Editors' Cuts

Going Green Isn’t Just About Paper

Pat Speer
Insurance Experts' Forum, November 1, 2012

There’s a lot of pressure on insurers across all lines of business to do the “green thing” and reduce the use of paper. It’s not just admirable from a save-the-forest point of view, but done right, it speaks to efficiencies and improved customer service levels previously considered elusive to the industry.

For any insurance IT executive feeling this pressure, there is also a sense of urgency. When the CEO asks, “can we be paperless by 2014,” he/she is not expecting 'no' for an answer.

I’ve been told that the concept of going paperless sometimes takes workers who are not in IT a little longer to process. They compare it to such things as coming home to decaying steaks in the freezer after a power outage. “You can’t control that the power goes out, sometimes you don’t even know it’s out and, by the time you get home to figure it out, it’s too late,” one agency representative told me.

The same might be said for a flood or fire that destroys a warehouse full of policyholder records, or the error made by an IT tech that nullifies the insurer’s power protection system, installed just in time for the worst lightning storm on record and a power surge that destroys the insurer’s most valuable data stores.

So from a risk management perspective, would proper planning (and the funds to purchase and put in place an automatic generator) make the freezer analogy moot?

Actually, like any undertaking that has the potential to result in costly catastrophes, applying a risk management perspective to your digital initiatives seems like a logical path to follow. In its most basic form, it’s a “plan your work and work your plan” scenario, notes Anil Chacko, VP, Technology at First Rehab Life.

“If you jump into a digital project without a lot of thought and planning, you may find it’s too late to change course,” he says. It’s also critical to involve stakeholders from both IT and the business side who can help facilitate workflow changes and advocate for the project’s success.

Chacko believes if a project like this feels risky, it probably is, but that’s because it’s not just about converting existing paper that is constantly being generated. “It’s about changing how people—sometimes reluctant people—work, how they rely on information, how they access it. So the plan has to cover everything, from existing to projected or predicted.”

It also doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Chacko is on track to keep his promise to take his organization paperless by 2014. “We have all these documents we are producing, but with all the other demands on IT on a day-to-day basis, there is a risk that the digital initiative can become a secondary priority,” he says. “You need to set time aside each day to deal with this.”

Pat Speer is an editorial consultant for Insurance Networking News.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Pat by using the “Add Your Comments” box below. Shealso can be reached at patricia.speer@sourcemedia.com.

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

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