It all started with fire insurance. When the “Allgemeine Brandversicherungsanstalt” (General Fire Insurance Company) was founded in 1811, a company was born that would join the ranks of leading fire insurance providers. In particular, the “Versicherungskammer Bayern” is closely linked with the genesis of the insurance industry in Bavaria and the Palatinate, where it is meanwhile the market leader. Since its inception, the traditional and the modern have formed a sustainable symbiosis within the company, which is owned by the savings banks. Today the “Versicherungskammer Bayern” (VKB) comprises 15 insurance companies and maintains, together with the savings banks, cooperative banks and its own agencies, a dense sales network. The company services private and business customers, farmers, municipalities and manufacturers.
Coming soon – policies on smartphones?
It’s easy to envision, considering the sheer document volume involved. Individual print-outs alone account for 117 million pages annually; continuous forms add up to 16 million – policies, invoices, traditional business letters, and damage reports. Then there are the special prints such as offers, orders, purchasing and logistics documents, etc. And let’s not forget post processing, like bundling and enveloping. Approximately 21 million DIN long-format and 1.5 million C4 envelopes are processed annually; the company sends out nearly 24 million mailings, most of them through the attached print center of an external service provider. Stefan Unterbuchberger of VKB: “Of course we would like to send insurance policies and other documents electronically as well. But the problem is that we have to verify that these types of legally binding documents were actually delivered. This is precisely where there are still differences between the physical, postal route and the electronic one: legal effectiveness and probative force.” Data security also plays a critical role. That is why, according to Unterbuchberger, paper still generally dominates in the insurance sector. The output management manager still believes digital media are valuable alternatives. “We are closely following the market development of E-Postbrief and De-Mail. We are also actively pursuing other possibilities for encryption and electronic delivery.” He and his colleagues are absolutely convinced that the VKB will be sending more documents electronically in the future. “When electronic mail fully meets the requirements for data security and legal compliance, it will supersede hard copy over the medium term.”
But print still dominates at Germany’s largest public insurer. All processes for the creation and output of documents are managed in the “Central Output Competence Center” that is run by Stefan Unterbuchberger and his sixteen employees.. The area is integrated into the large-scale “Renew Output Management” project at the VKB aimed at standardizing and renewing the IT infrastructure for document processing. A preliminary study revealed opportunities to optimize cost, quality and time.
Present on all channels
As the communications hub, output management at VKB is an important part of customer care. This led to the development of a modern output system that covered the entire process of document processing and output throughout the enterprise: data delivery, creation, processing, and output. It was initially tested in the real-estate loan area, where it has been used successfully for almost the last two years. The technologies and architecture principles used (SOA, Web technology, open data formats) have withstood the test. According to Unterbuchberger, they deliberately chose the HTML, XSL and XML formats to have the necessary flexibility. “We wanted to be able to output content of any type and in any format on all channels, whether print or mobile end terminals.” HTML5 will therefore play an important role for the display of documents on the iPad, smart phone, etc., regardless of the size of the display. VKB can thus envision sending out certain types of documents electronically in future. But they still have a long way to go. Now that the start has been successful, claims settlement will be the next area to move over to the new system. Other media used here include e-mail and fax, and the contractual and business partners are completely different. Further stages of expansion in other divisions will follow. The entire company is expected to have migrated to the new system by 2016. The electronic channels that will be used are still up in the air. Unterbuchberger and his colleagues are also considering social media. At VKB, like at other companies in the industry, there is little integration between their business processes and the social media. But the output manager can still imagine using platforms like Facebook and others for customer dialogue.
XML and HTML5 define output management
At the core of the new architecture are DocBridge Mill from Compart and the XML-based text processing program Cartago Live Workspace from Cartago Software, a long-time partner of Compart. DocBridge Mill, a platform-independent and scalable software program for modifying documents in various formats, is used by VKB for conversion. The Cartago solution supports generating complex business documents for both interactive (online) and batch applications. Stefan Unterbuchberger: “Compart and Cartago were the right choice since their products are quite mature with respect to future-proof standards. We wanted open formats like XML and HTML. The range of products and services offered by Compart and Cartago are a good fit for us.” Furthermore, Compart and its experts won strong acceptance in the market for conversion. Still, Unterbuchberger and his colleagues faced a tough decision. The sheer number of solutions meant meeting with many different suppliers. In the end, Compart’s many years of experience and innovative approaches won out. Unterbuchberger attests to the professional project management and excellent implementation support provided by the both companies.
Compart, which functions as a general contractor for the “Versicherungskammer Bayern”, is no stranger at the VKB. When the company switched over to the previous print system, they chose selected components from DocBridge Mill for insert control and were quite impressed. “You can tell that Compart is a specialist in optimizing data streams, and what is more, for all standard formats and output channels,” said Unterbuchberger. The VKB may one day migrate to DocBridge Pilot, Compart’s software for bundling of documents from various sources for optimal mailing costs. That would make it the central output management hub at Germany’s largest public insurer.
How it works: output management at VKB
Where document creation and output are concerned, the “Versicherungskammer Bayern” has two basic approaches: the static (automated) and the flexible (partially automated) process.
Fully automated process
This process is used mainly for precisely defined standard business cases (new contracts, change business, etc.). Here, creation and output run in the background. Predefined documents are saved in the system; they are not modified but filled in with data, such as in an insurance policy. The principle: The processor enters the contract-relevant data in the core application (name, address, rate criteria, contributions, etc.) and then a file is generated in XML. This XML file “meets up” with the specific document template, which consists of a basic structure (layout, address field, date, reference line, etc.), and then text modules appropriate to the type of document are added. Based on predefined rules and the input data, the system decides which text modules are permitted, if any. This allows exclusion and conditional if-then criteria to be defined.
A complete document or mailing emerges at the end of the process. If printing is required, the document is converted to AFP as well as PDF/A for storage in the archive.
In this scenario, the processor first selects the appropriate business process from the range of processes specific to his or her technical area or that specified in input management. Using that information, the system offers a selection of mailings that can be supplemented, if necessary. In many cases processing is complete at this point. If changes to the text are necessary, there is also the option to edit individual documents linked to the mailing. This is the case if data are missing or the subject matter is extremely complex and deviates from the standard. At this point the processor supplements the text to suit the customer’s situation. Cartago Live Workspace, a text and design program for interactive and batch documents, is one of the tools used for this purpose. It allows text modules to be added and deleted and data to be added and changed. Overall the program offers all the core functions for creating traditional letters and documents, like those in Word and Office, except that Cartago is XML-based and supports Web services like SOAP, REST and HTTP(S). Another benefit: the processor can see exactly what the output document will look like as it is being worked on (WYSIWYG = What you see is what you get).
Once processing is complete, the processor checks the entire document as a PDF. The look/formatting matches the later printed image exactly. Here, too, the document is converted to AFP for print output. If the document is being made available to the customer electronically, a PDF is generated.
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Dossier: DocBridge from Compart
With its DocBridge product family, Compart has one of the most comprehensive software solutions for post processing documents on the market. It can produce mailings in any output form, a printed hardcopy, e-mail attachment, fax, E-Postbrief, archive file, or a download-file on a Web portal. The central hub is DocBridge Core, on which the DocBridge Mill and DocBridge Pilot applications run. The principle: DocBridge Mill copies the data from a document and converts it while retaining the formatting. Using profiles and scripts, the document can be modified, separated, distributed, classified, indexed, and converted into all the standard formats. The advantage: the data can be displayed, printed, archived or otherwise processed virtually anywhere.
DocBridge Pilot offers the functions to create and output documents as mailings. This includes “enhancing” the pages with additional information for continued processing, such as including attachments and instructions for downstream enveloping.
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