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How Did the Disconnection of Information In the Industry Harm Our Restoration Contractors

In a post-pandemic world where good help continues to be harder to find, employers are looking for ways to reduce their administrative overhead and keep it off. Even though a lot of people were laid off during the pandemic, the Property Restoration industry struggled to find workers as their work increased. Contractors have been tasked to find more creative ways to utilize the staff they have, while diligently looking to bring in new employees to keep up with the demand for information.

It all began with disconnection

PSA as a technology developer, we are always on the look for innovative ways to increase efficiency and automate manual processes for restoration contractors. When our team jumped into this industry back in 2002, we realized very quickly that it was disconnected in its ability to share information. Back in the early 2000s, there was only a handful of tools that catered specifically to the restoration industry - a scoping tool known as Xactimate that provided pricing for estimates, a Job Management system known as JPP that handled the production cycle, and a few generic accounting systems that managed the financial side. Each platform operated as a separate island of information, disconnected from the central hub and unable to communicate with each other. Although these tools were designed to streamline the collection of information, they were also creating a significant amount of duplication, requiring users to copy information from one software platform to another. Statistically 2 out of 100 keystrokes is an error, couple that with the amount of re-entry required and you create inconsistencies throughout the job cycle.

The need for mobility

More importantly, contractors are by nature constantly mobile, spending most of their time bouncing between the office and the field. Over 80% of them still record portions of their information on paper or through other manual processes today. Whether it was jotting down scope details, sketching out a floor plan, or logging mitigation readings, these paper-based processes limited the visibility of what happened on a daily basis. Combined with a reactionary culture, it created a workflow that was driven based on historical information where fires popped up everywhere both literally and figuratively all while driving production with their hands on the rear-view mirror.

The extra layer of complexity for compliance

As the industry started to mature, it required more detailed documentation, daily communication, milestone updates, and an increased demand on maintaining compliance and customer satisfaction. Customers from all angles demanded more timely information and access to the finite details. It was during this time we saw an increase in the number of Third-Party Administrators (TPA’s) which added another layer of administrative complexity to each program job a contractor received. Making it even worse, each program had a different set of unique compliance criteria forcing contractors to double down on administration to stay compliant.

The emergence of new technology

That was the moment we realized, as a technology developer, there needed to be a better solution. A centralized system that would provide restoration contractors with all the tools they needed to be successful. One major challenge to overcome was that a lot of the existing tools were being mandated. This forced the contractor’s hand as to what system they had to use to receive claims and have estimates approved. Our first integration started back in 2002 with Xactimate allowing contractors to import estimates, create work orders, and automatically set budgets. This space was dominated by Xactware and only in the last few years have we seen competition from CoreLogic in Canada and in the U.S. This has more recently opened up the possibility to integrate with XactAnalysis & Claims Connect in an effort to close the gap between the carrier and the contractor.

That said, it is exciting to see the industry explode with world-class technologies focused on specific elements of the claim life cycle. Mitigation solutions like Encircle, E3, MICA, and XactScope, aerial imaging services like Eagleview, and 3D tours solutions like DocuSketch and Matterport. Many contractors have eagerly jumped on board with these new technologies. However, the next hurdle is to ensure each of these solutions connect into the Insurance Ecosystem and avoid adding to the disconnect that already exists in the overall flow of information.

The evolved need for information sharing

As technology advances, so does the need for collaboration between technology providers in order to promote innovation and provide contractors with a choice. Back in 2018, a group formed known as the “Property Insurance Restoration Conference” (PIRC) whose efforts focused on standardization of both process and information in the restoration industry. It was comprised of a number of software vendors, carriers and contractor franchise groups. Although this is still a work in process, it is something this industry strives to continue to work towards. Through these efforts we have started to see a lot more connectivity between software partners who embrace integration and collaboration as a critical piece to drive innovation and technology to the next level. Paul Donald, CEO of Encircle, and one of our collaboration partners mentioned "The restoration industry recognizes that there is no one-solution provider that can do it all. Yet the alternative of choosing multiple software systems that don't talk to one another is frustrating and inefficient. Integrations, such as PSA and Encircle, are critical to putting restorers first -- allowing them to be in control with the flexibility to choose the best-of-breed technologies."

Even with the willingness for software vendors to collaborate, we have seen a lot of consolidation of technology providers in the past few years along with carriers and TPAs who are building proprietary systems. As we take one step forward, we also take two steps back in our efforts to collaborate and help share information. Despite the fact that most modern technologies are designed to be able to connect and integrate seamlessly through web API’s and other connection applications, there is still a significant amount of hesitation in allowing data to be shared.

In conclusion, there is no technical reason why, with the level of connectivity that is available today we cannot work together, collaborate, and provide the industry with the ability to choose the tools they believe are the best in class to help them succeed. Whether it be from the carrier or TPA to share claim details or estimate pricing, some say it boils down to a matter of security and privacy. Perhaps it stems from a reluctance to foster innovation outside their gated systems. Where other industries have succeeded in this effort, restoration is not one of them. Unfortunately, I do not have a crystal ball that can tell us what the future holds for the Insurance Ecosystem. I for one am a hopeful optimistic that says together we can be part of an industry that promotes open systems and encourages innovation in an effort to better the customer experience and provide more opportunities for growth and profit in the property restoration business. I believe together and through the advancements of modern technologies we can take what is still disconnected and make it a connected and complete ecosystem where all parties in the restoration industry can thrive including the policyholder.

Written by Ryan Pritchard, PSA's Sales Manager