Online: E-Ffective Risk Management

Article excerpt

Two risk managers on limited budgets used online risk management programs to enhance their services.

Although separated by thousands of miles, two time zones and an international border, Connie Burkhard and John Kerr have one thing in common: an innovative use of Internet technology that makes their work more efficient and their customer service more effective.

Burkhard and Kerr work for very different organizations. Burkhard is a loss-- control analyst for StorageTek, a Louisville, Colorado-based supplier of high-end data storage devices, with offices located in fifty countries around the world and a staff of over seventy-five hundred.

Kerr, based in Oakville, Ontario, is the accounting manager for CURIE-the Canadian Universities Reciprocal Insurance Exchange-which handles property and casualty insurance for fifty Canadian universities, many of which do not have a risk management department.

Both Burkhard and Kerr work in small departments with large customer bases and tight budgets. Each must cope with diverse, sometimes conflicting, demands. Consequently, they both had to find a way to most effectively use what few resources they had. Internet-based technology-a secure Internet site for Kerr, a corporate intranet site for Burkhard-offered the perfect solution.

Getting Started and Costs

In 1997, Kerr saw an opportunity to reach the geographically diverse and ever-changing nature of the university population of CURIE by building, as he says, "a secure Internet Web site where they could go and learn about the services we provide and the resources available to them through our office." Kerr credits his Webmaster abilities to the myriad software programs that make building a Web site much easier.

"It wasn't until MS FrontPage 97 hit the street," says Kerr, "that it occurred to me that I could create a Web site without having to go back to school for three years."

Kerr authored much of the material and did the design work himself, getting ideas from other Web sites and future users. He also researched and selected a local Internet service provider (ISP) to handle the technical side. His total up-front software outlay was $600 (U.S.$400). His ongoing ISP services are approximately $1,000 (U.S.$650) annually.

Burkhard wanted a risk management intranet Web site to save time. "Filing claims in a timely manner usually saves money," says Burkhard. "If people knew where to go for information, we believed that it would save us time and increase our productivity. We also felt that information on loss prevention programs would help us avoid claims and therefore costs associated with those claims." The Web site could also be used to answer routine questions and better communicate the details of insurance programs and services StorageTek provides to its employees, including certificates of insurance, bid and performance bond requests, claim filing and defensive driving classes.

Burkhard was fortunate to have a corporate intranet infrastructure, now called PowerPort, already in place within her company, including the templates she needed to begin constructing the site. And because the StorageTek intranet was a corporate initiative, Burkhard and her group could use resources from the corporate information technology (IT) staff at no expense to the risk management department.

Security and Privacy Concerns

When it came to implementation, the preliminary concerns for Burkhard and Kerr were security and privacy. For Kerr, this meant an intense evaluation of potential ISPs, including a detailed analysis of security procedures. In Burkhard's case, use of the corporate intranet allowed her to proceed with comfort.

StorageTek's IT department continuously monitors the risk management intranet site to ensure it is only available to StorageTek employees and that internal databases containing private data are not available to those without authorization. …