Insuring the Future
Have you looked under the hood of a late-model car recently? Doing so may have caused some serious head scratching and finger pointing, as in, "What the heck is that?"
In the days before automotive manufacturers embedded computer chips in everything, including the brake system, it was much easier to know what was what and what everything did. You could change your own spark plugs, adjust the timing and even tinker with the carburetor. And if one of the so-called "idiot lights" on the dashboard came on, you might even have been able to diagnose and service the problem yourself, tackling it in your two-car garage with a meager set of standard-size box-end wrenches.
For the most part, those days are gone. Unless you've gone to an advanced automobile mechanics class-or still drive a circa 1980 Buick Electra-you more than likely have to outsource your service needs. Well, the same often holds true for computers and software.
As they become increasingly complex, the process of implementing and maintaining these systems also becomes more complicated. This is especially true for early technology adopters, who sometimes are working with applications that are so new that nobody else has successfully installed them. And, only complicating matters, even knowledgeable software manufacturers and resellers may be behind the learning curve.
Fortunately, this doesn't have to mean disaster-especially if you're dealing with an IBM business partner that can pull a few strings, and maybe a rabbit out of its hat. That's what recently happened with the Southfield, Mich.-based North Pointe Insurance Co. when it was working with an application that was relatively untested on the AS/400 and iSeries. Rather than scratching its head and pointing a finger, it turned what could have been a deal breaker into a learning experience not only for itself, but also its business partners and IBM.
Breeding Like Rabbits
North Pointe is anything but a traditional insurance company. In fact, it proudly bills itself as an "innovative insurer that targets niche markets with specialized needs." Just what does that mean? Well, it handles insurance needs people often don't consider, such as liquor liability (it's the largest such insurer in Michigan), bowling-center policies, horse-mortality coverage, commercial-garage insurance and "non-standard" auto insurance.
"We're a small shop-I call it the 'dirty dozen,' even though there are 13 of us- and I don't have the luxuries the very large insurance companies have. We don't have the time to rewrite the world." -Natalie Bradley, vice president of IS, North Pointe
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