Ruth Fisk is worldwide managing director, Hyland Software Insurance Solutions Group.
With storm season near, and the disastrous effects of Superstorm Sandy still on the minds of many businesses, some wonder, ‘What lies ahead?’
Organizations know the threat of disaster is always present. And experts are already posting dire predictions for the upcoming storm season. ImpactWeather, a full-service weather monitoring organization, has forecast a greater number of Category 3 or higher storms to hit in 2013.
So the question becomes, what are companies doing to prepare for the next disaster?
Marianne Petillo, president and CEO of ROM Reinsurance (ROM), knows the importance of disaster planning all too well. In October 2012, the Manhattan-based reinsurance service provider experienced major disruptions to business after Superstorm Sandy devastated the building’s infrastructure, causing power outages and leaving employees unable to access data and documents needed to complete business processes.
“After Sandy hit, our building had more than three feet of water in our lobby. This caused power outages and made it impossible to run our business without access to our data,” Petillo says.
Business continuity plans are one of the most important building blocks an organization can create to ensure recovery processes will facilitate business after a disaster hits. Many organizations realize this fact after it’s too late, or don’t have a second line of defense in case their initial plan falls through.
Don’t be one of those organizations. When setting business continuity plans keep in mind these three tips to help your organization run as effectively and efficiently as possible in the wake of disaster.
1) Get Rid of the Paper
Whether you’re preparing for a natural disaster or an unforeseen facility calamity (think broken water pipe), relying on paper to carry your business’s important data and customer information is an antiquated approach. Paper is your organization’s worst risk and biggest threat. Going paperless is the first step toward a successful business continuity plan.
Ten years ago ROM Reinsurance successfully completed its goal of becoming paperless by implementing an enterprise content management (ECM) solution. Using ECM, ROM was able to capture, index, and store all customer data and information, helping it mitigate risk, evolve its business processes and deliver faster, better service to its customers.
“The superior imaging and workflow capabilities in our ECM solution allowed us to eliminate all physical files from our organization, helping our employees to work more efficiently,” Petillo says.
Becoming a paperless institution is a great first step, but it doesn’t solve every issue organizations may face. For this reason, IT vendors are seeing an increased number of customers asking about cloud-based options.
The benefits of cloud solutions are swaying many organizations away from traditional on-premise options. The cost savings on capital expenditure, better infrastructure options and ability to access information from anywhere are typical reasons adoption of enterprise applications in the cloud have increased.
For ROM Reinsurance, choosing a flexible solution with both on-premise and cloud-based deployment options was the main reason the reinsurer remained in business in the aftermath of the storm.
“Our data and documents were located within our IT systems, which we were unable to access because of the power outages. We weren’t sure when the power would come back, so we reached out to our ECM provider to discuss the option of moving our data and documents to its cloud solution,” Petillo says.
ROM was able to transfer all its data into the cloud ECM solution, regaining business functionality at the height of New York’s disaster recovery efforts. Running at about 85 percent compared to normal levels, ROM was able to use the cloud solution to process claims in a timely manner, get payments out before year end and complete other year-end closing processes on time.
3) Choose the right Vendor
Selecting the right technology vendor is crucial. This decision should accomplish two things.
First, the solution should be robust, with a dedicated roadmap to ensure your organization is leveraging new capabilities and a greater return on investment years from now.
Second, you should feel comfortable with your vendor selection, knowing they will treat you as a partner, and work with you to ensure your organization has the functionality and support you need to run efficiently and effectively, regardless of the situation you are in.
“The support we received during this stressful time was outstanding. Our support team stepped up to the plate on short notice and worked diligently to make sure we had access to our data to restart business,” says Petillo.
Disaster can strike at any time, putting your business and its information at risk for total loss. Superstorm Sandy showed businesses that a natural disaster can often impact more than just those businesses located in the storm’s center, reminding every organization of the importance of disaster preparedness.
Being prepared for the worst will help enable business functionality and provide consistent service despite any disturbance, including power outages, snow closures, network failures or even superstorms.
Take the lesson learned from Petillo, who admits that without the insights from above the future of ROM Reinsurance looked bleak. “If we hadn’t taken on paperless initiatives and chosen the right vendor, I’m certain that we wouldn’t have been able to function as quickly after the superstorm, and I’m not sure what would have become of our business,” he says.
As the next storm season approaches is your organization ready? Tackling disaster planning initiatives with the suggested tips listed above in mind, to eliminate paper, consider cloud-based IT solutions and choose a vendor that will work with you to achieve your business continuity plans, will help your organization avoid freezes on business during chaotic times.