Risk Management IntraNets
By ALLEN MONROE
As risk managers and safety professionals are becoming acquainted with the capabilities of the Internet, many organizations are rapidly establishing their own "IntraNet" Networks. Unlike the open Internet, where the factors of reliability, security, and speed are not easily controlled, internal networks using the same "TCP/IP" communications protocol of the Internet are providing a new type of computing platform that has exciting potential.
Don Blackhurst, Manager of ESA Insurance/Claims for the County of Santa Clara, recognized the potential when he began a selection process for a new Risk Management Information System to replace a number of systems the County developed in the 1980's for claims management, training tracking, and insurance certificates tracking. The problem he faced was that the various agencies and departments of the County used virtually every type of computer in existence.
Some of the systems were becoming outdated, and the only way the various departments could communicate electronically was through the County's "CLARAnet," a recently-established IntraNet. Although Claims are handled centrally by his own department, Blackhurst's challenge was to provide a way of providing easy-to-use software to a variety of agencies using different computers to track their own Certificates of Insurance and evaluate them for compliance with County requirements. Managing Driver Training, Disaster Response Training, and Emergency Response Training has similar requirements for input and viewing of information by more than forty different departments.
After surveying the range of available RMIS systems, Blackhurst found that none of the available systems met all of the County's needs. But, realizing that the cost of updating the County's own software would be prohibitive, and that ongoing support would be much less expensive with an "of-the shelf" system, Blackhurst opted for a combined approach. As a result, his department is developing its own "IntraNet," using as much "package" software as available for the core applications. Then, by using "middleware" to connect with CLARAnet, key parts of the system will be accessed with Web browsers, which are about the only software that runs on every agency's desktop computers. That way, color graphs and charts showing loss prevention performance, forms to sign up for training classes, and Certificates of Insurance templates and databases will be accessible to every part of the organization.
Eventually, as all of the agencies become connected to the IntraNet, the need to distribute thousands of pages of statistical reports will be eliminated. More importantly, the information will be available continuously, rather than once per year or per quarter. Other, non-software resources can be easily "bolted on" using the Web browser interface. Blackhurst plans to add the County's Risk Management manual, policy statements, and insurance carrier financial ratings to the internal web site. Other departments, concerned with Safety management, are planning corresponding IntraNet content, including the ability to file Employee First Reports of Injury and generate OSHA reports using a web browser. Text-based information like protocols for handling hazardous materials and OSHA compliance checklists will interface with traditional software applications.
The opportunities presented by this new computing environment are beginning to be recognized by RMIS software developers. "It's much like the PC Revolution all over again," says Ed DiMarco, president of Star Solutions, a Portland, Oregon-based software developer. Anyone can create web pages, but "packaged applications" combining text and software will be much less expensive and will be easier to update and support. Star is testing the initial modules of an IntraNet version of Safestar, a PC-based OSHA compliance and safety management system.
Dave Tabar, manager of Safety for the Sherwin Williams Company in Cleveland, Ohio, is developing "Safety Net," an IntraNet combining software and OSHA questions and answers, available to anyone in the organization internationally that has a Web browser and who is connected to the Sherwin Williams IntraNet.
Ultimately, as the reliability and "bandwidth" of the Internet increases, smaller companies that don't have their own private networks will be able to access these types of systems, using secure methods of access over the Internet. This will make the combined power of RMIS and Internet technology available to a much broader range of companies, at a lower overall cost for licensing and support.
Allen Monroe, Founder of RiskINFO in Larkspur,California, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (415) 927-8824.
Copyright 1996 RISK & INSURANCE. 747 Dresher Road, P.O. Box 980, Horsham, PA 19044-0980. Reproduced with permission of David Shadovitz, Editorial Director (215) 784-0910. Portions of the content herein first appeared in RISK & INSURANCE, in December, 1996.