|Gale Hawkins (Gale)
|Posted on Saturday, October 13, 2001 - 12:35 am: |
We all agree with John that we live in a changed world. ACE was poorly attended and that was before the biological warfare had actually started. Forget an expensive crop duster when the US Government will do the job for anyone for only $.34.
Although the crowd was small at ACE it was a history-making event. For the first time in history claims data moved bi-directional over the web at ACE 2001 between two different vendors system thanks to the new Property Claim XML Open Standard signaling the end of proprietary claims data input and out standards in the property adjusting software industry.
The carriers that viewed this at ACE will never look at claim handling in the same light again. Now carriers can specify that all property adjusting software transfer and receive claim data in the Open Standard format instead of specify software brand names.
As John correctly indicated not all of the players in the adjusting industry will remain in the industry because they fear change. As always change is driven directly or indirectly by the carriers. Every carrier in business today knows they waste millions of dollars in claims handling cost annually because in the past vendors in the property adjusting software industry have pushed proprietary standards to protect their extremely high margins.
Now that carriers have witnessed with their own eyes how they can greatly reduce their capital spending for technology and at the same time greatly reduce their indirect cost associated with claims by embracing new technologies in the property claims handling arena they will never look back at the old and expensive solutions that just no longer cut the mustard.
Actually this is not “NEW” technology, it is just new to the property claims handling world because the medical and auto claims handing world have already embraced the Open Standard solution to drive down claims handling cost.
Since it is actually “OLD” and “PROVEN” in the minds of the carriers we can expect to all software vendors announcing their future software solutions will embrace the Property Claim XML Open Standard by the end of the year so their investors will not be looking to sell out at fire sale prices anytime soon.
We are truly living in a brave new world where both the value of man as well as the value of goods and services will be reevaluated. The CEOs of the carriers are facing quickly shrinking reserves and premium dollars invested the stock market shrinking at the same time. Excesses and waste will no longer be overlooked as they were in the “Gay 90’s”.
Again John makes a good point about Dell and Gateway and it is clear that the same thing is starting to happen in the property adjusting software with the fire sale prices that DDS and Boeckh investors were willing to accept this year if there is any validity to the figures quoted in the CADO Chat Room at the time it was news.
The figures given were what I would consider very low in my mind. According to what I remember Boston Ventures put a value of $1 million plus debt on DDS and $2.5 million plus debt on Boeckh. Most good venture capital firms do not over pay for firms in their position but I do not know of any other adjusting software firm today that would consider selling for either or both of those figures combined. The figures were quoted from an industry player that several of us have met face to face that has not had his integrity questioned in the past.
Just as Dell and Gateway have learned with a great deal of pain, everything associated with technology becomes a commodity item with time which very few people can make a living producing and selling.
The one thing we all that are in business learn sooner or later is that without a positive cash flow you are drawing out of a cistern instead of a well. Something that many venture capital firms have learned in the past 18 months is that it is hard to convert cisterns into wells.
Sam Walton has offered to teach every technology vendor how to succeed. Build cheap buildings in cheap cow pastures (low overhead), streamline cost in distribution (low operating cost) and make you feel welcomed and that he was honored that you did business with him (service with a smile) so you can “Sell More for Less”. Is that rocket science or not?
The future is bright in the brave new world for the ones that can learn from the few instead of just repeating the history of the masses. Why is it so easy to learn the complex and so easy to miss the simple?
|Posted on Thursday, October 11, 2001 - 9:52 pm: |
I want to thank everyone that has responded to my initial thread. There is only one thing for sure and that our industry will continue to grow and change rapidly over the next few years. Those of us that welcome change and adapt to new technologies and ways of doing business will certainly thrive. It will be those souls that fear change who will find other ways to live.
We have all seen the changes our country is now going through since the events of 9/11. As much as I see people fearing to fly, walk through a crowded airline terminal or even going to Disney or Seaworld, I see neighbors and strangers reaching out to one another and pulling together for New York, Washington and even the innocent people of Afganistan.
Embrace technology and the improvements in communication that are sure to follow. It will bring us all closer together --- and that is what we need now MORE THAN EVER...
|Posted on Saturday, October 06, 2001 - 10:53 am: |
How are all of these opinions looking and sounding to you since you started this thread?
A lot of issues come to light over some of the simpilest things. Just want to say thanks for your efforts in keeping us all on our toes as well as other software vendor comments too. A lot of us tend to get stuck in our local areas and can't see beyond our little forest.
One other comment on estimating. When I started in this business I used a pencil and 8 1/2 x 11 legal pad. As the jobs got bigger I upgraded to the 8 1/2 x 14 legal pad and better pencils. A pocket calculator was about $350 to $400 dollars. I scoped the loss then actually priced local material prices from a vendor that would supply the job, figured labor, tear out, and all the other components to equal the price for the job. You know I can still do that and from time to time occasionaly test my skills. The pricing is dead on the money, especially when you produce a materials list and prices that are hard to refute. Now that you and other software vendors have provided us with an option, do I still want the old ways, Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
Thanks guys, and just remember as Jeff G stated, the pricing is a question, but the software programs are a "guide" not the "stone tablet" and somehow that messege needs to get out more than it does.
John P, thanks for your program and especially the support over the years you and your staff have provided to all of us. Nobody has all the answers, so lets all keep striving to make it better no matter where we stand.
|Gale Hawkins (Gale)
|Posted on Saturday, October 06, 2001 - 12:22 am: |
Guys are you trying to say that the materials and labor databases inhale?
The XML Open Standard that is currently letting different vendors pass claims information electronically has nothing to do with the prices in the databases. By the way the three vendors that plan to be at ACE 2001 in Tampa with live demonstrations using the XML Open Standard of data transfer are www.sundialsoft.com, www.scenegenesis.com and last and least us.
We first contracted to use the RS Means database in PowerClaim but the adjusters complained about it having so many problems we took it up with that vendor who requested we send them what needed to be corrected or added so then we moved to the Craftsman Book Company as a source which turned out to be a big positive in all directions yet there are prices that do not match what the factor may say the price should be in a given city.
I am sorry but it is not possible to find a database that is 100% in line with local prices. At best databases are reference prices. Most will tend to be high because they are not figured on what a jackleg carpenter working out of the back of an old pickup truck would charge.
The same is true for an auto mechanic or auto body repair-pricing manual in the fact that most any experienced repairperson can the job much faster than the time allowed. True in the auto world material prices are better known than what a local lumber yard is charging for 20 3-tab or what the labor cost.
Even if there were only one database in the US it would still not be agreed to 100% of the time. John Postava at www.simsol.com is correct in saying that in time we will be working from live prices for materials but labor may be a wildcard. An adjuster that does not have a clue about the price of materials is going to look pretty funny at times. So will the sloppy adjuster that will just click on the first thing that has shingle in the description line.
What can become standard is the way claim data is transferred electronically from point A to point B and back to point A. This is what the XML Open Standard is all about. It only has one goal and that is to reduce claims handling cost in the property world as it is in the auto-adjusting world which as pointed out is a less complex animal to price.
Think of the waste when a carrier prints out a notice of loss from their computer system which is then faxed to an adjusting firm that types the information into their claims management software and then prints their own notice of loss that is fax to the adjuster that types it into say Simsol or PowerClaim who in turn faxes it… Bottom line is it finally gets back to the carrier and is either filed in a filing cabinet or is imaged. In either case it takes at least a one-eyed person to retrieve any info from that claim in the future. No data mining is feasible and all of that information is lost for all practical purpose that took many of hours of wasted time to create.
Your demography information is buried. Your marketing info is buried. Basically management is running blind after paying thought the nose for all that information that was only used once to cut a check.
What were the average reserves set in November for the past 3 years so liquidity is in place from the investing arm? Have there been losses at this address before? Has this policy number had a claim on it before? Has this adjuster….
Some carriers have this info today but it was because eyes read it and fingers typed it once or more times. The new property claims Open Standard will save millions in premiums each year in the US alone. Yes it will be a continuing evolving standard as all are. Now that it has happened the carriers will see that it continues.
All three packages mentioned have been modified to some extent. In fact while we were at it we even modified PowerClaim so it would be easier to modify in the future. Yes there is pain in adopting a standard or a new one. Just look at the metric system in the US. The bright future in technology will not come without a major mind-set change and temporary pain.
The WTC being gone is leading to a major new way of thinking in the insurance industry and in fact the hold country. Most of us were not in World War II to see what we saw a month ago that has been burned in our subconscious mind until the day we die. It actually takes wars and stock market crashes to create a sudden paradigm shift in the way we think and do business.
Folks I tend to agree that the fat lady has yet to sing but when she does finally sings we will never be the way we were but future generations will.
|Posted on Friday, October 05, 2001 - 1:06 pm: |
Let me crank up my database rant.
The only people who know what a construction task costs are the person who pays for it day to day, and the person who charges for it day to day. The adjuster and the contractor. Basically, the market sets the price. The adjuster pays what the contractor charges. Excluding collusion and the like, if the contractor charges too much, the adjuster can go to another contractor. If the adjuster underpays, no contractor will do the job. This is capitalism, supply and demand.
I have written a DOS structural estimating system and part of the development process was the pricing of an over 50,000-price database. It was a very enlightening and frustrating process. We knew what contractors charged in our area, by polling contractors and adjusters.
But run the numbers from the supply house, and things do not stack up.
I have a database program that allows the input of prices off the shelf for building products, like a box of drywall screws, a sheet of drywall, bucket of mud, roll of drywall tape. Then a job is defined, such as drywall a 15-foot long wall eight feet high. The required amount of the previously priced supplies used in the job is calculated, and a total material price for the job is computed. The average square foot price was calculated by dividing total price by the number of square feet.
A similar process is followed for labor, defining a crew and pay rates if required.
The end Result was a calculated price of 72 cents a square foot for drywall.
What were the adjusters paying? $1.10 a square foot for drywall.
What did the research guides and software programs say? Between 96 cents and $1.32 per square foot.
What does all this mean?
The only people who know what a construction task costs are the person who pays for it day to day, and the person who charges for it day to day.
The construction price guides are valuable tools and they set the defacto standard. But to blindly rely on them is as short sighted as to ignore them. There is much valuable research that these companies do, and I would not want the task. My database program mentioned above will track building supply price changes over time, but the process is very man hour intensive, hence expensive. And still this program will only track changes to the actual prices, not the market prices. And as seen above, these do differ.
IMO, the best solution would be easily modifiable, sharable, clone able, swappable databases. Make it easy to clone an existing database to a new one. Make it easy to change the prices in the database. Make it easy to swap between databases and pull from foreign databases. Once revisions are made by on site personnel, upload the changes to a central server, where they can be downloaded to the adjusters. Thereby eliminating the need for every adjuster to make the changes.
The big pricing guide folks wouldn't like it, but here is where an open data standard would be very useful. A central web page where adjusters posted what is being paid for certain tasks could function as a data gathering tool to track price changes. This could be compared to the research guides and prices adjusted as needed.
This would track market prices, but would, quite rightly, be seen as a pain in the neck. It is also hard to see how this would be profitable for someone, and in our society, if it is not profitable, it will not get done.
The pricing problem has vexed me for years, and I see no easy solution is in sight. I assume I will be dealing with multiple paper price databases for many a storm to come, assuming a big storm ever comes.
To borrow from Dennis Miller, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.
|Posted on Friday, October 05, 2001 - 10:29 am: |
John P, Gale, Chuck, Tom, Jeff, Ghost, Jim & Others:
Let me say this about that!
How many times do we make use of that over ride key function in whatever program we use for what is not there or not compatible to conditions?
UTOPIA - All answers on pricing materials, Labor, Equip, Difficulty Factors? How many experienced restorers or contractors in the area certainly affect the bottom line. Getting all of this information from Wireless Does Sound great for the future, echo echo echo echo. Hey what about today and what we work with, seems technology is always pushing the envelope, people can only be pushed so far.
I am offended when a company staffer takes an adjuster to task over pricing issues in any software program stating "their" prices are right and you are wrong and they never went into the field to see the job for themselves. To make matters worse when you find out they don't know about the software location factors or the fact that there are sub catagories to a line item and don't know how to get there, whose responsibility is it now?
Yes, there is a lot of building components which appear the same over and over, thank goodness for John, Gale and The other guys who have provided us with the ability to accomplish so much without going back to the legal pad and pencil with the calculator so to speak. Great job guys but please remember we are not dealing with a fender from a chevy or ford, they are the same even if they are not all OEM, but they take the same labor to install. Hmmm is its off a bit because its not OEM someone spends more time,Hmmmm.
Lets all remember we are where we are because we made a choice. Contrary to what many of us have to say we do make a difference, we affect people and we make things better for them. Even if someone else did not do what they were supposed before we got there like how does the coverage work, is the right coverage, its now part of our job, like it or not what insured's have to say when its over is how the last person in the chain treated them. Like it or not, It is us, we, the people who make the difference.
Crash, Boom, Bang I just fell of my soapbox.
BEST REGARDS TO ALL OF US PROFESSIONALS
|Kile Anderson (Kileanderson)
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 6:23 pm: |
I use windows 2000 on all of my machines. 2 laptops and 2 desktops. I have had no trouble with it at all. I have a cable modem with a 4 port router and all I had to do to network all 4 systems with Win2K was pluge them into the hub and give them a name and they were up and running. It never crashes and if a program does lock up, you can shut down just that program with ctrl-alt-dlt and not the whole computer. I highly recomemd it. The only problems I've had are some of my Windows 95 programs wouldn't run on it but I don't use them anyway.
|Gale Hawkins (Gale)
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 6:11 pm: |
Gee, I cannot believe I was so busy getting ready for the XML Open Standard Claims meeting during the ACE Convention in Tampa next week that I missed this hot subject. Helping write press releases, coordinating with the current participants of the Open Standard for bi-directional exchange of claims information and contacting the carrier representatives that have been looking a lifetime for a “non-proprietary” total property claims solution that just so happens to be over 50% less expensive that any current “proprietary” total claims handing solution can be time consuming.
Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call today or tomorrow at 1-800-736-1246. The first meeting is at 4 PM on Sunday afternoon. There will also be live demos in a suite and on the floor of the exhibit hall the hours it is open on Monday and Tuesday.
This is something that all developers that want to be a player 5 years down the road will want to be a part of ASAP. It is open to all vendors great and small. All carriers, TPA’s and adjusting firms will want to explore what is here now to help control the runaway claims handling cost.
The future not only looks bright but it is here today and you can see it at ACE tomorrow. John is correct in that what Microsoft states tends to become fact and Tom is most likely correct on the time frame. Getting staff adjusters PC’s is an on going goal with some of the carriers but some may just skip over the PC era and to straight from handwriting to wireless.
For the CAT adjuster the Open Standard just means in time you will be asked to be on the open standard instead of a “brand” of adjusting software. When will this happen is a good question? A great deal of time before we are wireless I am willing to bet (have bet).
Any software developer that has not contacted us about this XML Open Standards meeting but would consider developing around the standard please contact me ASAP so we can mention your name to the industry at the 4 PM meeting Sunday.
Remember the XML open standard is not replacing any vendor’s product. They will be the same as before but will add the ability to receive and transfer claims information in the XML Open standard was well as their current proprietary formats. As the years pass more and more will be on the Open Standard that will be continually evolving.
It is like the printers of today. Many have both a USB and parallel printer port but some are only shipping with the USB port because why mess with a fat awkward cable when a skinny one works fine.
As John stated we are in for changing times but since some of the changes that were predicted during the 50’s when I was in grade school have not happened yet I have learned that change can take a long time to happen but it usually seems to happen when no one is looking and often appears to have happened overnight.
Remember when Eric announced here on CADO on June 8, 2000 that PowerClaim had declared its output an open standard and unlocked our Access claim files. Open Standards call for a lot of give and take but is worth it because our home and commercial insurance premiums are lower when we all help lower property claims handling cost for the insurance carriers.
Again if you are a developer that has products that are used in the claims handling process please take a hard look at the Open Standard. Later I will post a list of the current players and their website and 800#. Just contact me at email@example.com or 1-800-736-1246 today or tomorrow to be mentioned at the ACE Claims conference in Tampa at the XML Open Standard introductive meeting at 4 PM this Sunday afternoon.
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 5:29 pm: |
Tom, consider starting a new thread and detailing your experiences with Windows 2000.
|Tom Toll (Tom)
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 1:29 pm: |
First, cellular communication is not a solid or dependable product. Anyone have a cell phone that never drops out, out of range, or too much static. Cellular phone infrastructure must re-organize and produce a dependable system for this to work.
I personally feel this system may appear in ten years, no sooner. I don't like this concept, but will make the transition, only if it is necessary. We as an adjusting community already spend a fortune to keep our systems up, running, and current. This new system will be expensive to say the least. Microsoft needs to get a stable platform out before getting into this new system. I have windows ME and it is trouble right out of the box. I am converting to windows 2000 next week, as it is a more stable system.
Before you know it, we will have to have a degree in computer science before we can get an adjuster's license. Just my thoughts
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 11:19 am: |
Bring on the wireless networking.
This would make an adjusters life so much easier.
Just consider a building data price library. On several storms I have worked, it is often two or three days until price guidelines are distributed. This often means that double digit claims have been inspected before the estimates can be correctly written, putting the adjuster behind the eight ball from the very beginning.
But with a wireless network the price database could sit on a central server, geographically independent of the storm site, and have the prices already to rip, avoiding this delay.
If the powers that be decide that the pricing needs to change, they change it on the central server, and from that point on, all the estimates produced by the adjusters in the field will have the new updated prices. The price changes can be made by a data entry clerk at home office, and not by tens, if not hundreds, of adjusters in the field. Many man hours saved. Not to mention paper and distribution costs.
But as a loyal palm and hand-held computer user and a software developer, there are issues here. The more complex a task you undertake on the computer; the more questions need to be answered. An an insurance claim is a complex task. The more questions that need to be answered; the more screen territory is required. When more screen territory is required, and the screen is small, this requires much paging thru windows. This quickly becomes annoying, especially as you peck at a dim screen in strong light with a pencil shaped piece of plastic.
But the wireless/PDA/Cell Phone/whatchamacallit revolution is coming, and will change the way adjusters work. It just probably will not be in a way we can forsee at the moment. If used in conjunction with an "open" data model, this could actually be the mobile computing solution that this industry has been excited about since I entered it in 1988.
Presently, I make my living as a computer consultant, so I have been attending Microsoft seminars regularly since 1997, so I seen products go from the vision MS puts on at the seminars, to the program my clients call me to fix. MS always has a new technology that will revolutionize computing. And it is amazing how much different the implemented programs are from what they show in their "In The Future" presentations. However, they drive the industry and they will dictate much of the future of computing.
One thing I can guarantee, it will be interesting.
Aside to JohnP:
Does Simsol subscribe to the "Open" standard Gale Hawkins talks about? Where might I find info on this standard? I have a software package I would like to make support it.
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 10:12 am: |
John, Jim, and Dave, are you guys trying to imply that Adjusters really are important people? Surely you jest. Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!
If we are so important, where is our glowing public relations image? And, since we are the problem solvers for the Insureds, why do they consider a root canal preferable to dealing with us?
If an insurance company is like a dinosaur, with the agent as the mouth, management as the tail, loss control as the eyes, and underwriting as the gizzard, why do our industry peers consider claims to be the sphincter muscle?
Or, could it be, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, 'It's memo this, and phone call that, then chuck him out, the brute. But, he's the savior of the company when the winds begin to hoot!'?
(There, my delicate male ego has spoken.)
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 9:20 am: |
Someone still has to show up no matter what software or hardware is used.
Someone still needs the knowledge to make it all work.
Someone still needs people skills and the ability to communicate to the insured and company as well.
Someone must be willing to look with an open mind to change.
Someone still produces software and hardware too, they never seem to eliminate all the problems but they do make it better helping us do a better job along the way.
Someone still has to take all the puzzle parts in the field and make it work, no matter what.
Someone like us stand as the point man, they catch all the flak and at times it just doesn't seem fair.
Someone like us only needs to stand in front of the mirror to realize who makes this all possible.
KISS, an old army saying, Keep It Simple Stupid.
|Jim Flynt (Jimflynt)
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 8:39 am: |
Dave and GB, 'data collection' is easy (as well as easy to teach to the neophyte). Policy interpretation is not.
Finding a 'knowledgeable person' (as Dave says) to do the later, will be the challenge as well as the exception in the future.
Don't believe me? Then take a look around.
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 6:14 am: |
Hold on guys. Let's not jump to conclusions too quickly. First of all, it's not going to happen for a while. Remember the Florida one adjuster program, it's still in the works after 8 or 9 yrs.
A knowledgable person is still going to gather the proper data, differenciate quality, interpret the coverage and negotiate a settlement. I'd rather not bang away on a keyboard all night. Maybe this is a better way! Then again, "new math" was a better way too.
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 12:32 am: |
"DATA COLLECTORS"???? Gee, thanks for this latest demotion in our status. I guess this means we can forget about being respected professionals and being mobbed by groupies and getting free lunches and heavily discounted motel rooms.
Does this mean the underwriters, marketing men, and loss control folks are right, that adjusters are not much more than 'shaved apes'?
Maybe Bill Gates really is the Antichrist. Is this the new Tower of Babel? Somebody call Jerry Falwell!
|Posted on Thursday, October 04, 2001 - 12:30 am: |
What a lot of hogwash!! The palm pilots are hard enough to read let alone something smaller.
|Posted on Wednesday, October 03, 2001 - 9:29 pm: |
Yes, wireless is in, wired is out....but, right now I'm still making money with my wired machine.
|Jim Flynt (Jimflynt)
|Posted on Wednesday, October 03, 2001 - 9:02 pm: |
It was/is about time!
Thanks John for the update. You made my day. J
|Posted on Wednesday, October 03, 2001 - 8:26 pm: |
I would greatly like to hear all opinions!!!
I have just come back from a week out at a conference at Microsoft and have to say that the future of computing is going to change. Insurance carriers and adjusting firms may lag behind the times due to financial and other concerns but as Bob Dylan put it so many years ago, "The times they are a changin'".
Microsoft is refocusing all of their big guns at wireless technology. They are spending an enoromus amount of resourses in this direction.
Get ready for scoping your claims on your cell phone and pricing your estimates with databases (obtained from contractor networks) compiled on a daily basis. The next generation of "computers" will not be desktops, laptops or even tablets. The big boys in the computing world are setting their sights on handhelds and cellular devices that link to servers and national databases.
Dell is dead. Gateway is talking to cows. They can't give away their hardware. In 5 years time the adjuster working on a laptop with some estimating program will be in the minority. We will all be hard-wired to a network or multiple networks.
Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. As a computer software vendor, we will be providing the bridge between the "data collectors" (i.e. adjusters) and the data providers (i.e. the carriers).
The majority of CADO members are computer savvy. What do you all think about this "Brave new world"?