The third case concerns Winterthur Life & Pensions, a Swiss insurance company which is one of the major players in Europe and worldwide. The company had experienced strong growth, especially with acquisitions. As a result, in the area of life insurance products, abundant infor- mation systems were in use to manage contracts. To enable a more efficient contract manage- ment, especially for closed blocks (contracts that were still running but no longer offered to new customers), the company decided to standardize processes and systems in this area on a global scale as far as possible.
CKM Challenges. In order to standardize the management of closed blocks, projects were initi- ated worldwide on a country-level. The teams consisted of members of the global core team as well as of local experts who reengineered the processes, calculation models, and information systems involved in the management of closed blocks. As a consequence, a number of globally dispersed teams were working on similar problems. To communicate within and between the teams and with headquarters, e-mail was the primary medium. In some countries, access was also available to a file server which stored relevant content. However, communication and knowledge exchange, based primarily on documents, were not entirely satisfactory. As a result of the use of e-mail, team members could never be sure of having the most up-to-date version of a document. As in the first case, new members had to start from scratch, since they had missed past communi- cation. The file server was not globally accessible. E-mail communication within projects also made it virtually impossible for the core team to get an overview of the progress of the different projects and the lessons learned. Finally, knowledge transfer was hampered by a lack of consis- tent documentation of projects.
Relevant Knowledge Aspects. To improve knowledge dissemination across the different projects, the insurance company implemented a new knowledge portal based on a standard software prod- uct. The portal was to be globally available and enhance the dissemination of knowledge across all projects within the management of closed blocks.
The portal included elements of three aspects, with composition being the most prominent. It provided a standardized process-oriented navigational structure to be used by all projects. This went hand in hand with the introduction of a common taxonomy which defined the most relevant
terms needed for categorization. Besides the navigational structure, a comprehensive search func- tion also allowed the retrieval of relevant documents. With the new access-rights management, individual team members saw only content relevant to them.
Concerning content, documents were now available on a Web-based platform. The system included version control, making sure that documents were available only in their newest version. It also provided templates to standardize content creation processes and therefore facilitated a review of relevant documentation across multiple projects. The templates also provided means to record feedback and lessons learned from the project teams.
The aspect of collaboration was based on the features already described and primarily con- cerned the organizational setting in which the portal was used. It enabled the dispersed project teams to store and retrieve documents from virtually anywhere and to work together on common documents. By linking to other projects, it was possible to work on common problems across projects more easily. On the other hand, version control helped team members recognize whether they were using the most current version in their work.
Results. The new portal improved the efficiency of the projects in a variety of ways, thus enabling the standardization of contract management for closed blocks.
The primary goal was to facilitate knowledge dissemination for collaboration. Since all projects would place their documentation into the portal, the status of the different projects could now easily be analyzed and compared. A special reporting function further extended this aspect. When a certain step in a project was concluded, lessons learned were reviewed and could now immedi- ately be incorporated into the process-oriented structure and the templates. This made them avail- able to every project that had not yet reached the relevant step. As a result, many potential problems were eliminated before they actually came up.
On the individual project level, documents were now kept centrally. In contrast to e-mail, all project members had access to all documents. It was no longer possible to encounter outdated versions, and the structured navigation reduced information overload. For the infrastructure, the portal brought significant relief. as not every document needed to be sent to every project mem- ber anymore. After one year of use, the portal included over 10,000 documents and was em- ployed in 21 projects in nine countries worldwide.