Going mobile

David Adams takes a look at some of the latest mobile apps designed for the risk, insurance and business continuity marketplaces

We live and work in a web and mobile-enabled world. So it makes sense that an increasing number of corporate IT systems, including risk management and business continuity solutions, and specialist technologies used in insurance, should exploit the flexibility and mobility that web-based technologies and mobile apps can offer.

One thing that all vendors are keen to stress is the importance of security, particularly if individual employees are going to use their own devices to access apps. This is not quite so pressing a concern if a device is being used to access systems and data that remain within corporate networks rather than being held on the device – although of course best practice must be followed to ensure an unauthorised user cannot use a device to access those data or systems. But if an app is being used it is vital that any data held on the device can be removed remotely. Organisations must develop and enforce robust corporate policies on use of mobile devices very carefully.

In each of the areas above, customer demand is driving development. Governance, risk and compliance software vendor Acuity has created a mobile version of its GRC framework tool STREAM, a Microsoft SQL Server application that can be implemented on-premise or supplied as a software-as-a-service solution. The mobile version can be accessed via web browser using iOS and Android mobile devices. Richard Mayall, a partner at Acuity, says the company is working on additional flexibility and ease of use around risk assessment and reporting for mobile users. “The idea of not sending out questionnaires, but instead allowing mobile access to a system in real time is very appealing,” says Mayall.

One advantage of the web browser-based approach is that it provides server speed performance wherever the end user is, in contrast to the variability of VPN connections. Upgrades are also more straightforward, because there is no need to upgrade multiple clients, just the central application.

Another provider, ActiveRisk, has made its Active Risk Manager product available via its ARM Apps web applications, accessible from mobile devices, and/or corporate intranets and Microsoft SharePoint. End users can use the ARM Apps help to involve more employees across the organisation in the risk information gathering process, which helps engender risk awareness within the culture of the organisation.

Norway-based DNV-GL has introduced mobility to its modular Synergi Life risk management solution, with the Synergi Life Mobile App, which allows end users to upload risk information in various forms, including photos taken with the mobile devices and sound recordings, using iOS and Android devices. The tool is also designed to make it easier for employees who are not risk management professionals to contribute risk reporting and assessment data. It is used by companies in the oil, gas, construction and transportation industries, among other industry sectors.

New Zealand-based vendor Quantate has designed its risk and assurance solution Quantate Risk using what manager Dave Jarvis calls a “responsive web” approach. This means the application responds to the type of device being used to access it and the most likely purposes to which the end user is going to want to put the solution when using a particular device. For example, an administrator is unlikely to want to make changes to their framework on a mobile device following an organisational restructure, but a general user may wish to undertake risk assessments, or share information with a colleague.

One Quantate Risk end user is Citipower/Powercor Australia, which operates and manages the electricity supply infrastructure in Melbourne and much of the state of Victoria, serving over a million customers. It has been using successive versions of Quantate Risk for seven years and for the past three has done so alongside a Quantate compliance solution. “Being a web application meant that implementation was easy,” says Geoff Barby, manager, risk management, at CitiPower and Powercor. “It is available 24/7 from anywhere and the licensing model meant that we did not have to ask for additional licenses as our adoption of the applications increased.

“Quantate Risk is our primary management tool for our corporate risk functions, from providing risk details [to senior management and the board] to prioritised control improvement activities,” Barby continues. “It is also used as a key input to our Audit Services planning.

“The main benefit is being able to access information from anywhere. As mobile internet accessibility and functionality improves, these benefits increase, allowing us to access information and undertake activities away from the office and any wired network. I know of managers who have undertaken important activities in a café while waiting for their order.”

Technology vendors are also helping insurers and their business partners to benefit from mobility. CSC’s 2Work software drives customisable mobile apps for tablets and other mobile devices. Its 2Work for Brokers solutions enable brokers and agents to work on proposals, quotes and applications using tablets. Agents can use the technology to manage compensation and commission reports, respond quickly to alerts and access policy information to improve customer service. The tool’s most important attribute is the ability to ensure that the right information gets into the system first time, says Bob Evans, director, mobile insurance, at CSC, as this speeds up processes and reduces errors.

Another CSC app, developed for property and casualty insurers but at the time of writing still awaiting a first full roll-out is 2Work for Adjusters. This tablet app allows claims adjusters to view and update claims information in the field, using the tablet to take photographs of property damage or documents, record multimedia content and use GPS-enabled location-based services.

Larger insurers seem particularly attracted to the use of mobile, but as part of a broader trend towards using newer technologies, including big data and cloud. “It’s about access to information in electronic form: mobile is just one end point,” he says. “The unifying factor is the need for it to be user-centric, whether the user is an employee of the insurer, a client or a business partner.”

The benefits of mobile technology are, if anything, even clearer in the business continuity sphere. Investment bank Nomura is currently implementing Phoenix’s Shadow-Planner BC software across the enterprise. Shadow-Planner was one of the first business continuity solutions to be offered in mobile form and can now be accessed as an app for BlackBerry and iOS devices.

In fact, Nomura is not yet using the mobile version of Shadow-Planner because it developed its own BlackBerry app to manage continuity and crisis management contacts in 2011. The investment bank’s head of business continuity, Matt Dyckhoff has observed a fully configured form of the Shadow-Planner app in use elsewhere and was impressed.

“It looks really good,” he says. “The mobile version enables you to reflect the contact side of things, using the same access rights as for the online version. From a crisis management point of view that’s really useful. Being able to view your action plans would also be really helpful. So we may move over to using it in the next year or two, particularly as it can be used by more devices than just BlackBerry.”

Paul Gant, head of business continuity managed solutions at Phoenix says that today almost every client Phoenix talks to is interested in using mobile devices to carry business continuity plans. In the longer term, Phoenix plans to use mobile in a more significant way as a crisis management tool.

Other business continuity vendors to have exploited the capabilities of mobile technology include Linus’s cloud-based Revive BC management system, used on iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices by end users in sectors including government, utilities, financial companies, health organisations and emergency services. Elsewhere, xMatters acquired its Bamboo technology from Deloitte Australia in 2013 and combined it with its own mass notification solution. Bamboo stores the end user’s most up to date plans, procedures and actions locally on each mobile device. Communications capabilities include the ability to locate each team member during an incident.

Teon Rosandic, vice-president, EMEA, xMatters, outlines one recent use case, where the solution was used by a Boston-based financial institution during a fire in its offices, using the mobile application to orchestrate evacuation of the building, targeting employees based on whether they were inside or outside the building. Future releases will enable greater use of mobile capabilities such as photos and location.

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