More than just a piece of office furniture: Philly the filing cabinet


Philly the filing cabinet was born in the year 1898 and immediately got a job she loved, keeping paper data safe and easily available. Insurance companies, one of the most paper intensive industries on the market, quickly became heavy consumers of this type of office furniture.

Insurers like Hyland Insurance, where Philly’s task was to store critical business information within her slim frame – forever. A mere youngster, insurers around the globe expected Philly to bear the weight of hundreds of policy and claim documents without complaint. Every day, she had to prove her value by keeping business information segregated by product lines. One drawer for new automobile business applications and the accompanying physical damage reports, and one for new member enrollment and health claim forms.

And just for good measure, one for universal life products, where insurers kept applications, diagnostic lab reports and mortality tables. Ew!

Insurers expected Philly to keep things organized within each drawer and to make sure documents were readily available for retrieval. And when items couldn’t be found, she was fully expected to shoulder the blame for the missing or lost files. Oh, the times she was accused of eating the paper!

It was hard enough that the weight was so heavy and no one ever let her out of the office for a vacation day. They started adding more and more things Philly had to do, like keep auto policies for seven years, unless there was a claim. But health claims could be taken out after five years. And life policies had to be kept forever.

How would she ever keep all the rules straight? How would she survive?

Document management? Don’t I already do that?

Then one day, they started to take the policy folders away. Over time, they started pulling claims out, until her Auto drawers were empty. It was liberating! All of the pain and stress was just gone.

Rumor was, insurance companies were investing in some type of technology, enterprise content management (ECM) or something like that. It was going to store electronic copies of all the documents Philly used to store, but keep them easily classified and instantaneously available from line of business applications.

Far more value than Philly could ever dream of providing, she noted with a small tear. No more costs of making policy and claim files, paying someone to sort through them. Gone were the times of waiting days to find something. Insurers were going to save huge costs by automating their processes.

And, they were going to be able to reclaim all the space that Philly and her filing cabinet friends were taking up!

Philly felt liberated! What a great step forward for her employer! Finally, a way to improve processes, increase profitability, improve customer relationships and increase revenue!

Going paperless: Only the beginning

It took some time, but they finally took the last of the folders from Philly. She didn’t see this as an end for her. She saw it as just the beginning.

What if she could finally get out and do something useful? Give back to an industry that is so important to society?

She now had new purpose. She knew exactly what she needed to do. She would travel the world and speak to every insurance company she could find. She would teach them how important ECM is to insurance organizations. She would teach her peer filing cabinets how easy it was to get rid of the paper and how they could get to retirement faster!

Philly now has a reputation of being much more than just another piece of office furniture. Rumor has it that Philly has now been to over 90 countries in the world providing daily advice on the benefits of ECM and how, when used for more than just an “electronic filing cabinet,” it can fundamentally change the way insurers work.

Now she is sought out to speak all over the world.

You can track her progress at #TalkwithPhillyECMAdvice or #WhereisPhilly.

Ruth Fisk has more than 25 years of experience working within the insurance industry and is a foremost expert on the practical application of EDMS technology. In her role as Global Director for Insurance at Hyland, she has travelled to more than 90 countries helping insurance organizations to successfully reduce operating expenses, increase efficiency, and positively impact their bottom lines.

Ruth Fisk

Ruth Fisk has more than 25 years of experience working within the insurance industry and is a foremost expert on the practical application of EDMS technology. In her role as... read more about: Ruth Fisk