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August 14, 2018

Consider Hiring an ‘IT Whisperer’

Summary:

IT customers want a “Dog Whisperer” to reassure them that "It’s not the dog’s fault; the humans need to adapt better to the dog's needs."

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Insurers come in all shapes and sizes, from Tier 1 monolithic operations to the smallest captives and self-insured groups. One thing has been made clear to me in the 30-plus years I’ve served this industry: Regardless of size, many insurers do not fully understand their technology requirements. I’m not saying this because I want to sell them something they don’t need; I’m saying it because I’ve sat with hundreds of carriers over the years who suffer at the hands of less direct experience or the vision required to recognize the need for improved processes and the technology solutions to support them.

This is especially true of small to mid-sized carriers, where budgets are fixed and IT staff is often stretched, leaving little room for ad hoc solutions, much less vision. Here “shadow IT” is often the norm (due to labor restraints, employees wear many hats, prompting those in positions outside of IT to work on catching and solving IT problems). Shadow IT can represent a real and present challenge to insurers of all sizes, because it often fosters a band-aid approach: Well-meaning but inexperienced employees make minor temporary improvements to address major long-term problems. Once the band-aid falls off, the damage is done, the technology solution provider (vendor) is called in and the fix that’s required is often immediate and expensive.

See also: How Technology Drives a ‘New Normal’  

This dilemma sometimes makes the vendor look like the bad guy, especially if the vendor is opportunistic and leverages the insurer’s misfortune to “fix” the problem with solutions the carrier might not really need. Further, it’s difficult to help remedy problems that the insurer is in denial about. Sometimes, a simple technology needs-assessment helps uncover where the problems originate. But remember that determining technical requirements begins with evaluating business requirements, which require a look at existing processes that are supported by technical support that is lacking in the first place. You can see why firefighting becomes the preferred mode—let’s just fix it so we can keep working.

If we back up the discussion a bit, we see that the insurer’s real, primary need is for education. The vendor that is interested in becoming a trusted partner has an obligation to sit with the insurer and work together on confirming the business goals, then applying usage analysis and system requirements. In this way, the vendor becomes something akin to the “Dog Whisperer,” the seasoned canine expert on cable TV who tames otherwise unruly pets by noting that “it’s not the dog’s fault—it’s his owners who need to better understand his requirements.”

When the technology solution provider connects with the insurer in a way that exposes the essence of the problem and provides the information and steps necessary to help solve it for the long term, it removes the need for crisis-mode operations. In most cases, this means a big change to the insurer’s existing processes, but the trusted partner doesn’t walk away from this challenge, either, because in almost every case those new processes free up the employee’s time to focus on providing more value downstream.

See also: How Technology Breaks Down Silos  

Taking the “Dog Whisperer” approach, we have learned from our customers’ use cases and implementation histories and bring the experience to each implementation analysis. We sit down with carriers to help them better understand their objectives and requirements, where the technology and process roadblocks are and what the potential is for that important long-term fix.

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About the Author

Jim Leftwich has more than 30 years of leadership experience in risk management and insurance. In 2010, he founded CHSI Technologies, which offers SaaS enterprise management software for small insurance operations and government risk pools.

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