It seems a fitting way to cap a 35-year career. Joseph McGurrin
has announced plans to retire from his position as senior vice
president of information technology at Pennsylvania Lumber-mens Mutual Insurance (PLM) at the end of 2017, but before
McGurrin stepped down, John K. Smith, the insurer’s president
and CEO, wanted to make sure a
software transformation project, begun by PLM in 2011, was
After earlier implementations
of policy and billing solutions,
PLM completed the third leg of
the stool, claims administration,
with the implementation of SIMS
Claims from Insurity.
“We knew we had to do policy
first. That was the largest problem internally,” says McGurrin.
“Claims was functional, but it was
legacy and once we became affiliated with Indiana Lumbersmens Mutual Insurance (ILM) in 2013
The policy system from Instec worked out well for the insurer because of Instec’s expertise with ISO. There are new user
interfaces and some BI tools and all the data is now exposed,
which has made life easier for a business intelligence system
PLM began to implement in March of this year.
The carrier went through a claims system upgrade because of
the two legacy systems. Along with the imaging systems that worked
alongside the legacy claims system, PLM combined four systems into
one claims system with SIMS Claims, according to McGurrin.
PLM created a great partnership with its solution providers
before the projects were begun, explains McGurrin.
“Although I don’t really like the term, what truly is most
important for us is a partnership with our vendors,” he says. “If I
don’t feel good, we don’t go in that direction. We do demos, visit
each other, reference checking, I speak to people in the field.
When we get to the last vendor standing, myself and (Smith) go
visit their leadership team. At the end of the day if the president
is happy he tells me to proceed with a contract and get started.
He has to be assured that if something doesn’t go right they
will stand beside us and make things right. If they don’t, he will
The executive leadership is happy at the end of the day if all
the systems work, but McGurrin points out that they don’t see
what is going on behind the scenes to get the systems to work
“Go live is never smooth as silk,” he says. “We’ll make it as
smooth as possible, but it will never be smooth as silk. You have
to stay on top of it every minute of every day. I’m an old timer
so I knew the old systems pretty well. I don’t pass this on to my
team and say good luck. I was on every conference call, working
with the claims team. We both had some hurdles. That’s when
the partnership becomes important.”
Every project, at some point in time, has issues, explains
McGurrin. Requirements are the biggest part of the project and
he feels you never get them 100 percent. You could spend an-
other two years on requirements if you want them to be perfect,
but McGurrin always expects some to be out of scope.
“You do the best you possibly can and live with the out-of-scope and see how critical it is for the business,” he says.
The PLM staff was huge in the transition to the new system, but
after that it came down to the integration and back-end systems.
“You hate to say it, but our people were coding out of their
jobs,” he says.
The claims legacy systems were all written in COBOL. McGurrin had two programmers at PLM and two from ILM who
found the need for COBOL was gone. With the Indiana office,
one programmer has already retired and the other has been
with the insurer for 40 years. The Pennsylvania office has one
programmer who will be retiring in 2018.
“We won’t need that expertise in the future,” says McGur-
rin. “I had one guy who wrote the claims system 20 years ago
and he’s supported it ever since. Literally all that is gone. It was
eye-opening for him. I don’t think he expected (SIMS Claims)
to take over everything he did. This drastically changed our
development staff and it’s changing the infrastructure because
billing is in the cloud, SIMS is in the cloud, and we’ve started to
move Instec to the cloud this year.”
McGurrin has been with the insurer for 35 years so that’s
why (Smith) wanted his IT leader’s knowledge to get the new
systems in place.
“Things are at a good place right now,” he says. “I feel
good about what I’m leaving behind. It’ll make for a smoother
transition for the new IT executive. There is always something
to be done, though. If you pick the right vendor and they stay
on top of the technology with new releases, you would hope the
vendors will be around for the future and continue to upgrade
to new platforms and technology.” ITA
As IT leader prepared to step aside, PLM realized it was time to get the house in order.