage.

ICD10 can improve quality of care and lower cost, but organizations need to accept the change and use the additional details intelligently to derive these benefits.

Srividya Thyagarajan is head of Healthcare Center of Excellence for HTC Global Services. Reach her at Srividya.thyagarajan@htcinc.com.

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Published in Chicago