How would you rate your IT budget this year?
While the business climate is soft, our business strategy focuses on outsourcing our policy issuance and claims handling to professional general agents and managing general agents. Generally, these agents have niche products that are somewhat insulated from the standard market pricing pressures. While we see a decline in the rate environment, we are holding steady to our underwriting standards. We truly believe that technology plays a vital role in meeting our strategic plan for growth. Our strategy is focused on providing dynamic delivery of key information into the Delos organization.
What is the top technology you can't scrimp on?
We just implemented a web-based portal for our partners to submit policy and claim information. The detailed data is automatically interfaced with other financial systems within the organization. These applications are used to produce our financial statements as well as underwriting, actuarial and management reports. The main goal is to eliminate repetitive data input to increase efficiency within the organization. Therefore, data delivery and system interface play a vital role within the organization, and the necessary resources will be dedicated to this process.
What's another important technology affecting your business?
Another important project we have been working on over the past 18 months is moving all our major applications to an offsite facility in New Jersey, across the river from our New York headquarters. Additionally, we have implemented a full disaster recovery site in the Las Vegas area. Under the previous system, we would perform nightly backups and store the tapes in a secured vault located in an offsite facility. Now, our business continuity plan includes real-time data replication with infrastructure that is flexible and responsive. This will enable our core applications to be restored in a timely fashion in the event of a disaster.
How are you measuring ROI on your leading IT projects?
Because the basis of our IT strategy is to implement systems within the organization that will help streamline the work flow within all functional areas of the company, we measure the return on investment in at least four ways: analyzing the increase in productivity and efficiency within the company; the timeliness in delivering the information to all stakeholders; resource allocation to each area; and developing various metrics to measure our overall IT value as it relates to achieving our strategic business plan.
What's your advice to IT managers?
My suggestion is to include information technology within the company's overall strategic business plan. Developing a solid IT strategy, presenting the strategy for executive approval and keeping management informed of the process is paramount to the success of any IT department. This includes defining key projects, implementing solid project plans with deliverables and milestones that are obtainable, and keeping the IT budget tight.