Professors' Points

Evaluating Enterprise Software, Part One

Frank Heaps
Insurance Experts' Forum, April 30, 2012

This is the time of year where many companies are in deep reviews of new solutions. Everyone has their own reasons, but most often, new solutions are to replace aging, legacy systems and take advantage of newer capabilities; to consolidate multiple systems to gain efficiencies; to enhance customer service; or all of the above. Companies make these major enterprise decisions on an infrequent basis and often do not know how to buy these systems.

To be fair, it can be complex and confusing.

For example, many companies gather a list of requirements by talking to their current, long-term users to create an RFP or RFI. That usually consists of simply documenting what everybody knows and is familiar with, such as the current system and processes that you are trying to replace. Unless you have hired employees who are familiar with modern insurance solutions, you should seek outside influences and sources of information.

One great place to start is analyst firms or a consulting firm that has an insurance practice. They will document your business needs and goals and help filter out baseline items so that you can focus on what is important for you. For example, many RFP’s still have core requirements for a claims system to capture claim number, date of loss and claimant name. Those requirements are table stakes for any claims system and have nothing to do with your business goals. What you need is someone who can interview your staff, then aggregate the needs, requirements and desires into a consolidated list, and match that list to the three or five providers that best match your requirements.

Analysts and consultants can also educate and shape discussions around additional capabilities in the industry based on their work with other companies or what they have seen in vendor solutions that you may not be aware of. Analysts and consultants can be a great advisor to you as long as you agree to a clear set of objectives and deliveries. But make sure you have a clear understanding that the consultant is supposed to provide you with an unbiased recommendation rather than simply recommending a business partner. 

Other great sources come from within the industry: you can check websites, monitor press releases to see who is buying what, and talk to key contacts you know. Tradeshows are a good place to meet vendors and talk to peers. Solution providers will always provide a list of their best reference customers, but it is a good idea for you to also make contact on your own. Social media sites like LinkedIn can help you contact key staff members at other companies where you can start a dialogue to get honest feedback about a vendor, their system and the implementation.These are big decisions and require careful thought. After all, you may not replace this replacement system for another 15 years. 

In the coming blogs we will look at characteristics of solution providers and systems that may help you with your evaluation. 

Frank Heaps is the managing director for Innovation in Insurance (i3), and is an adjunct professor of insurance at the Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Frank using the “Add Your Comments” box below. 

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

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

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