Technology Partnerships – Strategies for the Future

By Michael J. Malone

When the opportunity comes — and it will come — for your company to make innovative changes, will you be ready? The companies who do things right will succeed. Those who don’t will fail.

But what are the right things to do? Advice on how to manage your business, develop a vision, and implement new, innovative strategies is not hard to find. There are literally tens of thousands of books, magazines, seminars, and Internet sites devoted to providing you “expert” advice. As a leader you probably find it difficult to keep up with the never-ending flow of information.

As you conceive new ideas on how to proceed, formulating the right strategy should be your principal consideration. Integrating all aspects of your e-business initiatives, including systems to fuse internal and external customers, is a comprehensive and difficult task.

Existing software infrastructure, security considerations, and bandwidth and hardware constraints come into play. The magnitude of the dollars necessary to fully develop and implement your technology plan is no small concern either.

The World Wide Web

The Internet was used by more than half of the U.S. adult population last year as some 16 million new users began surfing on-line, according to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which has been tracking Internet usage and habits since March 2000.

Many of our customers are dealing with us electronically over the Web. We needed to capture that interaction so the customers feel that they are still being taken care of, that we know their needs and can provide exceptional service.

Just keep up with the press releases appearing on a daily basis from insurance companies and you will understand the urgency by which we as service providers must act. You must also understand that what our insurance customers need most is a pragmatic guide to help them apply technology to build their competitive advantage, grow, and solve everyday business problems. What we created at MJM Investigations, is a system to bridge the gap between business objectives and technology solutions.

The more an insurance service provider can create new business (products and services) that derive revenue from the Internet, the higher its overall profit margins will become. The Web enables established firms to push into new business lines, create new sales opportunities and channels, and probably most importantly, generate huge surges in productivity and efficiencies creating cost savings.

U.S. Corporations spent about $260 billion on Web hardware and software in 2000, according to research firm International Data Corp. And they expect the total information technology spending to grow by 10% per year through 2004. Many of the providers of specialty services to insurance companies, Third-Party Administrators, and the Risk Managers of large and small companies, are they themselves small businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that only 30 percent of the nation’s 30 million small businesses accept orders via the Web.

Many insurers are now playing “technology catch-up” to others who have been innovating web-based systems for many years. Progressive Insurance, Nationwide Insurance Enterprise, and San Francisco based newcomer e-Coverage are a few who have been recognized for their commitment to technology recently.

Streaming Video

Real’s new strategy recognizes the importance of the ability to deliver data stream reliably to avoid the dropped frames and service interruptions that have long plagued streaming media in the past.

Streaming media content could become the driving force on the Web in 2001, according to Dr. Gerry Parker, general manager of Intel’s New Business Group. Intel is currently busy positioning its Pentium 4, an ultra fast chip with support for rich media, and is working to push the chip toward speeds of over 2 GHz. Parker also stated that they expect broadband adoption to continue at a blistering pace. All of this is great news for my company and others who utilize streaming media technology to innovate new service to our clients.

Innovate or Die

Although there is a lot of cool stuff that a professional software developer can do, they tend to be limited in both creativity and courage by the companies for which they work. So what we see in today’s market are mere improvements on old ideas.

People are no longer encouraged to create their own operating software and client management systems from scratch. Instead, they are told to use templates and tools dreamed up by software professionals. It’s like the old paint by number kits I did as a kid growing up in New Jersey; I could paint a picture – but it was one only my mother could love.

At MJM, we wanted to take our investment in technology and turn that into a benefit. Now we have VIPER21, our information management system, that differentiates us from the market, and quite frankly, it’s helping us get business.

As a partner we like to innovate new business solutions for our clients. This includes creating links between the information that we’ve discovered and our clients who need the information fast.

MJM Investigations provides a customer entry portal to access client information stored in VIPER21. This unique and proprietary system is called MJM CaseTrak. With a browser and an Internet connection, active clients can access all of their data, including complete detailed Report of Investigation or Surveillance, streaming video of surveillance evidence or a virtual tour of an accident scene, detailed case Work History, Investigator assignment, Invoiced Amounts, and more!

Adjusters can use it to assign new cases, monitor status and results of active cases, and track the history of all assignments. Claim Executives, SIU Directors, Risk & Loss Control Managers can utilize the system to monitor all claims assigned for field investigation and/or surveillance. An enhanced custom Client Management Report is an exciting and useful tool for executives to manage outside claim expense (OCE) dollars and the efficiency in which their individual claim offices and adjusters are using outside investigative services.

Technology Partnerships

Insurance companies, just as business in other markets, have been putting emphasis on back-end infrastructures and only now are putting some emphasis on technology to better serve their customers and on technology links to their resource partners. As service providers to the industry we must drive technology partnerships and innovative solutions if our businesses are to survive the turbulent future of the new insurance models.

Five years from now, electronic transactions over the Web will be the norm for conducting insurance transactions; including buying a policy, reporting a claim, adjusting the loss, outsourcing claim investigations and surveillance, and mining for information to be used for a variety of purposes [including fraud detection].

Advice to the sagacious within the insurance marketplace — competitive advantage goes to the company that works best with its partners – customers, suppliers, service providers, and the industry.

Michael J. Malone is the Chairman & CEO of MJM Investigations, Inc., a national provider of surveillance and investigative solutions to the insurance claims process headquartered in Raleigh, NC, and sits on the Privacy Task Force of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.

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