Content is King

Dec. 1, 2008

A Minnesota Blue expands its Web presence and streamlines content management, reducing administrative burdens on IT.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
(BCBSMN) is the largest health plan in the state, providing health coverage to more than 2.9 million members. By law, all health plans in the state are required to operate as non-profit organizations. This creates some fairly unique circumstances for our business, since we compete for market share as any for-profit would. Like all health insurance companies, we have come to rely greatly on our public Web site as a primary channel for communicating with members, employers, brokers and agents and healthcare providers. Equally important, however, are our corporate intranets that facilitate collaboration and the flow of business within our organization.

A Minnesota Blue expands its Web presence and streamlines content management, reducing administrative burdens on IT.

   Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBSMN) is the largest health plan in the state, providing health coverage to more than 2.9 million members. By law, all health plans in the state are required to operate as non-profit organizations. This creates some fairly unique circumstances for our business, since we compete for market share as any for-profit would. Like all health insurance companies, we have come to rely greatly on our public Web site as a primary channel for communicating with members, employers, brokers and agents and healthcare providers. Equally important, however, are our corporate intranets that facilitate collaboration and the flow of business within our organization.

While an expanded Web presence and robust use of corporate intranets improve service and enhance collaboration, they can also present new organizational and IT management challenges. In the case of BCBSMN, we found that the need for IT involvement in content publishing and management was creating a strain on internal resources as well as hindering the company’s ability to keep content fresh and dynamic.

Challenges

In 2002, we launched an initiative that would transfer Web content management from our IT team to line-of-business managers in an effort to increase the quality of content and significantly reduce the time and resources required to maintain our public site as well as corporate intranets. We have more than 10 external facing Web sites and more than 20 intranet Web sites. Along the way, our quest for improved management of Web content helped to lay the foundation for a much larger initiative. We began the creation of a comprehensive content management strategy designed to help us improve control of our diverse content, which ranges from plan descriptions to financial data and comes in many different formats from an enterprise level, not just the employee or project level.

The BCBSMN Web site (www.bluecrossmn.com) is our principal communication vehicle for reaching all of our stakeholder groups. It delivers valuable content to members about emerging health developments and trends that promote healthy living, as well as self-service answers to many of their plan-related questions. Similarly, the site provides valuable content for our employer, provider, and agent/broker communities — helping us to improve the level of service we deliver.

As BCBSMN increasingly leveraged the Web site and corporate intranets as valuable business tools, the IT team faced a growing burden. By 2001, we had five full-time Web engineers working to process and publish content that came in from across the organization. Even then, we found it increasingly difficult to respond quickly to requests to post new content or revise existing content. To request an update, content owners would send Web site updates to the IT staff via e-mail with an attached document describing the request. A Web engineer would then convert the document into an HTML format, make the edits, and begin the production and deployment processes. On average, the process took three or more days to post a change, and the content owner was beholden to the IT team and its schedule to move the process forward.

The Solution

In 2002, we began the search for a solution to streamline Web content management, automate workflows and processes as well as devolve responsibility for publishing to line-of-business managers to accelerate processes and drive better content. We selected Oracle Universal Content Management as the cornerstone of our Web content management initiative. Using the new system, Web and intranet content is now in the hands of line-of-business managers, which eases the burden on our IT team. Prior to the implementation, the IT department was responsible for all changes to Web site content. The new system enables our IT staff to focus on more strategic initiatives while allowing us to reduce the number of Web engineers focused on content publishing from five to two.

It also empowers managers with greater autonomy to post and edit content faster, reducing the time required to complete Web site updates from an average of three days to just 15 to 20 minutes. Users can modify content easily by browsing to a page, logging in, and editing and previewing changes directly from the Web site, without the need for a tedious copy-and-paste procedure.

Currently, we are rolling out approximately three Web sites a quarter including many sub-sites of the main BCBSMN site. After our Web development team sets up the framework for new sites, including setting the content management parameters in the Oracle solution, site owners are free to publish as they see fit. The solution enables us to maintain our corporate brand across sites and pages, while still giving content owners new flexibility. Additionally, it enables the Web team to control architecture and presentation while distributing the actual site development and maintenance to the business units. Content authors can easily add, modify and approve content within the context of their Web sites.

We also use the Web content management solution to manage content contribution and consumption on the intranet. By logging-in to the intranet, members can retrieve documents and forms, which they can fill out and mail or submit electronically. There are currently more than 200 employees within our organization utilizing the system. These include contributors for our various Web content management systems and workflow approval managers. By 2009, we expect to have more than 4,000 employees on the system. Beginning with enabling Lotus Notes End User E-mail Archiving, we will also set up department-level document management. Overall, we have significantly improved the quality of our Web content and reduced the time and resources required to maintain our public Web sites and our intranet.

Looking Forward

Our Web content management project was the start of a comprehensive enterprise content management strategy initiative. Being a large healthcare insurer, we have more than 200 different content repositories technologies with more than 60TB of file data. Our current enterprise systems are cumbersome and expensive to maintain and in addition, they do not enable content management from an enterprise level. From the start, we knew corporate buy-in of this strategy would be critical to deploying a system that would meet the diverse needs of our organization. To seek input and build support, we created an ECM governance committee and executive steering committee that meet regularly as well as multiple workgroups involving line-of-business managers.

From an IT perspective, we require a single content repository technology that easily integrates with the wide range of applications and content sources that span our organization, including the company’s third-party portal, records management and mainframe systems. We reviewed technology applications from a variety of vendors through a series of presentations and demonstrations and discovered the Oracle solution delivers the scalability and functionality we require, along with comprehensive integration tools.

When fully deployed, our enterprise content management solution will encompass the full scope of content found throughout our organization. For example, when an employee receives an e-mail and declares it as content, we will have the capability to save the information and store it in the content management system through integration with Lotus Notes. We will also manage content for brochures and artifacts for sales agents, which will go into a print on-demand system.

Our Web content management initiative was the first step in our efforts to transform the way that we work with and manage enterprise content at BCBSMN. Success with our Web project provided a launch pad for our broader vision of creating a true enterprise content management solution that will drive improved productivity, knowledge sharing and business intelligence companywide.

Tom Chaffee is principal operations architect for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Contact him at [email protected].

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