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Technology > Marketing Technology

The Bare Facts On Due Diligence

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For years I have been saying that the insurance industry is to excitement what paint drying is to entertainment–and few have argued with me. Yet, every once in a while, something happens that just blows the covers off our sleepy little fiefdom and reveals a more visceral underbelly.

Not too long ago, I attended a special event during an insurance technology conference that was hosted off-site by a large software company. There was plenty of food and drink for the 75 or so guests–some of whom had brought their spouses. A live blues band was also part of the festivities, but much to the surprise of many there, the band was only one part of the entertainment.

At one point, the band leader ceremoniously introduced a young lady who might have been a vocalist but instead chose to do an interesting modern dance to a suspiciously thudding beat. Her gyrations basically consisted of systematically discarding items of clothing. First, it was just her eyeglasses, then a hair clip, then a few strategically placed scarves–not to mention her dress. Holy g-string, Batman! It didn’t take long for even this straight-laced insurance crowd to figure out that she was, in fact, an exotic dancer, a stripper or what my teenage kids would call “a hoochie.”

Jaws dropped, people smiled nervously and red-faced executives pleadingly explained to their chagrined wives that this was not what they always did when they went away to professional conferences. Confusion and embarrassment reigned supreme. Ever the cynic, I was thinking that there must be a marketing angle for the software maker here–maybe a new slogan like: “Stripping Away the Hype from Insurance Software” or “Goosebumps and Gigabytes” or even “We’ll Give Your Business a Bump and Save You from the Grind.”

The skinny on this little burlesque was far less interesting, however. It seems the software company (I haven’t named you, but you know who you are) hired the band through the club, never dreaming that part of the entertainment would include an impromptu performance of scenes from “Showgirls.” The company representatives were suitably embarrassed and apologetic (although not publicly) and, in truth, most of us probably can understand how something like that could happen.

This incident, however, raises the very important issue of due diligence. One could easily make the case that the software company, in hiring the entertainment, should have been more careful to find out exactly what that entertainment would entail. Similarly, those of us who make technology decisions for our agencies, brokerages or companies must go to great lengths to be sure that we are getting no more–or less–than we contracted for.

For example, how many of us read those interminably long license agreements that pop up and demand our assent before we can begin using a piece of software? I must confess, I rarely do, because when I have, I come to the conclusion that software companies are not responsible for how well their products work, how much you like the product, or any damage the product may do to you or your systems. Yet, when we sign the license agreement, we are saying all of that is just fine with us.

When it comes to software that is vital to your business–especially programs that your customers will interact with–it is not only advisable but essential that you read such agreements and carefully assess anything that stands out as potentially troublesome. Interestingly, some “free” online software programs that also carry spyware or adware components will clearly say so in their licensing agreements. So, when you agree with the agreement, you have no legal complaint when the spyware compromises you, your systems or your company.

Of course, most reputable software doesn’t contain spyware, but it may contain features, exceptions or shortcomings that are not readily apparent without doing some detailed homework. Those problems could cause you to lose time, money and customers. Sure, it’s a pain to read that licensing agreement, to check references and to pre-test software on your own systems, but how painful is the alternative?

There’s no time like the present to uncover the naked truth about any technology that impacts on your company. Failure to do so could have far more serious consequences than an inadvertent detour into “Girls Gone Wild.”


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