Technology – BAH HUMBUG!

Scrooge with Candle

Although I am “seasoned”, I’m not so old where I’ve lost an appreciation for new technology. I’m constantly paying attention to new gadgets, widgets, or programs designed to make our personal, or work lives more fun or efficient. When it comes to new technologies for our industry, and the trends I’m seeing these days, I’m mostly underwhelmed.

Let me begin with a small but important disclaimer: I am not directly affiliated with, or have any personal vendetta against any of the organizations who manufacture, sell, host, or support the products or software programs I discuss in this article. The opinions expressed are mine alone and I encourage each of you to make your own determination as to the value of each. There – now game on…

Let’s first talk about water damage mitigation “management” software programs. You know the ones I’m talking about – MICA, Moisture Mapper, Fire-N-Ice, etc. Those handy little programs advertised to simplify your lives by adding remarkable efficiency to your processes, thereby increasing your bottom line. They save you time and money! – I almost choked on my coffee while writing that. For most contractors, I believe that couldn’t be further from the truth. I suppose there are some contractors who voluntarily use these programs and possibly experience some type of benefit – I’m not one of them.

Ebenezer Scrooge

There is a reason why these programs are getting shoved down the throats of contractors who choose to perform program work through Third Party Administrators (TPAs), and it is not because they are overly concerned about our bottom line. In my opinion, it is because the TPA market is becoming increasingly competitive. TPAs need something to set themselves apart and presenting carriers with a mitigation “management” (compliance) mandate for the contractors in their program seems to be the going trend. I can hear the pitch now – “this program will ensure our contractors are in compliance with S500 standards, and this will save you money. Wait – there’s more – it won’t cost you a dime because we’re making the contractors pay for it!” – Like contractors in those programs aren’t already saving carriers a ton of money. C’mon man!

Possibly it’s being driven by individual carriers who have been sold on the software for the same reasons stated previously. Regardless, for those contractors not voluntarily using these programs – it’s just another expense.

Aside from the cost of the program, the time it takes even an experienced user to properly prepare a large-scale water loss for proper submission is ridiculous – none of that cost is recoverable – AND – like it or not folks, this one is hard to believe, some people are not totally honest in their data entry into these programs! GASP! What are you saying?

I’ll give you an example: Moisture Mapper would produce a Moisture Score for a particular carrier. If you achieved a high enough Moisture Score, your estimate was auto approved and processed for payment; no TPA review of your estimate. If you believe there weren’t many an estimator whose lives were threatened if they got a Moisture Score below that magic threshold, you’d be sadly mistaken. Have any of you ever used Fire-N-Ice? I visited with the developer many years ago and was given the opportunity to beta test before its release, but, I simply did not have the time. Some time later it was mandated for a specific carrier, and during my first claim using the program, I shouted words one only hears when they step barefoot on their kid’s LEGO.

Another issue I have with some of these programs is this: there is simply no substitute for a well-trained technician. I don’t need/want robot technicians driven by a program. I want technicians capable of independent thought, able to intelligently assess and adjust to the uniqueness of each project. Technicians who know and understand how to calculate, and the limitations of, initial dehumidifier and air mover employment. I’ll spend my resources on training – that is how you increase your bottom line. Nearly every of the restoration industry related project management software platforms include the administrative tools needed to be more efficient administratively. For S500 compliance, we don’t need a program, we need training.

My thoughts are the same regarding the notion of “remote monitoring”. What does that even mean – remote monitoring? Is there a new industry standard for monitoring I’m not aware of? In my mind, monitoring is the process of thoroughly assessing the drying conditions of your project. This is done by collecting specific data with quality instruments, then evaluating that data to make educated decisions on adjustments required to optimize those conditions. Does that sound like something you can do remotely? Establishing a bluetooth connection to your dehumidifier so you can collect temp/RH and maybe grain depression is NOT monitoring, not by my definition, and the sensors supplied on dehumidifiers are not nearly as accurate as quality hygrometers. I can’t imagine any level of technology that could replace a highly trained technician on-site, monitoring properly.

So, team – what did we learn today? We learned, regardless of what I said at the onset of the article, Scott hates technology, right?

No. We learned I am not a fan of technology that is not value added. We learned I am definitely not a fan of unnecessary expenses, especially when current labor and materials costs are out of balance with estimating program price lists.

We learned, although this is nothing new, I am a fan of training, and you should be as well.

Until next month – have a great holiday season!

Nasty 7 out.

Scott Walden

Scott WaldenScott Walden is the Chief Operating Officer for VetCor, LLC; a veteran manned and managed insurance services company specializing in mitigation of water loss damage.

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