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We air shipped the computer

Dec 1Randal Suttles

Some years ago, while I served as CFO of a mid sized health insurer, we spent several thousand dollars to air ship in a computer from Texas.  Why would anybody do such a thing?

Here is the context:  We had grown so fast that our data processing systems could not keep up.  Not the software, nor the hardware.  We were unable to timely process health insurance claims, by a lot.  Everyone was working extremely hard to try and keep up, but the hardware (printers in particular) could not keep up with the volume.

The Chairman was angry, to say the least.  He wanted to know what management was doing about it.  I clearly remember the meeting with the manager of the payment department.  He had lots of excuses, including lack of staff, lack of computer tech support, lack of this, lack of that.  “Not my fault!”  It was clear though, that the manager was making excuses.  Although there were indeed difficulties, there just was no sense of urgency.

The Chairman asked what it would take to fix the hardware problem.  The department manager indicated he needed a new printer (10X faster than the current printer) that was compatible with the software.  It was a rather unique printer, available in the aftermarket, and he had located one in Texas.  He said they would purchase it and we would receive it at our Indianapolis offices in 3 weeks.  Shipment via truck.  The Chairman was incensed.  He ordered the printer air shipped in, two days.  We spent thousands to deliver a message.  There was to be no excuse for failing to solve the processing problems.  It wasn’t so much the cost to fix the problem, it was the lack of urgency.

We got current with the claims payments pretty quick.  Not because much different was done, but there was clearly now a sense of urgency.

Much of the time, the most important message is the example you show the staff.  The Chairman gave a clear example.  That department manager left the company soon thereafter.  Two different approaches.  Excuses or urgency?

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