How one business uses social networking and BPM to handle disasters

By , CIO |  IT Management, Social Networking

Brian Flynn, CIO at Crawford & Company, an insurance claims outsourcer, knew that the company's processes needed updating when he saw in person how its catastrophe team operated during an emergency.

When a disaster, such as a hurricane, strikes, Crawford's employees have to move fast to bring on additional insurance adjusters to help process claims.

"The catastrophe team was using whiteboards to organize names and sticky notes to map who would go where to handle the claims. It was very chaotic," Flynn says. "As an IT team we said, 'Are you really doing this?' It was one of the deficiencies in IT. We don't get out as much as we should to see how things are working."

Flynn and his team developed a set of requirements they wanted a new business process management solution (BPM) to include: Social networking features and the capability to develop once and deploy to many platforms topped the list.

"An adjuster in the field doesnt always have 10 to 15 minutes to fire up a laptop. We wanted to be flexible by developing something that would work across any smartphone or tablet, regardless of the platform--Android, BlackBerry, whatever," Flynn says.

And with an unpredictable need for a larger and dispersed workforce, Crawford needed a social solution--something that would allow them to onboard new employees quickly and efficiently and also help them report on what they were seeing in the field during a disaster and stay in touch.

Flynn and his team considered a number of options, including ones from Pegasystems and IBM, but ultimately decided on a BPM product from Appian.

Selling Agile to Developers and the Business

While choosing a solution was easy, Flynn says, convincing his team--and the business--that this was the right decision, wasn't.

"This was very transformational for us--going from a waterfall to more agile development. We had to convince our employees that this was the best thing," Flynn says. "We have a lot of .Net employees doing just that for the last decade and they felt that this would challenge their livelihood."

The business, too, had a difficult time grasping the project.

"Frankly, we were surprised the business didn't embrace it as much," Flynn says. "We thought this was something that they would have brought to us, and not us to them. Technologists think differently than businesspeople, and that was a challenge. They weren't resistant, they just didn't get it. They looked at us like, 'You geeks!'"

To get the business to believe in the project, Flynn says they reversed their approach and focused on helping them understand how their project matched their business and client needs.


Originally published on CIO |  Click here to read the original story.
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