ECM and the Digital Moment in Insurance: Q&A with Hyland’s Charlie Hanna

A conversation about insurance innovation, how ECM is adapting to the digital age, and how Hyland is reinventing itself as a participant in core system vendors’ partner ecosystems within the emerging insurance platform paradigm.

(Charlie Hanna, Image source: Hyland Software.)

While every insurance technology vendor segment is affected by the industry’s move to digital, enterprise content management (ECM) is a special case given its importance to the myriad ways insurers communicate and transact with consumers and distribution partners. When we had a chance recently to sit down with Charles F. Hanna, Director for U.S. sales at Hyland Software (Cleveland), we were interested in talking about what digital means for ECM generally, and how Hyland specifically is adapting to the industry’s movement toward cloud infrastructure and API/microservices-based architecture. We’ve always enjoyed Charlie’s point of view, and we were particularly interested in the way Hyland is reinventing itself as a participant in core system vendors’ partner ecosystems within the emerging insurance platform paradigm.

Insurance Innovation Reporter: What does the digitization of the insurance industry mean for an enterprise content management vendor, given how focused it is on policyholder- and agent-facing capabilities?

Charlie Hanna, Domestic Director of Insurance Sales, Hyland Software: That’s a huge question, even in the context of the content services solutions Hyland provides. We’ve stayed ahead of the game. There’s a range of adoption of digital capabilities among our customers. Some are at a fairly basic level, though all understand that in the emerging digital business landscape, people want things immediately and in the manner of their preference. We help organizations provide that kind of digital experience, whether directly with carriers, between carriers and their distribution, or from carriers directly to customers. It’s a significant challenge to go from what historically were paper-driven processes to fully digital, automated processes. There’s a great deal of interest today in advanced digital capabilities. Video from mobile devices associated with a claims file through tagging, for example. Insurers want to automate these processes, internally and externally, and complete them as quickly as possible.

IIR: How has the appetite for digital manifested itself in Hyland’s relationships with core system vendors?

CH: Our relationship with core vendor partners continues to expand. These core system vendors understand the value we bring to the transformation story. Historically, some partners have looked at us as a repository for digital content. They didn’t necessarily look at all the peripherals that take place outside their core offering. For example, underwriting and issuing business, there are many interactions outside of the core system that take place between the carrier and the broker. Our solutions automate a lot of that, including the content creation required at various stages. As a result, our value to that ecosystem continues to increase.

IIR: My impression is that Hyland has devoted significant resources to those relationships over the years, that it’s been a more of a deliberate strategy than a natural but more incidental kind of partnership.

CH: Yes, we have created many ad hoc solutions within the marketplace for a number of years. We have many success stories that highlight how we deliver this kind of transformation to a business process, like claims, for example. That said, it’s not necessarily as widely appreciated as part of our value proposition for our partners ecosystems, though we’re making progress in getting that message out. We’ve probably matured at a quicker rate than some of our partners. We recently released the latest iteration of our Guidewire accelerator, which is the fourth release in four years. In the latest version, we were able to  reduce implementation costs and effort by over 45 percent from the previous version. Also, the end product is far more robust and fit-for-purpose than anything we’ve ever done, further advancing what was already paradigm shifting work. We’re committed to this type of enhanced development to deliver more efficient, faster and better products into the market. While that’s specific to Guidewire, we’re making aggressive strides with Duck Creek [Boston] as well, and we have seen a significant spike in Duck Creek business that will further support development investment.

IIR: Part of digitization is a move to a new, more agile architecture based on services. How does that architectural concept resonate in the ECM space?

CH: I think we were early adopters in the ECM field, understanding that to have the market recognize us as an innovative company, we had to adopt the new services-based architecture. We are aggressively modernizing our platform with a cloud and mobile first vision.  We are in early stages of releasing this next-gen, serverless RESTful API technology. Future users will be able to pick and choose those pieces they’d like to be part of their ultimate solution—as opposed to being burdened with a comprehensive enterprise solution, implemented on-premises.

Our development investment is significant in this area, and our road map is aggressive. We’re having conversations with big Tier One carriers, and we’re getting ready to put first iterations of things into market. Conversations are very different today. We’re providing our customers a path to the future that many vendors aren’t bringing to market, and it’s very well received by the market. If we do a fraction of what we think, it will represent an exponential rate of change, and, of course, that will be a challenge.

IIR: What does ECM look like in a services paradigm?

CH: Our focus is on offering a content services platform that has grown from a single product to multiple standalone solutions, with a specific focus in insurance. IBM made some steps in this direction, but has now deemphasized ECM and intensified its focus on analytics and Watson. But even before that, its solutions were limited and typically offered through third-party partners. We have tried-and-true solutions, highly influenced by customers, particularly in insurance.

IIR: What’s the demand for such solutions among insurance carriers?

CH: Carriers are in the curiosity stage. Insurers aren’t beating down the door yet. Again, we’re probably more advanced than most because we work to stay ahead of trends. There’s certainly a sense of urgency around becoming a digital carrier, whether you frame that as providing Omni channel experience or straight-through processing as a way for the organization to run as efficiently as possible. We’re very focused and committed to investing in this direction. I think we’ll pull the space behind us, and hopefully it will catch up before very long.

IIR: Will being some distance ahead be more frustrating or more liberating for Hyland?

CH: I’m personally super excited about the direction of things. It’s very exciting to see that future state emerge—things like advanced capture in a serverless world, content management in  more of an app-based world, rather than the old paradigm of a gargantuan solution on a server on-premises. It’s also interesting to see that some of the procrastinators—insurers once dependent on their AS 400s—are now leapfrogging early adopters of modern core platforms.

IIR: What role are acquisitions playing in Hyland’s evolution as a provider? For example, last year’s Perceptive deal?

CH: With the Perceptive acquisition, we acquired 10 different product offerings. That includes, for insurance, Brainware, our lead go-to-market advanced capture product that competes with market leaders like Kofax [Irvine, Calif.] and any of the other primary vendors in that space. We also acquired Perceptive’s CCM product, which we’ve since invested in and rebranded as Content Composer, our standalone, go forward CCM product offering. We also acquired some very clever video content management capabilities and an enterprise search product. Imagine a world where converting terabytes of data from a sunsetted system goes away and you can query that system through this product and ingest that into your new OnBase system.

I think we’ve done a nice job of bringing those product stacks into the Hyland ecosystem. Some will remain as standalone products, and we will build other pieces into the OnBase offering. That’s gone well. More than that, as part of this aggressive development strategy to be bleeding edge in the content services space, we’ve made massive investments in people and resources. What’s great about where we are as a company, if we decide we need to build something, there’s really nothing preventing us from doing it. It’s very exciting to be able to respond promptly to market demand.

IIR: What can you say about Hyland’s evolution with regard to its insurance-specific capabilities?

CH: We have matured in the verticalization of our product management and development across the board. However, that’s actually less of a factor for insurance, because this industry has driven so much of the core OnBase product. And as strong as our core insurance team is, we also enjoy the influence of other vertical industry experts.

So, to that point, the DICOM viewing technology that was part of our healthcare solution is also used in workers’ compensation scenarios where there’s a need to look at medical images, annotate and process them. That wasn’t part of the conversation before. In the same vein, we created the Combined Viewer product that started out fairly specific to insurance and now has use cases for other industries. It works both ways, and insurance, as a vertical, is critical to driving a lot of the core development projects going on here at Hyland.

IIR: What’s your view on InsurTech and its potential for providing new partners?

CH: I love InsureTech because it has awakened a very tired industry. For me, it’s funny. It has served as a call-to-action for C-level people to invest in new ways of distribution and other key areas. It has opened up budgets, encouraged fresh thinking and reinvigorated people to do things they should be spending more time on. So to bring the conversation back to digital, many carriers have lagged in doing these things—80 percent are still using legacy core systems. I’m beyond baffled, though shouldn’t be, when I go to talk to household name tier one insurers, that their method of doing business is something akin to what you’d expect 20 years ago. InsureTech puts people on notice. They have to take action. For some, that means being aggressive and leapfrogging. For others, it means getting into this decade. It’s amazing how much paper interaction still exists.

I love the energy behind InsurTech, the ideas, how it is forcing people to consider how they consume products. I love how we’re seeing things such as underwriting in real time as opposed to running an MVR and CLUE report. I love that it’s making the insurance industry more reflective of who we are as a society—and forcing some organizations to step it up or be an M&A target.

New Entrants in Insurance: Industry Transformation Accelerates

Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

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