From the millennium bug to a pandemic, Neil Watson, IT Manager at Coplus saw the world survive Y2K, when despite much media speculation a technology apocalypse did not occur on the stroke of midnight 2000. Now 20 years later he’s helping the company deal with a global pandemic. Neil reflects on his career and the role of IT now and in the future at Coplus.
What have been the most significant changes within your area since you joined Coplus in 2000?
Shortly after starting in my role I was involved in the introduction of our in-house document system. By scanning our files this allowed our case handlers to be able to instantly access case files without the need to request the original paper ones. It was a significant step forward at the time helping us to be more efficient with post handling and reacting to customer calls.
Another project that really made an impact was developing our intranet. We take these things for granted now but 15 – 20 years ago this really changed how people worked together.
One very significant change was moving to a cloud hosted desktop infrastructure and phone system. This is a huge milestone in our resilience and has been key to how we’ve operated in response to Covid-19.
I have to mention of course our new claims management system which we launched in 2017. Being part of the design, development and implementation gives me a real sense of achievement. We used all of our collective claims handling knowledge to build a system that transformed our operations and is a foundation of a lot of further developments which are taking the company forward leaps and bounds.
What keeps you coming back for more? How have you achieved such a long career at Coplus?
New challenges! We are constantly looking to get the best from our technology. IT development is integral to the business so this means that new opportunities or changes in the business landscape constantly keep me and my team on our toes.
The business has always supported and invested in me which on a personal level has been a great confidence builder and has instilled those values in me as a leader.
I’m also lucky to be surrounded by a great team both in IT and other areas of the organisation.
What impact has the pandemic had on your role and your team?
The initial impact was actually reasonably small. The investment that the business had already made with cloud technology meant we were prepared to enact our business continuity plans and begin migrating staff to a remote working position before lockdown.
As the pandemic has continued our team has changed the way we support our users, providing assistance remotely, through the use of different tools rather than a face to face approach.
We have also been busy ensuring that our office is correctly set up to enable the safe return of small numbers of staff.
What do you think will be the long term effects of Covid-19 on IT at Coplus?
I anticipate remote working will stay a large feature of life at Coplus. As such IT will have a lot of involvement in making sure staff continue to be supplied with the correct equipment and supporting the increased demand for new tools to aid collaboration, training and videoconferencing to ensure everyone has what they need no matter there working location.
What are the most exciting projects you are working on now/in the next 6 months?
Further developments for the Cobalt brand which was launched last year is one of the key projects we have at the moment. Cobalt brings together many different types of technology and data science to improve decision making ultimately to shorten the claims cycle and therefore reduce cost. There are several iterations we are working on and I enjoy the challenge of building something new.
We have been planning for the Personal Injury Reforms for several years and with the current go live date set for April 2021 there will be system development to finalise in the coming months. This will enable us to run small claims in house, which is extremely important as post reforms most PI claims will go this route where solicitor’s fees are not recoverable. Our Claims Management System can easily adapt to run these claims but it will be my team’s job to ensure it is tested and live in time.
We are continuing to investigate and develop new customer facing technology such as our OnTrack portal which policyholders can use to monitor claim progress and send us documents. We will always enable our customers to engage with us through their channel of choice so our ongoing investigation is very important.
Finally we have several operational projects which we are supporting. All designed to streamline information within the business. We certainly won’t be short of new challenges as things never stand still!