Content-Enabling Your Insurance Business Using Oracle BPM and WebCenter Content


Oracle Technology – WebCenter Content / WebCenter Capture / Database / BPM / SOA / Search / Weblogic Server

Content-Enabling Your Insurance Business Using Oracle BPM and WebCenter Content Raoul Miller, TEAM Informatics, Inc. TEAM has worked with a number of insurance industry companies over the years and the advantages of content-enabling these enterprises are numerous. Many insurance organizations have grown through acquisition, with the end result that they have parallel legacy systems in place with increasingly evolving complexity in meeting the challenges of integrating them. This makes the insurance industry ideal for deployment of SOA/BPM as an integration methodology and adding content and records management to this is a no-brainer (as the insurance industry is so document and record-driven). Last year Oracle published a white paper (link) on how best to use their BPM (business process management) tools in an insurance industry setting. I won’t restate all their reasons as to why the Oracle solution is a good fit – but suffice to say that the Oracle Insurance business unit has a lot of experience in the area and solutions to meet all your needs. However, what was missing from the white paper was the value and flexibility gained by adding WebCenter Content, Records, and Imaging to the mix. We are currently working with a number of customers on exactly these integrations – allowing for secure upload of files from agents’ offices, scanning and uploading of paper forms and documents (using capture and distributed capture), migrating legacy images from mainframe systems to modern Oracle WebCenter Content systems, and allowing users (for the first time) to truly search and retrieve content based on metadata and full text searches.

Case Study: Insurance Company A Insurance company A is a large organization in APAC responsible for workers compensation and accident claims. The organization required a very secure system (as it will contain medical records and other potentially sensitive information) with extremely granular security capabilities and a high level of audit capabilities. The system had to be scalable enough to meet the needs of every person in the country and visitors from overseas. Historic content was migrated from their existing legacy system and new content submitted either electronically through an upload screen or scanned from paper. A final wrinkle was that bandwidth to many of the organization’s remote branch offices was quite poor, so the overhead of the application needed to be low. TEAM worked with Oracle and FINEOS, a third-party software vendor, which delivered the case management software used at the front end. This installation is a prime example of “invisible ECM” or what I call CaI (Content as Infrastructure) in that end users are unaware of the content / records

Oracle Technology – WebCenter Content / WebCenter Capture / Database / BPM / SOA / Search / Weblogic Server

management system sitting behind their user interface and only a few administrators have access to the Oracle WebCenter Content user interface. The new system leverages all the content management capabilities of Oracle WebCenter Content (including the retention, conversion, indexing, security, and auditing functions) while integrating seamlessly with the industry-specific front-end. The Content Management version deployed at Insurance Company A is the 10gR3 release, which is why the logical diagram below shows the content servers with standalone web servers rather than deployed on the same application server platform as the Content Integration Suite in the middleware tier. We would expect to make this change when the client upgrades in the next 12-18 months.

The system has been successfully deployed in production for over 7 years and ingests 10-20 million records per year. The system was tested to manage 200 million records on the existing infrastructure; we have 2-3 years to design the physical infrastructure for the next major release.

Oracle Technology – WebCenter Content / WebCenter Capture / Database / BPM / SOA / Search / Weblogic Server

Case Study: Insurance Company B Insurance Company B is a US-based individual and commercial insurance company that has acquired two equally large competitors in the past 5 years. Although the business is run as one organization, there are still three sets of back-end infrastructure in place (with three sets of IT staff to support them). The majority of their records are stored as TIFF or proprietary image formats in legacy systems on failing (and unsupported) hardware.

This customer has a number of major challenges: 

Volume of images needing to be imported and converted is very high – approximately 600-700 million items. While we know that WebCenter Content can support collections this large, the storage systems have to be carefully designed to ensure reliability and performance. The best approach is to split the huge single instance collection into a number of smaller functional collections and access them all via web services with intelligent routing rather than rely on close-coupling to a single unwieldy instance. The customer has chosen to procure scanning from one vendor, BPM and SOA from a second, and content management from Oracle. While WebCenter’s standards-based architecture and integration methods ensure this is possible, using products from a single vendor simplifies the

Oracle Technology – WebCenter Content / WebCenter Capture / Database / BPM / SOA / Search / Weblogic Server

integration discussions, support considerations, and generally lowers overall cost (through license bundling). The customer has a vacuum in architectural and technical leadership which complicates the design and deployment process. In any complex environment, organizations require clear vision and firm leadership to deliver complex functionality to the business. In its absence, point solutions, short-term fixes and siloed applications will tend to proliferate causing more issues in the long term.

The solution we are proposing to Insurance Company B uses components from different vendors integrated via an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to migrate from their legacy platforms to a more-modern SOA-enabled delivery process. Although their SOA and ESB vendor is not Oracle, the process of delivery would be identical if it were. Ingestion of new content is simple – although the business encourages submission of content via secure email, web upload, or XML data transfer (over HTTPS), there is still a high volume of paper which is scanned, OCR’ed and indexed, then passed to WebCenter Content via a custom connector that packages PDF images and associated security and metadata and passes them on via HTTPS to the repository. Legacy content would be passed through a conversion and organization process (by another TEAM partner) and packaged into bulk upload packages for ingestion using the standard bulk-load tools. Once the raw content is managed and indexed by the WebCenter Content systems, users will interact with it through their standard web-enabled applications. New content is passed via web services to the BPM system and workflow managed through these methods; updated content is managed through a parallel track. Requests for new, archive or legacy imported content are passed to the ESB as web service requests and routed to the correct WebCenter Content instances based on traffic rules defined within the ESB. Because the overall collection is so large, full text indexing is not useful or required and all searches are managed via metadata. However, certain content instances have full text indexing enabled to support future functionality for targeted searches.

Overall Best Practices

Working with a number of insurance companies, we have been able to derive some best practices for these large (and often) complex entities and processes:

Metadata Management - Best Practices around metadata fall into two broad categories - master data management, or “ownership” of various metadata, and development of a scalable information architecture. The former is a key takeaway for any complex system; every metadata filed in an integrated system must have a single system of record and that environment is the only one that can update these values. Every other system will treat that metadata value as read-only. Updates may be initiated from other environments, but they will

Oracle Technology – WebCenter Content / WebCenter Capture / Database / BPM / SOA / Search / Weblogic Server

trigger a web service request that is routed back to its “owner” and update the record there. All metadata need not be owned by a single system but each field must be managed by only one system. Although it is technically feasible to pass updates from multiple systems and keep them in sync, in practice this is very complex and almost always fails somewhere, leading to data corruption that needs to be fixed. Development of scalable information architecture follows from master data management but is

much harder to pin down into simple guidance. Simply stated, an organization’s security and metadata model needs to reflect its current business needs while allowing scope to adapt as the business evolves. Every business will require something slightly different to reflect its unique history, processes, focus, and plans. The key consideration here for an insurance client to have all aspects of the business reflected in the workshops that are held to define the information and security architecture.

Security Integrations - As insurance companies deal with a lot of personal and financial data about their clients, security is obviously an extremely important consideration within the design process. The organizations themselves have usually worked out the requirements for auditing, restricting access to “need to know”, separation of responsibilities, etc. Translating these to business rules is sometimes a challenge but the capabilities of identity management, database

Oracle Technology – WebCenter Content / WebCenter Capture / Database / BPM / SOA / Search / Weblogic Server

advanced security, WebCenter Records auditing and BPM have been able to deliver these at all the clients we have been engaged with. One particular challenge often seen in companies that have grown by merger and acquisition (such as Insurance Company B above) is that they may have multiple user directories to store user and agent identities. Although WebLogic Server (WLS) (which handles the authentication and authorization duties for all WebCenter applications and BPM) can be configured to query multiple authentication and Authorization providers, we have found that a more elegant and scalable approach is to use either Oracle Virtual Directory (OVD) or Oracle Internet Directory (OID) as a single source of user and identity data and use the tools that come with these to collect identity and user data from multiple targets. Integration of WLS and WebCenter applications with OVD and OID is straightforward and fully supported.

Using SOA and ESB - As both of the examples above illustrated, integration of different applications and environments is most easily achieved through a service-oriented architecture brokered using an Enterprise Service Bus. Because WebCenter Content was designed from the very beginning as a service-oriented application running on Java, integration of all the application’s capabilities via web service and ESB is straightforward and well-documented. However, content enablement of the enterprise will require a fairly mature deployment of SOA within the organization as well as clear leadership and understanding of best practices and business goals for the outcome. Both of the examples described previously deployed solutions from different vendors, illustrating the beauty of a standards-based approach. However, time to deployment and long-term support cost is usually lower when deploying all components from a single vendor as the integration steps are tested and supported by the vendor.

BPM integration - Associated with SOA and ESB, Business Process Management is an essential part of any insurance industry deployment of content management. While WebCenter Content has its own inbuilt workflow engine, this is optimized for approval and notification of content and is not designed to integrate directly with external systems and data sources. Fortunately,

Oracle Technology – WebCenter Content / WebCenter Capture / Database / BPM / SOA / Search / Weblogic Server

there is a standard BPM integration delivered with WebCenter Content along with a limited use license of the BPM suite. This allows organizations to develop complex workflows (or better, to integrate with existing business processes) for new and updated content as well as allowing for processes to request content and metadata from the WCC system. Although the delivered integration is for Oracle’s BPM suite, we have modified this to work with third party BPM solutions for many clients – the beauty of Oracle embracing and supporting the BPMN and BPEL standards for their BPM products.

Search integration - Searching and optimizing users’ search experiences could cover a whole additional article but is an important consideration for the insurance industry (and other complex deployments). One advantage of using existing tools to access the stored content managed within WebCenter Content is that the queries made to the repository via web service or java integrations are almost always structured queries using metadata and security. It would be extremely rare for an external system to pass an unstructured text query to the system. If that were required though, the challenge would not be in the integration, the standardization of the query language, or the format of the search results; it is the validity and usefulness of those results without some kind of ranking or organization. This problem is usually solved by adding a layer of search management such as Oracle’s Secure Enterprise Search or Google’s Search Appliance and relying on the ranking algorithms within those applications. Search is a vital component of any content solution (what good is content management if users cannot find that content?) but any discussions of design and deployment of that search must focus on shaping the user experience to provide targeted and useful search results, which is almost always delivered through metadata searches. Full text searching is usually only useful when filtering the results of that initial structured search.

Conclusion The insurance industry is one where content enablement can yield substantial returns in a short time period. Because the industry is, by-and-large, still very paper-driven the possibilities for improvement in process, service and handling time are very real; however, the underlying complexity of existing systems and legacy integrations can make the initial design and deployment of a content management system challenging.

We have found that clear architectural and business leadership is required to bring the various parties together and design a modern solution to content management, integrated with business processes and leveraging the power of an enterprise service bus to share content, conversion, search and distribution

Oracle Technology – WebCenter Content / WebCenter Capture / Database / BPM / SOA / Search / Weblogic Server

services across multiple platforms. Metadata management and information architecture are key to the process as well and require a combination of an experienced implementation partner, a mature application vendor and champions within all areas of the business.