7 Reasons Why ECM Is the Answer for Insurers – Part 1

Insurers may be asking, why should we consider Enterprise Content Management (ECM) when we already have an (albeit old and patched and inefficient and unsecured and siloed, and, and, and) imaging system or a document management system (from the 90s)? We’ll answer that question in our 7-part series: 7 Reasons Why ECM is the Answer for Insurers.

The insurance industry is facing rapid-fire changes as technology continues to automate repeatable and manual processes. Robotic Process Automation is taking hold in the marketplace as we see chat bots taking on underwriting tasks, providing web services, conducting lookups – it amounts to “no-touch” claims processing. The legacy systems from 20 years ago or more cannot match up with today’s customer and employee expectations. Security issues in legacy systems make insurers vulnerable to attacks that can cost millions. Compliance issues abound as insurers strive to meet stringent data security rules. Insuretechs are bringing well-received disruption by shaking up processes and shaking out time-consuming, manual processes.

Enterprise content management brings modern technology to the insurance industry to streamline:

  • Content capture 
  • Business process management (BPM) or workflow engine
  • Case management
  • Content management
  • Integration with existing systems
  • Enterprise file sync and share (EFSS)
  • Mobile access

Part 1: Streamline Content Capture Activities

I don’t know about you but there is so much stuff out there I want to watch and listen to and share and learn about: new podcasts, original programming on services like Netflix and Hulu, funny and educational YouTube videos, news and analysis from my favorite commentators and late night hosts, not to mention all of the Star Wars, Marvel and DC Comics movies – so many choices, so little time.

New networks and streaming services are coming online all the time: Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame are going to have their own network soon, Apple’s new streaming service is about to launch, and the new Disney streaming service is coming later this year – juggling my family, work and viewing schedule is enough of a Herculean balancing act.

It’s similar for insurers – they must manage, coordinate, file and secure a growing number of categories of inputs of incoming documents, files, cases, applications, videos, emails, photos, and communication records. The capture of content often siloed in legacy document management systems becomes a nightmare because systems don’t talk to each other, there’s no central platform integrating and coordinating each system, and the automated workflow solution is MIA.

Here’s where enterprise content management comes in.

Enterprise content management solutions streamline the content capture of inbound documents and information for insurance carriers, saving time, resources and revenue. They reduce the time between receive and process.  Whether the content comes in from the mail room, MFP, email, fax, desktop, data stream, import processors or legacy systems, an ECM solution improves the content capture process.

World class content capture technologies help insurers serve existing customers faster and more efficiently while helping secure new customers. It all adds up to a better revenue picture.

The ECM content capture process is scalable and easily configurable. It offers encryption, compliance and records management. For example, ECM streamlines capture for:

  • New business applications 
  • Agent submissions
  • ACORD forms 
  • Claims
  • FNOL and more

ECM solutions are available on premise or in the Cloud and offer applications for iOS, Android and Windows to extend your solutions to the field for Claim Field Adjusters, Loss Control Representatives, Legal Counsel, Sales Representatives and more.

Next Up

Our next blog in this series will highlight how ECM brings efficiency with its business process management (BPM) or workflow engine.

What kind of content capture challenges are you facing?

ImageSoft can guide you through the selection of enterprise content management for insurers to achieve the efficiencies and cost savings you need. Our industry-leading solutions for insurance offer automated workflows, improved speed and efficiency, reduced costs and proper compliance. ImageSoft is ready to help your company reap the benefits from integrated enterprise content management. 

Look for more information about our solutions for life and property and casualty insurance, plus workers’ comp.

Follow ImageSoft’s Insurance Solutions LinkedIn Showcase page for more details about ECM. 

Jeopardy Abbreviations for Insurers

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Jeopardy game show, let’s play the category of Abbreviations for Insurers.

185_jeopardy

Me: Let’s start with Abbreviations for Insurers for $200, Alex.

Alex: The answer is: ECM

Me: What is Enterprise Content Management?

Insurers were among the early adopters of imaging and related software, but today many of those solutions are out of date, no longer supported or so customized and patched up that it takes too many steps to even get them to work. Workarounds abound. They leave data in siloes, can’t communicate with other programs and are vulnerable to security issues. Growth and innovation are stunted.

An ECM solution with workflow for insurers automates all manual systems and integrates with your current imaging and policy administration software. It brings efficiency, transparency, and cost savings with data security. Managing your workflow, the ECM digitally identifies, routes, maintains and manages all documents and data points. From scanned documents, application files, Web content, and multimedia content, to emails and industry standard ACORD XML files, an ECM solution integrates document, workflow, business process and record management with a single application that also integrates with existing policy administration and claims processing systems.

Me: Next I’ll take Abbreviations for Insurers for $400, Alex.

Alex: The answer is: CMS

Me: What is Case Management or Content Management System?

Insurers deal with millions of data points about customers in a variety of forms and formats. If these data points are siloed in outdated legacy solutions that don’t communicate with each other, insurers are only seeing a fraction of the customer information they need to open a policy or process a claim.

A comprehensive case management system is a platform that streamlines capture, case management, document management, secure file sharing, customer communication management, and workflow that integrates with your modern core system and business applications.

A CMS delivers document management of all types, including scanned paper documents, faxes, print streams, application files, electronic forms, web content, multimedia files, customer communications and emails.

It gives insurers the options to easily configure and integrate an unlimited number of content-enabled applications and solutions to manage content, processes, communications and cases across your entire enterprise with the modern core systems that run your business.

With a CMS, claims administrators or examiners manage all aspects of a claim, from early assessment to investigation to settlement. Insurers can collect, review and maintain the supporting documentation to assess the claimant’s coverage, validate statements and negotiate payment of claims. One integrated platform promotes access to all necessary information, task assignments and schedules, notifications and time-based reminders – bringing efficiency and lowering costs.

Me: Moving down the board, I’ll take Abbreviations for Insurers for $600, Alex

Alex: You’ve picked the daily double. The answer is RPA.

Me: I’ll make it a true daily double, Alex! (I’ve always wanted to say that). What is robotic process automation?

It goes by several different names, but RPA for robotic process automation is the main one. We’ve also heard the terms jet issue and automatic underwriting bandied about. It all comes down to the same idea: automating repeatable, rule-based processes, such as underwriting tasks, web services, and lookups – much of it in the name of giving consumers what they’re asking for, an online “Amazon-like” experience with insurance. Consumers are looking for mobile and 24/7 access with quick responses online.

Insurance workflows such as new business and underwriting, claims registration and processing and the creation of business and process analytics lend themselves to automation.

Software developers are working to automate these insurance tasks to address the demand for RPA in the marketplace. For example, they are adding chat bots that handle a variety of underwriting tasks. It amounts to “no touch” claims processing. They are identifying manual processes that can easily be automated to optimize processes, increase collaboration and reduce costs.

Many insurers are using automation to create efficiencies in the industry including smartphone apps, consumer activity wearables, claim acceleration tools, individual consumer risk development systems, online policy handling apps, automated compliance processing and more.

ImageSoft insurance solutions offer automation and operational efficiency to insurers and modernized content and process management. This includes digitizing existing processes and introducing AI to further streamline operations and reduce costs. We are leveraging front- and back-end technology to give customers a transparent and more personalized response. These technology advances capitalize on the wealth of data collected through tech devices and big data sources. The goal is to securely and efficiently manage cases, content and processes.

Alex: And there’s the buzzer. We won’t get to the rest of the categories today.

ImageSoft can guide you through the abbreviations for insurers to achieve the efficiencies and cost savings you need with industry-leading solutions for insurance. Gain automated workflows, improved speed and efficiency, reduced costs and proper compliance. ImageSoft is ready to help your company reap the benefits from all of the abbreviations.

Look for more information about our solutions for life and property and casualty insurance, plus workers’ comp.

Follow ImageSoft’s Insurance Solutions LinkedIn Showcase page to understand all the abbreviations.

Weathering Shallow Roots

If you’ve ever taken a stroll through a woodsy path, you’ve probably been over towered by some pretty time-worn trees. And if you’ve endured a heavy wind storm, you’ve probably seen some neighbors’ trees come towering down. So why is it that certain trees can weather years’ worth of wind, storms and other natural disturbances and still stand tall while other trees of the same size cannot?

To find the answer, simply trace their roots. Having to dig deep for water and other nutrients, trees of the wilderness tend to have strong, deeply embedded roots. Home-grown trees, on the other hand, might have enjoyed water from sprinkler systems or rainier climates and have not had to work as hard. Spoiled as they might be, these home-grown trees are the biggest threat to our communities as they’re the first to fall.

So when a tumultuous season storms your department, will your processes be rooted in a secure, time-tested system? Or will its surface-level depth cause your customer service to come crashing down?

181_storm

What Kind of Forecast are We Talking About?

A while back, we warned you about the silver tsunamis where retiring workers are flooding years of procedural and informational know-how out of your organizations. We also explained how winter weather and comfort foods are discouraging constituents from fulfilling residential responsibilities, and the new innovations that are now allowing constituents to engage wherever they are.

But the perfect storm will inevitably hit when one or both of those contributing inefficiencies is coupled with a slammed governmental department.

As a matter of fact, this is exactly what happened to a public utility company when trying to service more than 203,000 customers by manually passing documents from desk to desk, leaving personally identifiable information exposed in broad daylight. They eventually made their way out of the squall after cultivating a more secure working environment, but they’ll tell the full story much better than we can during Velocity 2019.

So How Can I Bolster My Roots?

Let’s start with where you are.

If, like our utility company customer, you are still pushing papers around your office, you should start to seriously consider going paperless. The concept and process of “going paperless,” however, tends to be misunderstood. So much so that we penned a short eBook defining and mapping out the paperless process to help others speak our language and better understand that the concept is much more than digital storage and retrieval.

But maybe you’ve already tried branching into the paperless realm with an enterprise content management system (ECM) or document management system (DMS), but it’s no longer absorbing the new functionality and opportunity your organization needs to grow. The shallow depth of your current system is inhibiting your roots from digging deeper into automation and, because of its age, is also too complex and expensive to continue investing into. If this is where you are, it’s time to turn a new leaf and explore a modern-day ECM, DMS or other government-centric solution that will enrich your processes, nourish your staff and constituents’ needs and save you the time, money and trees you intended to preserve in the first place.

We Want to Hear From You!

Where are you currently planted – in an office inundated with paper, with a legacy system that’s keeping you shallow, or with blossoming government solution that grows with your department’s ever-changing needs?

Respond in the “comments” section below or on our Government Solutions showcase page. We read and respond – promise!

For Insurance Companies, These 5 Truths are Self-Evident

With President’s Day coming up, we’re stealing Thomas Jefferson’s words from the Declaration of Independence about self-evident truths.

176_thomasjeffersonThe truth is, insurance companies must upgrade their systems to take advantage of technology advances to eliminate paper once and for all. Customers are looking for an “Amazon-like” experience as manual, or outdated, processes are inefficient and costly. Moreover, they shut out insurance companies from winning new business.

So, thanks, Mr. Jefferson, for the lead-in. Here are our five self-evident insurance truths.

Insurance Truth #1: Digital document management is a must.

Companies must automate their document management, for several reasons: customers want information access and control. New business opportunities demand an enterprise content management solution that is flexible and can streamline all document handling. A single enterprise platform for managing content, processes and cases will result in additional opportunities for insurance companies.

Using technology to redesign insurance propositions for customers is fundamental to an insurer’s survival, profitability and ability to thrive in a competitive marketplace. Imagesoft knows that adopting technology to increase efficiency while staying compliant is the key to success.

Insurance Truth # 2: Documents come in varying formats.

Insurance companies deal with various formats of documents, photographs, claims reports, quotes, etc., and need a software solution that can handle these document formats. Paper-driven processes mean too many expensive copies, rising storage and copying fees, a lack of confidence in the integrity or timeliness of content changes, filing compromises and document misplacement. Enterprise content management is the answer.

The right-fit integrated ECM solution efficiently manages scanned documents, faxes, print streams, application files, electronic forms, Web content, multimedia files, emails and industry standard files such as ACCORD XML. Moreover, it eliminates the costs and vulnerabilities of manual and legacy, patched-together systems.

Insurance Truth # 3: Document management needs to be available across devices and be completely mobile, with Cloud compatibility.

Efficient customer service demands a mobile presence with the advantages of Cloud compatibility. Customers are becoming more adept at online transactions and expect online interactions with enterprises of all kinds – they demand a responsive experience that is available 24/7.

Insurers need the right tools to provide a consolidated view of information and documents with critical tasks identified, due dates assigned, and priorities identified. With an integrated enterprise content management solution available across device types, insurers can quickly access customized views, for example, by priority, policy type or due date. Increased visibility results in better customer service from the very beginning of the relationship.

Insurance Truth # 4: Modern enterprise content management systems help insurance companies deal with security issues.

As one of the most regulated industries, insurance companies must be compliant with industry regulations while protecting confidential customer data. Legacy systems and paper-based procedures are vulnerable to security breaches while automated enterprise content management systems add layers of protection to secure data.

Insurance Truth # 5: Insurance companies live or die by communication.

Today that communication is happening by text, email, fax, Skype, and even real phone calls. When it isn’t clear if a document has been updated, or the most recent version is on someone else’s desk, it’s time for improved communication via automated document and content management.

Insurance companies thrive when there is a single platform for document collaboration with access rights, commenting options, handling and timing rules, audit trails and time stamps, and more versioning and editing options. In this way, agents, brokers, the insured and all other related employees can move documents quickly and efficiently.

ImageSoft’s Truths for Insurance Companies

Industry leading ECM solutions for insurance include automated workflows, improved speed and efficiency, reduced costs and proper compliance. ImageSoft is ready to help your company reap the benefits that an integrated ECM solution can provide.

Look for more information about our solutions for life and property and casualty insurance, plus workers’ comp.

Which truths are you grappling with?

Follow ImageSoft’s Insurance Solutions LinkedIn Showcase page, and receive all the truths you need.

Thoughts of a Circuit Court Clerk

166_homerWe’re excited to share this heart-felt guest blog courtesy of our friend and client Paul Ferguson, Clerk of the Circuit Court in Arlington, VA.

When the Arlington Circuit Court decided to move from paper to electronic files in 2011, our first step was finding a technology partner that listened to our goals, could help us achieve them, and be fun to work with along the way.  We were fortunate to find all of that in ImageSoft, whose team was able to transition us over to a paperless system with ease and continues to support us with software updates and excellent customer service.

Benefits Beyond the Price Tag

Project Paperless” has empowered Arlington to achieve all of its goals, and then some! Yes, the cost savings have been nice. We no longer need to worry about purchasing case folders, use much less paper, and have considerably cut our postage costs. However, the benefits of ImageSoft’s solution and support system have been much more than financial for us.

OnBase, the enterprise content management system (ECM) implemented by ImageSoft, allows staff to route filings and documents to the proper person and place in a matter of minutes. With validated permissions, judges, attorneys, staff, and the public can all access the same file at the same time.

After working with the solution for a while, it was only natural that we would have some feedback as to what we could build upon to better serve the needs of our office. Both our judges and staff have suggested various upgrades and changes over the years, which ImageSoft has always welcomed and delivered on in an effective, timely manner.

ImageSoft also introduced us to electronic filings, which is now our preferred way of processing files. Thanks to ImageSoft’s TrueFiling, about 20 percent of our cases are now eFiled. Just this one change has delivered great time savings for our staff, faster turnaround for the public, and convenience for attorneys.

If you would like to learn more specifics about our office’s paperless transformation, I encourage you to take a quick read through our case study.

What’s Next?

While our system is meeting all our needs at the moment, it’s reassuring to know we have ImageSoft as a partner to call on for whatever and whenever our goals change.

It’s hard to remember what life was like six years ago before we knew “project paperless” was even a possibility. Arlington’s Circuit Court staff, judges, and attorneys appreciate the hand-in-hand support and forward-moving opportunity that ImageSoft has given us, and we are all very excited for what’s to come!

Paul Ferguson
Clerk of the Circuit Court
Arlington, VA and City of Falls Church, VA

 

County Clerks and Public Records Requests: A Happier Ever-After

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

Can we all take a moment to celebrate the county clerks who, at this very moment, are working to keep our local governments running? Just a month ago, Winter Haven, FL blocked out an entire week to applaud municipal clerks. From May 6-12, county clerks were showered with gratitude for the value that their work brings to the Winter Haven community every day. And rightfully so!

Like the thread that holds a king-sized quilt together, one of the most important roles of a county clerk is to ensure that elected officials stay in open and clear communication with the public they serve, typically by means of public records request. In this way, clerks serve as the gatekeepers of a county’s checks and balances.

As the efficiency and success of counties hinges on the quality and capacity of its clerks, it is critically important that they stay well-equipped with the most updated tools for processing information requests and maintaining open communication with the public.

To FOIA This, You Need to Forget That!

155_paperworkmountain.jpgTraditionally, a clerk’s office space is shadowed by mountains of paper files and records that they typically sift through for days just to process one records request. Even then, they may have to redact sensitive information, which includes making a copy of the original document, inking out sensitive information, and making another copy to send to the requester. If the documents need to be snail-mailed, that will take even longer to be received and will acquire postage expenses. Not to mention that FOIA requests are bound by time restraints, and clerks need to not only manage and prioritize the timestamps on their requests, but adhere to them.

In a world where information is being requested at record speeds, clerks could never acquire the capacity or space necessary to maintain offices that are both efficient and manually-operated. On the flipside, many counties don’t have the budget to keep hiring more people, buying or renting more space, replenishing paper and ink, or footing more postal fees.

In a nutshell, paper is out. So, what’s moving in?

ECM, You’re Up!

Enterprise content management systems (ECM) are taking counties and clerks by storm, swooping up every document and file and condensing it all into one, comprehensive digital world. Also called electronic document management systems (EDMS), these electronic document and file repositories leverage automation and digital functionality to turnaround FOIA requests and their many other callings in optimal time.

Why are ECMs trending as the preferred tool for managing FOIA requests? We can think of a few reasons:

  • Tracking in No Time: As we previously mentioned, clerks work within several time boundaries on any given day. Able to integrate with electronic workflows, ECM/EDMS will recognize electronic requests, track their progress, and electronically deliver the results.
  • Point-and-Click Redactions: With an ECM like OnBase, redacting sensitive information is as easy as point and click. Best yet, this feature also allows you to create a separate, redacted copy for the recipient while the original copy is maintained on file.
  • Audits, Access, and Answers: Have you and another clerk, official, or staff member ever simultaneously needed the same document? Fighting over paper is not only time consuming, but it diminishes the integrity of the document – it could be on anyone’s desk at any time, and very vulnerable to wandering eyes. With an ECM/EDMS, a file or document can be viewed by multiple parties at the same time. And since you’re accessing documents electronically, you are free to work remotely from anyplace with secure internet access. Complete audits of a document’s history also hold users accountable, so you can see who has viewed or edited a document, how, and when.
  • eNotifications = No worries: Electronic notifications keep clerks on track with looming deadlines and what they should be prioritizing. Especially valuable to time-sensitive FOIA requests, the notifications reduce stress for the clerk by ensuring that everyone has what they need exactly when they need it.

As The Paperless Process People, we’re all about efficiency. If you’re ready to un-shadow your office in time for summer and learn more about the easy adoption of an ECM/EDMS, feel free to ping us.

What part of handling record requests is the most problematic for you? What’s the one thing you with your current document management system could do to help?

 

6 Ways ECM Can Help Government Overcome Challenges – Part 5

By: Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft

Comply and Fly with ECM: Meeting Mandates and Regulations

153_waitinginline260 minutes. That’s just over 4 hours, which is about half of the average person’s workday. It’s also the amount of time government agencies spend per day just trying to meet public records requests.

When I say this, you may envision stacks and stacks of backlogged requests and impatient constituents lined up. This is true to some extent, but it’s really only half the battle. Not only are these agencies dealing with backlogs and back-talk, but they’re doing so while sweating under the urgency of mandates and regulations. Unfortunately for agency workers, such bold parameters box in almost all of their requests.

How Do They Manage?

Historically, not very well. Constituents with a request need to search the government’s website for the form, fill it out, print the document, and snail-mail it in. The paper document then needs to be hand-shuffled to the right desk, filed, and processed. All this alongside the hundreds of other documents that need the same, vital attention. Sounds fun, right?

Or, if the constituent needs it faster, they drive to your office, fighting traffic, securing close parking, finally get through security and wait in line for the pleasure of submitting the request in-person.

Someone Help These People!

Enterprise content management (ECM) is on it! Using its cloud-based storage, ECM allows public records across all departments to elevate their capacity and ability to comply with the ever-changing public records requirements without cramping their offices with added file cabinets.

Using an ECM system for public records becomes even easier when it manages your processes. For instance, you have dozens, if not hundreds of PDF forms on your website. Many of those are mandated forms that you cannot modify, which makes it hard (if not impossible) for electronic submission.

But an ECM solution, like OnBase by Hyland, comes with Unity Forms which allow you to design documents that will capture signatures, allow attachments and validate data to ensure that you’re collecting all the required information. Then, with the click of a button, the data is merged onto a government form that can be submitted online or printed and mailed. This not only ensures that all required information is filled out, but the constituent doesn’t have to worry about missing critical information and having gone through a ton of work just to have a rejected, incomplete form bounce back to them.

Once the form is in an ECM system, leverage its built-in workflow capability to route the form to the correct person, which is based on data in the form. Yes, it is a huge time-saver! Along the way, the ECM system can also capture those supplemental documents that pop up as work progresses. Automatic notifications at each step will also reduce calls into the office. Workflows can also track each type of form’s legislative requirements and mandates for processing times, and prioritize those forms that are approaching their limits.

As a result of all of this awesome automation, your completed process will not only have a complete audit trail for transparency and reporting purposes, but responding to record requests will be much easier because your documents are in one place and can be delivered in virtually any format. In other words, no more rifling through desks, endlessly searching for misfiled documents or printing a forest’s worth in paper.

I Can Help Myself? Don’t Mind if I Do!

While these features are undoubtedly speeding up the fulfillment of records requests, they’re also enabling a self-serving public through the use of search portals. This saves constituents all the time they would have spent driving to offices or preparing snail-mailed documents, and it saves the agency workers from having to manage and sort stacks of paper.

I’m Ready to Comply and Fly

As you can see, complying with mandates and regulations doesn’t have to be difficult. With a public record agency operating on an ECM, you can ensure all the information that is requested will be securely delivered on time, in proper format, and exactly where it needs to be.

Does your agency leverage an ECM? If so, how is your workload now compared to life before ECM?

Coming in Part 6: Eliminating Duplicative Workflows

 

Star Trek, Component Model and ECM

By Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft

144_mirrormirrorAs a Star Trek fan, I grew up watching the original series and one of my favorite episodes was one where a transporter accidentally launched Captain Kirk into a parallel universe. It intrigued me that two separate universes had the same people, the same spaceship, but very different cultures (and moustaches).

At a recent Hyland Partner conference in Cleveland, I couldn’t help but notice how developments in the enterprise content management (ECM) industry parallel what’s happening in the justice industry. In the justice space, the big news in terms of the future of technology is the Application Component Model, as championed by the National Center for State Courts and drafted by the Joint Technology Council.

The Component Model was drafted to address the slow pace of innovation with courts. It’s not that innovative technology is not available, it’s that courts purchase monolithic applications that have broad (but sometimes uselessly shallow) functionality that locks them into a particular vendor. This means that if you don’t like how your case management system handles document generation (or maybe not at all), you believe you have no recourse. Manual Word templates it is. The current state of affairs is that the majority of technology vendors have little to no interest to integrate with other applications, particularly in areas that compete with their own products.

Instead, the Component Model proposes that applications should be developed in smaller, detachable chunks that are designed to naturally integrate with other applications. For example, if a court only needs one key area of functionality, e.g. document generation, it can add that component without having to replace the entire case management system. Both the case management system and the document generation micro application can easily exchange the data that makes it possible for almost “snap-in” integration. This allows a court to implement best-of-breed solutions that provide a high degree of functionality, with minimal impact to operations, at a much faster pace.

The industry trend within ECM is following the same path. Historically, to access the advanced features of an ECM solution it required that you actually be logged into the client application which sometimes can be a clumsy transition. Today with OnBase, we can make small bits of ECM functionality available within a core application without having to load the entire ECM client. For instance, while in a case management solution, a function key could be used to generate an order even though the case management system does not possess that functionality natively. To the user, new functionality was added to their familiar interface. For the court, they just saved hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) in replacing a still working and supported case management system. That’s just one example of the many ways that a court can leverage small functional blocks within core applications and gain a faster path to a digital transformation.

ImageSoft has always pursued this kind of model as technology allowed. All of our solutions, whether it’s eFiling, workflow and ECM or eBench, are all designed to be integrated with existing case management systems. When you design your software that way, you have to design it to be able to exchange data in many different ways and include tools that can get around intransigent vendors that aren’t interested in connecting with other solutions. It will likely take years for the rest of the industry to catch up where a philosophy of openness and data exchange permeates the development and design of court applications. You can’t just beam into a parallel universe.

Thankfully, we are already there. Every one of our court projects involves integrating with an existing case management system or core application. And, we are working on the next generation of rich, consumable components that addresses the various gaps that courts have to achieve for an efficient, paperless case flow.

What do you think of this approach?

eFiling: Audit Trail and Confidentiality

This is Part 10 of 10 in the eFiling Blog Series, check out Part 9 here.

To conclude this eFiling series, let’s look back at a few pieces posted in the past that dealt with the enhancement of both the audit trail and the control over confidentiality offered by eFiling.

Audit Trail

One of the fun pieces I wrote, inspired by a presentation David Slayton, included an explanation of the audit trail provided by a good eFiling system.

[David] says … “… I know EXACTLY where the document came from, and whose profile was used to send it.” Knowing that a document has come from the right place, and knowing whose secure profile was used to send it, constitute security orders of magnitude greater than a written signature on a piece of paper…

Taking David’s point a step further, in an appropriately implemented Enterprise Content Management (ECM) with workflow system, not only do you know where the document came from, you know where it’s been and where it’s supposed to be going. It’s like Billy’s trail in the Family Circus: it leaves its tracks. It keeps track of who has looked at it and when. It keeps track of what was done to it, by whom, and when. And, unlike Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail, it doesn’t disappear.

91_familycircus

…. [I]n a properly implemented ECM with workflow system, not only do we know that the document comes from who it’s supposed to; we know whether or not it’s been altered since it was sent, who has touched it, where it’s been, where it’s heading, whether it’s behavior makes sense, and if not, what would make better sense.

Stalking the Wily Electronic Documents, January 12, 2015

In another piece, I got to use one of my favorite pieces of doggerel (“Last night I saw upon the stair/ A little man who wasn’t there…”) to illustrate how a well-designed ECM system provides auditable Record Integrity:

A reliable document Chain of Custody in the paper world is merely a means of attempting to protect the Principal of Integrity. (Albeit an expensive, labor-intensive, highly unreliable, almost-never-completely followed means). Even with special viewing areas and monitors, do courts control ALL access by ALL staff, ALL attorneys, and ALL judges, not to mention cleaning and security staff? Not usually.

ECM provides a built-in mechanism for maintaining an audit trail of the Chain of Custody for court documents, providing end-to-end assurance of document integrity. ECM users view documents on screen and don’t come in contact with the physical file. From identity and signature authentication (when needed) at the front end, through tracking who accesses each document and when, to ”locking out changes” to prevent tampering, ECM absolutely protects document integrity…

Proving the Negative, October 3, 2011

Confidentiality

Confidentiality has several aspects. There’s things like judge’s notes, intended only for the judge or designated persons. Then there’s confidential information, like Social Security Numbers, minors’ names, abuse victims’ addresses, and so on, contained in otherwise public documents. There are totally confidential documents, like Secret Indictments. There are confidential case types, like some juvenile matters or adoptions, where the entire case is confidential.

eFiling and ECM provide greater control of confidential information, at all levels of granularity – from individual data element to entire case. Who can see what can be tightly controlled and administered. So, for example, attorneys on confidential juvenile cases can see their clients’ files, but no others. Court employees and judges with clearance can see confidential data that has been redacted using automated, workflow-enabled tools making it invisible to unauthorized persons.

However, as I noted in the March 14, 2012 posting,

This does not mean courts should not carefully review and, if required, modify rules and statutes to make certain there are no unpleasant surprises … The paper-on-demand court environment IS different than the hard-copy environment. The area of Public Records discoverability has wrinkles in the paper-on-demand environment that never arise in the paper world…

… Recommended best practice:

1) Ensure that disclosure rules call out both electronic and paper work product as their own non-disclosable category of information;

2) Maintain the non-disclosable work product documents in separate document types from formal court records, with security configuration that prevents viewing by unauthorized system users; and

3) Support electronic document annotations that don’t technically alter the original document and have their own security distinct from the document

Assuring Judicial Work Product Confidentiality in a Paper-On-Demand Court, March 12, 2012

While the business case for eFiling generally emphasizes the savings, convenience, work process streamlining, and quality improvements, the benefits of having a robust, easily managed audit trail and greatly enhanced control over confidentiality certainly should not be overlooked as additional “low-hanging fruit” when moving to eFiling and ECM.

Stalking the Wily Electronic Documents

I am STILL surprised when I hear that some judges question whether eSignatures can be as trustworthy as “wet-ink” signatures. In law school I somehow missed the course that conferred “expert handwriting analyst” status; but maybe that was just one of my many oversights. I mean, really? Leave aside all other arguments: How many people are even marginally qualified to determine with any level of certainty whether a signature, on its face, is “authentic”? My oft-stated position is that a passable ability to forge signatures that will endure routine scrutiny is a sixth-grade level survival skill, honed through practice on permission slips and potentially embarrassing notes from teachers.

At the October Texas Association of Court Administrators (TACA) Conference, David Slayton[1] gave an excellent presentation on e-filing. Among other things, he showed documents eSigned using “/s/” and using a graphic, hand-drawn eSignature, either of which are acceptable under Texas rules.

David remarked that he occasionally has judges question whether such eSignatures are adequate. He gets remarks like, “Anyone can type “/s/” or paste an image of a signature onto a document.” He says his answer is, “Yes, Judge; but I know EXACTLY where the document came from, and whose profile was used to send it.” Knowing that a document has come from the right place, and knowing whose secure profile was used to send it, constitute security orders of magnitude greater than a written signature on a piece of paper. eSigned documents are simply more secure.

Taking David’s point a step further, in an appropriately implemented Enterprise Content Management (ECM) with workflow system, not only do you know where the document came from, you know where it’s been and where it’s supposed to be going. It’s like Billy’s trail in the Family Circus: it leaves its tracks. It keeps track of who has looked at it and when. It keeps track of what was done to it, by whom, and when. And, unlike Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumb trail, it doesn’t disappear.

91_familycircus

Family Circus – Jeff and Bill Keane

Not to push the Family Circus analogy too far, as there are of course many, many other important aspects of ECM with workflow; but one closely related aspect does bear mentioning. Billy may LIKE to wander all over hither and yon; but if he’s doing it every day (or if everyone is doing it), it may be time to find a more direct path. ECM with workflow will let the court know what route documents are following. If there are unnecessary steps; or if the order in which they are being processed is chaotic (or at least non-optimal), that will show up like Billy’s footprints after walking in mud.

Finally, if Billy takes the same route every day, but one day, even though he ends up in the same place, the trail is different, that’s another flag to apply extra scrutiny. If a filer always files according to a regular pattern, but a purported filing comes in following a non-routine pattern, that will signal the advisability of further checking its veracity. In large courts with many filers, such patterns are probably impossible to keep track of in a paper-based system; but an ECM receiving eFiled documents has considerably greater capabilities in this regard.

Thus, with eSigned documents in a properly implemented ECM with workflow system, not only do we know that the document comes from who it’s supposed to; we know whether or not it’s been altered since it was sent, who has touched it, where it’s been, where it’s heading, whether it’s behavior makes sense, and if not, what would make better sense. Sorry about that, Judge; paper documents with wet-ink signatures just won’t do that.


[1] David Slayton is Administrative Director at the Texas Office of Court Administration. He is currently President of the National Association for Court Management (NACM).