The Risk Management Agency (RMA) of the United States Department of Agriculture provides insurance to help preserve the economic stability of America’s farmers and ranchers. The organization sets premium rates and authorizes the insurance products provided through 16 independent companies. Previously, RMA used multiple, nonintegrated systems to manage interactions with insurance providers and policyholders, which slowed access to case management information and restricted performance analysis. With help from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Ascentium, RMA implemented a solution based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Now, with a comprehensive view of each participant in its agricultural insurance program and role-tailored dashboards to gain improved insight across its operations, RMA has strengthened compliance and can handle key reporting tasks five times faster.
|Our Reviewers love the fact that all of the information they need to do their jobs is available in one place. We think of the solution as a kind of data concierge—it’s always ready to serve up whatever information we need, when we need it.|
| Cornell Webb, Manager of Analysis and Reporting, RMA|
A vital mission of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is to help America’s farmers and ranchers sustain optimum production levels by mitigating crop failures and loss of livestock. The Risk Management Agency (RMA) of the USDA helps carry out this mission by providing market-based risk management solutions, including offering crop insurance to producers nationwide through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.
RMA, which has experienced rapid growth since its founding in 1996, now has approximately 500 employees dispersed across various regional offices. The organization’s administrative budget for fiscal year 2009 was U.S.$77 million, and in that same year, RMA managed nearly $80 billion in insurance liability.
The organization works in close partnership with 16 different private-sector insurance companies to deliver crop insurance to the market. Although these companies sell and service the policies, RMA develops and approves the premium rates and sanctions the products. It also administers premium and expense subsidies to defray the cost of acquiring and holding crop insurance.
With sophisticated operations similar to a for-profit insurance company, RMA has processes in place for handling enrollment, collecting premiums, and performing claims investigations and dispute resolution. Like any other entity with an insurance business model, RMA must effectively balance the disbursement of claims against premiums and continuously appraise the risk of its outstanding liabilities. But, as an agency of the federal government, the organization also has a clear mandate to serve as an advocate for America’s agricultural producers. Moreover, RMA is subject to a high level of regulatory oversight and is directly accountable to the United States Congress, which has absolute control over its funding. Says Cornell Webb, Manager of Analysis and Reporting for RMA, “Everyone at RMA understands the importance of accountability in carrying out our mission to help farmers and ranchers. We’re constantly innovating to find new ways to increase efficiency to improve Compliance operations while maximizing transparency.”
The combination of these unique factors drives the need at RMA to continuously streamline and improve processes. One of the chief priorities of RMA’s leadership is to more efficiently manage the day-to-day interactions between its staff, private insurance companies, and the more than 1 million policyholders that the organization supports.
For more than a decade, RMA relied on multiple IBM Informix–based systems to track critical insurance policy and provider information. This included details such as a policyholder’s period of coverage, the varieties of crops insured under a given plan, and performance statistics for each provider. Because all of this information was stored in separate databases, Reviewers found it difficult to efficiently research issues and manage cases. For example, to evaluate the merit of a claim against a specific policy, Reviewers needed to log on to at least three different applications. Without a single system to manage this process, Reviewers relied on paper-based workflows to move cases forward for additional review, lengthening case resolution cycles and increasing opportunities for error.
Line-of-business managers needed to manually synthesize information from several different systems to produce standard weekly reports, which was a time-consuming process. Because data was in different formats, managers could not drill down to obtain true intelligence about the relative risk levels of certain types of crops from year to year or compare trends for claims across different regions. To boost efficiency and increase transparency, RMA needed a way to simplify performance evaluation and regulatory reporting.
|Because our Reviewers can now access all of the information they need in a centralized repository, and they have the tools to drill down into the data, they’re able to make better-informed decisions when it comes to error identification, investigating potential fraud, or resolving claims disputes.|
| Cornell Webb, Manager of Analysis and Reporting, RMA|
RMA was looking for a solution that could automate case management, help manage corresponding documents, and enable comprehensive reporting to track the performance. After considering several solutions, the organization selected Microsoft Dynamics CRM based on its ease of use and flexibility, built-in workflow and reporting tools, and integration with server and desktop applications in the Microsoft Office system.
Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Ascentium helped RMA tailor the solution to create the Compliance Activities and Results System (CARS), which is designed to automate business activities and streamline reporting by aggregating information from a variety of data sources. The CARS solution extends workflow and reporting functionality in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and takes full advantage of integration with Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, enabling seamless management and reporting services across the enterprise.
Whether RMA reviewers need to access details about policyholders or manage interactions with providers, they can find the information that is required to complete practically all of their daily tasks through the CARS system. The integration of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Office SharePoint Server lets reviewers view the coverage details and summary claim status for a given account alongside the policy- holder’s insurance files and internal RMA manuals and reports—all through a familiar, easy-to-use interface. In addition, through role-specific dashboards, managers can view consolidated statistical data, such as cost avoidance figures by year or error rates over a given time period for each insurance provider. “Our Reviewers love the fact that all of the information they need to do their jobs is available in one place. We think of the solution as a kind of data concierge—it’s always ready to serve up whatever information we need, when we need it,” says Webb.
Holistic View of Cases
With the relational capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Reviewers gain a holistic view of each case so that they can instantly identify connections between insurance providers and agricultural producers. The ability to see these relationships in conjunction with transaction data and correspondence history enables Reviewers to quickly answer inquiries and resolve disputed claims. Reviewers can also identify which colleagues have been involved with a particular case and the specific workflows associated with their involvement over time. By using the Advanced Find feature in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Compliance staff can quickly generate lists of accounts with disputed claims or suspected fraudulent activity, or identify which agricultural producers have been sanctioned based on previous misconduct. Says Webb, “With CARS, we have a 360-degree view of each account’s
|RMA’s CARS solution includes role-specific dashboards to simplify tracking of|
key performance indicators.
activities, which means we can handle cases more efficiently and we have a much richer set of information to draw from to support our decisions.”
Flexible Reporting Tools
Reviewers take advantage of the ability to filter data on a number of dimensions and quickly adjust the format of basic reports to tailor views of information to align with their specific job functions. In particular, RMA managers appreciate the ability to export custom report fields and data to Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets and dynamically refresh the data to obtain current values. “The flexibility of the reporting tools in Microsoft Dynamics CRM makes all of our people more self-sufficient and helps save time across the board,” says Webb. “Without consulting IT for help, Reviewers and managers can drill down into the records they’re most interested in and create reports that are easy to work with and analyze and always up-to-date.”
|With CARS, we have a 360-degree view of each account’s activities, which means we can handle cases more efficiently and we have a much richer set of information to draw from to support our decisions.|
| Cornell Webb, Manager of Analysis and Reporting, RMA|
With its CARS solution built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, RMA has been able to reduce the amount of time required to create key reports by as much as 80 percent. In addition, the organization has gained improved visibility into its operations and is now better equipped to evaluate performance across its many locations.
Reduced Reporting Time by Up to 80 Percent
Through role-specific dashboards and flexible, customizable reporting tools, RMA has been able to significantly reduce the time required to produce key reports. One manager previously spent five hours to generate a weekly tracking report that detailed the status, error rates, and results of each office’s active case workload. That same report now takes one hour to complete, which represents an 80 percent gain in efficiency and a total annual timesavings of nearly 500 hours.
Enhanced Case Management
RMA’s Reviewers continue to take advantage of simplified access to information and a holistic view of each case to drive more effective case management. In addition to detailed case notes and correspondence histories, Reviewers can quickly link to updated RMA guidelines concerning insuring specific classes of crops and internal best-practices information. “Because our Reviewers can now access all of the information they need in a centralized repository, and they have the tools to drill down into the data, they’re able to make better-informed decisions when it comes to error identification, investigating potential fraud, or resolving claims disputes,” says Webb.
Improved Compliance Through Better Performance Measurement
CARS gives RMA leadership the necessary tools to quickly and effectively evaluate performance across all of the organization’s locations. This has helped ease regulatory compliance by enabling RMA’s leaders to rapidly implement changes to operating procedures or budgeting in accord with shifting federal legislation. Says Webb, “The CARS solution built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM gives us maximum flexibility so that we can provide the highest levels of service while adapting to changing government regulations.”
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.
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