Technology for Better Relationships

Asif Ahmed

Successfully managing litigated claims depends on communication. New technologies that use the Internet can facilitate communication and lead to a more collaborative relationship for all involved.

With the ever-increasing pace of business, risk managers are often faced with a rapidly changing corporate landscape. Employee turnover, plant closings and other scenarios can impede the progress of your business. Now, new technologies that take advantage of the Internet’s potential for real-time communication can build better relationships with brokers, insurers, outside counsel, third-party administrators, and other vendors.

Risk managers are often confronted with claims that end up in litigation and know that effectively managing the litigation process results in significant bottom-line savings. Due to the number of parties involved in litigation, clear and transparent communication is essential to maintain relationships and keep all parties informed of the case’s progress. And while there are software programs designed to help manage the process, they don’t allow users to communicate in real time or with users outside a company. Now, through new Internet-based technology, the communication process can be streamlined and simplified.

Business Relationships

There are a number of challenges involved in managing litigated claims, ranging from budget approval to case strategy. Many of these challenges stem from one central theme–ineffective working relationships between claims personnel and the attorneys litigating the cases. Facilitating communication between these parties, and providing both with a transparent view into how the case is progressing, can eliminate communication problems, and lead to collaborative relationships among all involved. And while some software tools may aid the process, most do not provide end-to-end case management.

Unless both claims personnel and attorneys take the time to establish agreements up front, this inadequate communication can lead to costly problems later in the process. Often times, disagreements about costs and billing occur after the work is done, causing friction and a breakdown in the relationship between two parties that are supposed to be working toward the same goal–fair resolution of the case.

The cost of a noncooperative relationship goes straight to the bottom line for anyone involved. According to the National Law Journal, inefficiencies like this can cause 15 percent to 20 percent of legal expenses to be squandered.

For attorneys, the costs of poor working relationships run the gamut from slower bill payments to the potential loss of future business from insurers. For risk managers, properly managing the litigation process and controlling costs means greater profitability for a company. For insurers, proper litigation management means resources aren’t wasted in resolving unnecessary disputes with outside counsel. And if the insurer can hold costs down, that savings could ultimately be reflected in lower premiums for consumers.

New Technologies

Powerful new software applications deployed over the Internet by application service providers (ASPs) can provide better communication, collaboration, and accountability to the claims process. Using online, real-time Internet technology, ASPs provide claims personnel with the tools needed to manage the process from end-to-end. These management tools facilitate a better working relationship between all parties, leading to better case resolution and less disagreement.

Such management systems offer a distinct advantage over desktop software-based systems because ASPs allow mangers to communicate with authorized users and business partners who are outside of the company. This ability to collaborate with people that are outside the walls of the organization transforms the way business is conducted by transcending the limitations of storing information on separate enterprise systems. While older litigation management systems store data locally within each organization and have limited abilities to share information, storing the data centrally with an ASP allows managers and business partners to access case information in real-time and clearly see the complete business picture.

Multiple users from disparate locations can, via the Internet, access the system, which centrally tracks the overall progress. As work is completed on a litigated case, each authorized user (i.e., claims personnel, outside counsel, risk managers) can update the system with the work progress and relevant events that have occurred. Reports can be generated on a daily basis to help a manager better understand how each litigated claim is progressing.

This “transparency” allows for greater coordination and collaboration resulting in a better end result. In effect, ASPs are able to bring together various employee communities, with very different jobs and disparate sets of professional issues, and enable them to communicate and share information as it’s happening. This improved information management allows employees to become knowledge workers, not paper shufflers.

The Future

Risk managers operate in a very complex business environment and ASP management systems are a tremendous tool to help them more effectively manage business. Since this technology is both flexible and scalable, it allows businesses to deploy applications without making significant investments in software, deployment time or IT personnel. And because the data management is outsourced, an organization can concentrate on successfully managing its core business and pursuing new opportunities. As ASPs become a more widely used business communication tool, the companies that employ them will gain a significant competitive advantage.

Asif Ahmed is president and chief operating officer of Visibillity, a litigation management company in Chicago.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Axon Group

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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