In an age when many firms boast about having spent millions on IT, voluntary groupings like
networks of independent brokers just do not have that sort of money to throw around. Of course
within their own organisation, IT forms a substantial portion of the budget but for the purposes
of international communications, network members are reluctant to spend a lot of money.
pace of information technology is quick and is getting quicker but there are still firms who
do not even have e-mail let alone a website. Large brokers usually have their own intranet
for internal communication and data storage. Those who form part of an association understand
the benefits of having an extranet for the same reasons. Somehow, with international business
however, the same approach to efficiency does not seem to be there in the same quantities.
for example, 150 delegates returning from a conference all receiving copies of Acrobat files
and PowerPoint presentations and storing them on their own PCs. People rarely clear out their
electronic libraries and so, seasoned internationalists who have been around for more than,
say, 10 years, could have many kilobytes, maybe even megabytes of network information clogging
up their systems. An international network should not be responsible for that.
Greasing the Bearings
Instead of filling up the coordinator’s computer with information which everyone
needs, a network should store as much as possible in cyberspace and have it accessible
to members only.
What are the tools a network utilises in order to enable its members to
interact, to refer and to service business and to access information? These would include:
charter and governance information
country information guides.
Additionally, on an on-going basis, members would need to have
meeting agendas and minutes as well as financial information.
In most networks there a few members who are elected to supervise network activities. It
is unusual, however for any of them to be the chief information officer of the respective
member. Such a CIO or IT specialist may be called in by the network representative to
help with analysing the network’s
technology needs and making recommendations. This is to be applauded. They are the people who know if
the most glorified extranet can have anything like the same capabilities as some of the solutions offered
by software houses. They can bring people back to earth once they have set their hearts on a Rolls Royce
when a Mini can provide all of the flexibility and efficiencies a network really needs.
Therefore, the network should provide what the members need (and are willing to pay for):
a platform for both network matters and client matters.
Rubber on the Road
International business can be a challenge to coordinate: different time zones, different
cultures, different systems. The proper or poor coordination and servicing of referrals
can lead to keeping or losing business and this impacts every network member’s growth
prospects. Accessing information and communicating are vital to an account’s success.
tools does a network provide to help members handle their accounts effectively? Contact
lists, policy summaries, survey forms, programme implementation, coordination and maintenance
instructions, claims procedures and so on.
This information is peculiar to each individual client and is subject to
frequent change. As with network matters, there is a lot of material which each international
coordinator could store in the office computer. A programme involving 50 countries would
involve intensive information gathering, discussion, negotiation, draft documents, revised
documents, proposals, figures, pie charts and more. Not only is it desirable to keep as
much of this as paperless as possible, but also easy for everyone to access at times suitable
to them.Seeing as member A in Canada cannot contact member B in Holland at certain times of B’s
night, a network which provides access to information 24/7 is providing value to its members who can
therefore continue their work without having to wait until next morning. Outsourcing memory space
for account management purposes to a secure library also saves time because it reduces the number of
steps which need to taken with up-loading, refreshing and disseminating information.
Such a structure must be extended to include clients, carriers, claims adjusters and all
other people actively involved with handling an account. Once again, access to relevant
parts of this platform should be available with all the necessary security procedures.
The advances in software and hardware have been considerable and will continue. What you
have today can be out of date tomorrow. But that can be very subjective: people who buy
a new car every two years or after 25,000 miles usually do that with someone else’s
money. Generally speaking, networks are doing very well in the arenas where they operate.
Those networks which have taken a good look at their IT needs, discussed the pros and cons
thoroughly and have taken sensible decisions have members who are satisfied that their
money is being spent wisely.
In our next e-newsletter we will look at The Flow of Business.
See our Contact Details
George Worsley, Director
Worldwide Risk Solutions
Telephone +44 (0)1444 450 919