This guest post is written by Ruth Fisk, director of insurance solutions at Hyland Software.

Efficiency. Cost-savings. Fewer steps in a process. In the insurance technology world, these are terms that are thrown out a lot as benefits of using particular software solutions, like ECM.

And while, in and of itself, a particular product might be effective for what it was designed to do, the insurance market is quickly teaching us vendors that it’s not always how good a product works on its own that matters. In fact, more often, it’s how well these products work with other products that really makes the difference.

For example, I feel like every other article I read is about legacy systems. You know, the custom-built systems no longer being supported by a long-lost vendor, or that in-house coded product that someone thought was a good idea 15 years ago that your business depends on. Either way, these systems exist, and therefore, you need to figure out how to make the best of the data they hold.

But, if you’re like most folks in insurance, you already know this. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the vendors who offer the types of solutions you need don’t care as much as you need them to about interoperability with other products.

Why is this such a problem? Because the entire value proposition – efficiencies, cost-savings, fewer steps – are completely diminished when getting a new system adds more work for every other system.

Think about when customer information needs to be updated, as in adding an additional insured. Sounds simple enough. But because every single system that touches the customer needs to be updated, and it’s typical that none of the systems talk to each other, it becomes a manual process of re-keying information over, and over and over.

Aside from this process being incredibly time consuming, it leaves far too much room for human error. If that happens, a whole new set of problems arise, where people from the business and IT side have to waste time troubleshooting where the error was made.

To make this fix, insurance companies need to only consider technology, especially ECM, that is designed to be out-of-the-box ready to interoperate on a data level with other systems. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not enough anymore to buy technology for the sake of what that piece is designed to do. With incredible demands from customers to provide better service, and constantly shrinking margins, interoperability is a necessity for insurers to maintain a competitive advantage.