Project Managers Reduce Internal Risks

By: | October 1, 2014 • 3 min read

Ara Trembly is founder of The Tech Consultant and The Rogue Guru Blog. He can be reached at [email protected]

I was very interested to see a recent report from “Computer Economics,” which noted that IT organizations today are relying more on professional project managers (rather than staffers) than even a few years ago.

The report speculates on several reasons for this trend, including new technology adoption, regulatory compliance issues, outsourcing, and the ever-present mandate to do more with less.

If those reasons sound familiar to insurance industry readers, they should because they are oft-cited as technology issues for our quiet little sector of the technology universe.


The report also points out, “Perhaps the most pressing reason for the growth in project management personnel is that many organizations have a poor record of bringing IT projects in on time and within budget.

Worse yet, many projects fail to meet key requirements, and some never reach completion. Much of the work in IT organizations today is project-based, and IT managers realize that project management is a critical element in delivering successful projects — and thus, value — to the business.”

It’s a well known fact in Information Technology that IT projects fail at a rate of 65 percent or more.

Again, all true of the insurance sector, but I would add that while successful projects are highly valuable to our business, the failure of such projects is a major risk — especially in this time of intense competition and shrinking insurance margins.

Yes, many projects do fail to meet requirements or are never completed, and this can mean losses well into the millions when one considers the time (often years), resources (both human and financial), and software and hardware investments that accompany a major project such as modernizing a legacy insurance system or ripping and replacing all or part of a policy administration system.

It’s a well known fact in Information Technology that IT projects fail at a rate of 65 percent or more. With the sword of that number hanging overhead, it is a wonder that insurers undertake any such projects.

But, risky as they are, IT projects are obviously necessary for insurers that want to deliver products and services more quickly, not to mention those that want to keep pace with their technologically active competitors.

Obviously, we in the insurance industry want to reduce this risk factor, and turning to professional project managers is a logical step toward reducing the possibility of failure.

Prior to the recession, according to the CE report, project management staffing levels averaged a full percentage point lower than they are now. “The data indicate that project management becomes more valued when budgets are tight and projects are being altered or outsourced,” it said.

According to the Project Management Institute, its Project Management Professional (PMP) credential “is the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers, and demonstrates “experience, education and competency to lead and direct projects.”


Isn’t this just what we are looking for to keep our insurance IT projects as low-risk as possible? This is not to say that some of the folks already within our enterprises are not capable, but when failure has such significant implications, we must take whatever steps we can to ensure success.

It makes great sense for insurers to either get their IT staffers certified by one of the bodies that does such certification, or to bring in individuals who are so certified to oversee their critical projects. Whatever reduces risk should be warmly welcomed.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]