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Issue of May 2004 

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Business process management

Covered for business growth

In order to align IT with business objectives and offer better customer service levels, HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited deployed enterprise content management and business process management solutions across the organization. Here's how it made a difference. by Soutiman Das Gupta

HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited, one of the first private life insurance companies in India, was formed in 2000, and had a number of business needs. It wanted to evolve customer-centric processes and use superior customer service to differentiate its brand from the others.

The company knew it had to make strategic use of IT, and align it with the business objectives in order to fulfil these needs. In October 2003, it deployed a digitized workflow solution comprising an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution from FileNet, and a Business Process Management (BPM) solution from Staffware, to achieve these objectives.

The solutions have allowed the organization to share and access business-specific content and information, and automate and streamline processing of new business. These benefits will make it simpler for the company to handle growth from its existing 55 nationwide branches to 50 new ones, over the next few months.

The customer at the center

“Anything we do has to be in the customer's interest. As soon as a customer applies for a policy, we want to ensure that the application is processed quickly and the cover begins as soon as possible. And when the customer requests copies of the policies or premium recipts, and wants to add or change anything in the profile, the requests should be processed with minimum delay,” explained Sunil Rawlani- Head Information System & Technology, at the company.

And these goals formed the basis of the insurance company's business objectives in which IT played a very strategic role. Technology had to be utilized across the enterprise's business processes, and the solutions had to be scalable.

There had to be a synergy across the various business systems and the systems needed to be flexible in order to change according to the current business environment. And at the crux of it, IT investments had to impact the bottomline and produce ROI.

Company IT strategy

HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited's IT and business strategy allows a lot of scope for the organization to invest and deploy IT infrastructure to further business.

“We believe that we must align current IT efforts to the future business roadmap. We must create a forward-looking technology strategy so that we are protected from technology obsolescence for at least five years,” said Rawlani.

The company aims to:

  • Identify and implement solutions to increase the speed of issuing a policy and claims processing.
  • Leverage telecom, networking, and IT to create a virtual workplace.
  • Not utilize technology for the sake of 'technology adoption'.
  • Develop Knowledge Management capability.

“We also believe that IT must understand the business, work within business norms, and should be intrinsic to business,” said Rawlani.

Paper-based systems

The business of insurance relies a lot on paper-based documents and reports. But such a practice has a lot of inefficiencies. “The inefficiencies of a paper-based system is that you have 'paper-travel time' and the associated costs of paper-based workflow, said Rawlani.

In a non-automated environment, a customer's essential documents for application of an insurance policy are collected and kept in a file. The file is circulated to the various departments and offices for processing. The biggest disadvantage is that, as long as the file is at one desk, personnel at other offices and departments cannot access them. This causes delay in processing. And making multiple photocopies of the same document increases costs.

To add to this, if a document has to be recalled or added, the process of retrieval of documents is time and effort-intensive

Enterprise Content Management

HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited deployed FileNet's suite of ECM solutions.

“With the help of the ECM solution, as soon as a customer's file arrives, it goes into a document management center. The documents are electronically scanned, digitized, and indexed. The physical file now goes into a permanent storage archive never to be pulled out again, unless there's dispute in a court of law. All the information is now available as a link on a user's desktop,” said Rawlani.

Two departments can work on the same document at the same time from different locations. Internal users are given access rights only to those customer documents specific to their department or function.

This is not entirely possible in a manual system, and protects the privacy of a customer. The insurance company has thus made policies of archival, retention, and access rights of documents.

Rawlani has also created a Web interface, which allows a user to search for the relevant information from any location.

Workflow management

Just like any other business, the insurance business has specific processes. And every insurance company has a particular workflow. The idea is to use a software solution to effectively manage the business processes, and incorporate people, systems, and partners.

HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited expected the following benefits from the BPM suite:

  • Process standardization
  • Process control
  • Increased human value addition
  • Productivity measurement
  • Complete tracking mechanism

The company evaluated a number of vendor offerings and decided to use Staffware Process Suite (SPS) version 9.0.

Both ECN and BPM solutions run on Wintel-based servers and use FAS boxes from Network Appliance for storage. Leased lines, broadband, and VPN links are used to connect the various nationwide offices.


HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited had already deployed a basic workflow-related application like Lotus Notes. But the use of BPM allowed it do much more.

“We created a virtual assembly line of processes, like in a car factory. These processes can take a different shape based on the customers' needs. And we can monitor in real-time, like an online MIS, the status of each case. We know which new new business case is from which branch, for which product, and its status. There also is a detailed workflow diagram of the processes within each department,” explained Rawlani.

Processes across all locations are now standard with the use of the software. This is especially important since the organization will grow. Rawlani said, “We have determined the best way of performing the jobs, and that knowledge will now be available at every point in the organization.”

And this consequently allows better control over processes and better means of tracking processes because the company is able to identify the points in the processes, which have bottlenecks.

It will become easier to measure productivity of individuals. The HR team can rotate job functions and get optimum output from personnel. This enriches human resource value in the organization.

Combined benefits

The combined use of the two applications, ECM and BPM, allow business-related functions to be carried out more efficiently, and passes on the value to the customer. “When our organization makes better profit, we can pass it on to out customers in the form of bonuses in every policy,” explained Rawlani.

Since the content and business processes have been digitized, the company can take initiatives towards Disaster Recovery (DR). “If one office breaks down, another office in a different location can continue with the work since the content and processes are in place,” said Rawlani.


“No technology product comes without problems. What makes a difference is the way in which you deal with it. Deploying the ECM and BCP solutions was not much of a technology challenge. It was more of an application challenge. We were able to deal with it because the business was clear about how to derive the benefit from technology, right from the beginning,” said Rawlani. “However, the local vendor support and expertise had scope to be better,” he added.

HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited had to manage a culture change due to the shift from paper-based processing to digital images-based processing.

There were minor issues with cache management of the IIS Web server, migration of scanned images to FileNet, and the scanning of medical documents. Medical documents like ECGs and CTMTs were unclear, had odd formats and shapes, and came in varied sizes, colors, and thickness. These issues were solved by the support provided by the vendor.

A BPM implementation team comprising business users of the organization was created to focus on the implementation of the solutions. A month's time was allowed for the solution to stabilize and perform properly.


Along with growth of 55 new nationwide branches the company plans to link its external partners’ systems with its own.

ECM will now be used to digitize the documents needed for the company's internal purposes. With the use of a reasonable encryption methodology, this information can also be used for paper-less internal and statutory audits.

HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited aims to spread the reach of ECM to every branch so that the data capture and indexing takes place at the local branch. And the digitized information is sent to the Head Office (HO). This reduces customer turnaround time since the forms do not have to be couriered to the HO.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

<In a nutshell>
The company

HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Limited, was formed in 2000, and has 55 nationwide branches. The company experiences quick business growth and hopes to deploy 50 new branches in the next few months.

The need

The company wanted to evolve its customer-centric processes and use superior customer service to differentiate its brand from the others. It wanted to use IT as a strategic tool to achieve its business objectives.

The solution

It deployed an Enterprise Content Management from FileNet and a Business Process Management solution from Staffware across the organization.

The benefits

The company can now scan, index, and store all relevant customer documents. Business processes are standardized, there is better process control, and increased human value addition.

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