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Nothing beats human contact when setting up technnology systems

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Risk managers should make at least their initial contact with their information technology departments face-to-face, experts recommend.

By doing so, “it seems to me it goes a lot smoother and the communication is improved,” said Bill Baker, Minneapolis-based national director of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.’s Core360 risk management program.

“Risk managers could, and probably should, use internal IT resources to identify the specifications of the system to help test the proposed vendor, and help select the system that they’re going forward with,” said Richard S. Betterley, president of Sterling, Massachusetts-based Betterley Risk Consultants Inc.

“It’s unusual for a risk management department to have deep IT knowledge and skill,” and “you need those skills in order to understand whether you’re actually acquiring the best system for you,” Mr. Betterley said.

Make a wish list of what both risk management and IT want, then develop priorities as to what are the “must haves” vs. what “would be nice,” said Daniel C. Free, president and general counsel at Indianapolis-based Insurance Audit & Inspection Co.

“Unfortunately, insurance causes people’s eyes to glaze over sometimes and not understand” its importance, said Mr. Betterley. It is “up to the risk manager to help the IT talent understand his interests and needs,” he said.

Get many people involved, Mr. Free suggested.

“People are very knowledgeable in their area, and in many cases have differing opinions about what the best product is, and so it’s important to get as many people involved in the process as you can” to make the most well-supported decisions, said Mr. Free.

“Because everybody’s busy doing something else,” it is also important to start this process early, he said.

Keep up with the technology, said Neeraj Sahni, senior vice president and national cyber broker with Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. in New York.

Risk managers will be respected if they ask better questions “versus more generic questions,” he said. “They have to do their homework.”