Digitising incoming correspondence and storing it electronically for archival, compliance and customer service purposes has long been a burden at most large companies. In many cases they outsource the document management side of that a third party such as EDS or Xerox.
So there is nothing too innovative about the decision of Zurich Financial
Services Group to outsource its document management to Swiss Post, especially when standardised input process across multinational boundaries create globally searchable and accessible documents.
But it is the sheer scale of the Zurich-Swiss Post contract that makes it noteworthy. The Swiss Post brief involved replacing the bank’s inhouse process with a cross-border operation covering six countries – the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy,
Spain and Austria – and processing around 146 million documents
annually, a mammoth task involving opening 240,000 items of physical
mail a day and digitising 150,000 documents a day.
Beyond pure logistics that is a significant content management
challenge, and certainly not an overnight project. Implementation in the UK and Switzerland is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2009, and in all other countries by the end of 2012.
The key element, says Zurich’s European strategic programme manager Paul Wright, was developing an integrated workflow system capable of effectively allocating metadata to incoming documents and thereby creating an inventory with the appropriate access, retention and destruction policies.
“We scan and index 70% to 90% of incoming post, which involves a large number of files and policyholders,” he explains, adding that several countries are further ahead
“Germany is the most developed: highly integrated and highly efficient, while Switzerland is still mostly paper-based.”
The geographic scale of the project was a major challenge, he says, “because of the complexity and variety of existing systems.”
“A lot of people also liked their existing models – a number of stakeholders had to be convinced. But the rigour of having to win confidence has been good for the project – things get easier once you can answer hard questions.”
The result, Wright believes, will be “a significant gain in efficiency. There’s a
customer service gain – if a customer phones up and asks a question, then: ‘I
need to find that document’ is not a good answer,” he says.
Zurich won’t reveal the terms of the deal with Swiss Post, beyond the duration of its contract, but Wright says key considerations during the shortlist process were “the supplier’s capability and financial strength. We also needed
a cultural fit – you can’t do a ten-year contract without that. It helped that
there was a conceptual fit with the Swiss Post brand.”