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The Push for Paperless Disaster Preparations

Jim Strebler
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 22, 2012

It wasn’t so many years ago that disaster recovery (DR) meant being able to bring the company’s computer system back up quickly. IT departments invested a lot of time and money to ensure we were able to do "business as usual" in case of an unforeseen system failure (e.g., Y2K). The DR Plan made us feel safe.

Over the past few years, recovery from natural disasters meant more than getting the computer systems back online. The new awareness became: how do we keep people working normally when the physical building that the computer systems are in fails? To address the problem, business continuity (BC) plan were established. These documents, in detail, explain how and where departments would operate in case of a disaster. With a BC plan in place, we felt safe again.

DR and BC plans should be periodically reviewed, updated and kept current. While these plans may not be perfect, they provide some certainty of safety and a plan-of-action necessary in a crisis. However, we may still need more.

Often processors can be found using a paper spreadsheet with special-handling instructions. These paper systems can be extensive, and often include manual tracking systems containing phone numbers, follow-up notes and processing steps. Unfortunately, these individually created spreadsheets would very likely not be available during a disaster, because they weren’t part of the BC plan. If the company had to operate from a different location, those tools may not be accessible. And, if those tools—needed to do business—are not covered by DR/BC plans, then management shouldn’t be feeling so safe.

How can you know whether there are critical processing tools that aren’t covered by DR/BC plans? It can be done by simulating a temporary work station with the limited tools as outlined in the BC plan—no paper files or instructions, no personal spreadsheets or databases, and no phone lists. The ability of the test to be completed indicates whether or not there are these hidden “paper gaps” in the documentation.

As the processor works, document the missing and critical items that are needed to maintain productivity and workflow. Items deemed critical or highly important and which affect many transactions should become part of the DR/BC plans. Solutions can be as easy as electronically scanning the processors’ spreadsheets and storing them in a shared directory or drive.

One final thought: All documents used in the course of doing business have value and need to be kept secure, accessible and in an electronic format. If you had to vacate your building today, would you be prepared?

Jim Strebler is a Senior Consultant for the Robert E. Nolan Company, a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Comments (2)

What do big insurance companies and banks do?

Posted by: Paul C | August 24, 2012 9:29 AM

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With a really big company is this practical. Surely you reach a point where the loss of productive time is as cripling a risk.

Posted by: Paul C | August 24, 2012 9:27 AM

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