How does a growing insurer track and manage its IT projects and product development initiatives? According to Daniel Borges, VP of IT for Mercer Insurance Group (Pennington, N.J.; $200 million in assets), a midsize carrier of commercial and personal lines, he was beside himself trying to coordinate the insurer's project tasks, product rollouts and acquisitions amid company growth.
The company managed its array of projects on what Borges calls an ad hoc basis. Mercer relied on Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Excel spreadsheets to track progress and results, he relates. But the process was slow, and it was easy to lose track of people and the projects to which they were attached, Borges adds.
Further, regulatory requirements compounded the burden. Without project management software, demonstrating appropriate controls for Sarbanes-Oxley, for example, was "horrendous," Borges says. "It took a lot of effort and money to handle the compliance," he explains.
To improve compliance efforts as well as better prioritize projects, communicate tasks to managers, and coordinate among project managers and developers, Mercer decided to automate project management, Borges recalls, adding that he and a team of IT managers developed a list of solution requirements. In addition to project management, Borges says, he sought a solution that included time management -- he wanted the ability to monitor all of the efforts the company was undertaking at any given time.
Borges relates that Mercer's requirements included easy implementation, and, though the current deployment was IT driven, any product chosen had to be capable of being deployed into other departments in the event the company decided to expand its use for broader project portfolio management. Additionally, the software had to be easily distributable to all those who were working in the software development life cycle. Finally, the system had to be complete without the need for additional software or add-ons.
The company compared two products: Microsoft Project and Vertabase Pro from Oak Park, Mich.-based Vertabase. According to Borges, the Vertabase Pro software better fit Mercer's requirements. The system is centralized, he relates, enabling access from anywhere via the Internet, and allowing Mercer to track resources and people, and their availability, at any location in one system.
Implementation of Vertabase Pro was a cinch, according to Borges. Once Mercer purchased the system, Vertabase provided complete and concise documentation on implementation. Borges' group began testing the product in October 2005 and Mercer went live with the system on Jan. 1, 2006. Borges notes that he chose Vertabase's hosting service, so there is no overhead in implementing and maintaining the system. The only item that required tweaking was access privileges, but, Borges says, adjusting employees' access levels was easy.
According to Borges, while the total cost of the solution to the company amounts to one-third of 1 percent of his IT budget, as a result of the deployment, Mercer has increased productivity by 30 percent. The product, he notes, is licensed on an annual subscription basis; pricing varies per user license and access needs. Eventually, Borges relates, he'd like to see Vertabase Pro leveraged in all departments to include all business user activities.
Mercer Insurance Group (Pennington, N.J.; $200 million in total assets).
lines of business
Commercial and personal lines for Pennsylvania and New Jersey markets.
Vertabase's (Oak Park, Mich.) Vertabase Pro project tracking and management software.
Automate project and time management processes.