REVIEWER: Richard G. Fleissner, corporate budget and planning manager for Amerisure Companies.
BACKGROUND: Amerisure is a mutual property and casualty insurance company marketing its products through independent agents. Its primary lines of business include workers' compensation, commercial package policies and commercial auto insurance. The company was established in 1912, has 715 employees in nine offices throughout the midwest and southern U.S. and wrote $600 million in premiums in 2003.
PLATFORMS: Amerisure currently runs the SRC Advisor Series on a server running Microsoft SQL 2000 on Windows 2000 Server SP3.
PROBLEM SOLVED: In mid-2001, Amerisure converted its desktop computer operating system from OS/2 to Windows. The previous system was outdated, not compatible with Windows and had many shortcomings when it came to ease of use and reporting. Amerisure selected SRC's Budget Advisor, Payroll Planner and Information Advisor modules to bring our budget process into the 21st century. SRC allows remote access on a real-time basis.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The original design and build of the system was done for all components of the budget process (revenue modeling, expense budgeting and P&L reporting of financial plans). Each component was then implemented individually over time. The payroll planner increased the functionality by allowing benefits to be budgeted on an individual basis in addition to payroll, using global assumptions and individual benefit elections. Global assumptions are also used to spread costs that are "shared" across departments by preloading many of the expense accounts in the budget process. Amerisure has significant statutory reporting demands and must allocate revenue and expenses along several dimensions including by function, product line, state and risk category. The Advisor series enables Amerisure to perform this number crunching efficiently according to statistics input by each division manager and then analyze the results to plan for issues such as premium increases.
STRENGTHS: SRC uses an Excel front end that makes end-user training much easier. The IT requirements to maintain the system are minor, and the system administrator handles most of the system support issues. The reporting capabilities are very robust. Having all the data reside in a central database gives us the opportunity to slice and dice it in many different ways. This greatly increases the ability to do analysis on our budgets. Data transfers between our general ledger system and SRC are also easily accomplished.
WEAKNESSES: Because SRC is basically custom built for each installation, documentation and training materials have been lacking at times on the overall use of the software.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Key selection criteria were user-friendly data entry, little IT staff involvement required for implementation, relatively quick installation and the ability to input the data remotely but house the data in a single central database. Amerisure evaluated four different vendors and selected SRC based primarily on the Excel front end and small amount of IT involvement required in the installation and maintenance of the system.
DELIVERABLES: The product supports all aspects of our annual budgeting process. In addition, it supports premium reporting at a branch level for several different variables. Amerisure implemented very detailed payroll planning by individual employee, incorporating all benefit and payroll tax variables. A travel planning worksheet allows the company to budget by individual trip, and a capital planning worksheet enables budgeting for any additional capital expenditures, incorporating the applicable depreciation in the expense budget. In addition, a download from Amerisure's existing fixed asset system allows depreciation of existing equipment to be carried forward into the expense budget. We have also built a budget variance analysis/forecast template in which our managers see a file each month that they can update with explanations of variances and new projections of anticipated spending levels. Many report templates have been developed, allowing managers to do analysis and review information for their respective departments or groups.
VENDOR SUPPORT: SRC's consulting staff has many years of experience in the healthcare and banking industries and provides valuable insight into the building of the system. The support staff is friendly and provides solutions quickly. In most cases, they will talk you through the solution to resolve your issue and remain on the phone to make sure it worked.
DOCUMENTATION: Manuals are included with the software on the basic installation and functionality of the software. Additional resource guides are available online in addition to examples of other installations and uses.
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