The Key Differences Between a Certificate of Insurance Tracking Platform and COI Tracking Services
COI Management |June 19, 2023
As an organization focused on compliance, understanding which of your contracting companies are appropriately insured and meet the requirements of their contract is very important. One way to do this is to require certificates of insurance (COI) documents from the contractors in your network. Many businesses find this to be a time-consuming and frustrating task and may look for support from a COI tracking platform, often in the form of software or a COI management service.
The task of managing COIs goes beyond just obtaining a copy of a company’s COI from them directly or from their agent. The content, format, and ongoing provision of these COIs are where the strong programs will separate from the “one and done” self-service options available. These latter programs may provide a portal for an organization to upload their document, but then little more is done. A better-developed program will use a combination of technology and people power to ensure the quality, accuracy, and compliance of those COIs to the requirements you stipulate as an organization.
But what is the difference between these two options, and is one preferred?
Certificate of Insurance Tracking Software (or Platform)
This refers to an electronic solution that is offered to organizations to manage their COIs in-house. These programs will automate much of the process – including uploading, expiration notices, and communications – making it easier for businesses to stay ahead of their insurance requirements. Most platforms also allow you to upload and store COI documents; some, but not all, may have options to set up alerts and communications based on expiration notices and may even include reports and dashboards to advise of compliance status. These are not standard features in all platforms, however, and as well as needing to be configured by someone on your team, they may even come at an additional cost.
One of the main benefits of the software or platform approach is that businesses maintain the responsibility for their COI management. They can keep the task internal and do not have to rely on a third party, possibly saving money while retaining control of the process and information.
Unfortunately, there are also several drawbacks to the software approach that should be seriously considered as well. The software needs to be selected, chosen, and most often licensed at a cost. The procurement and implementation process can be costly and time-consuming. It also required at least one individual to act as a subject matter expert to maintain the process, system, and requirements. There will be training time, and this task may still only be part of someone’s greater role. Time will still need to be spent working with the documents, uploading them into the system, creating an audit process, and other administrative tasks to support the program.
The biggest drawback, however, is that software alone will not provide an organization with confirmation that the COIs provided meet their contractual requirements. To improve compliance, COI documents need to be reviewed, and that requires labor and resources that a software solution does not include. As much as we hope technology will solve many problems, the collection and review of COIs is an intricate and complex process. If you are requesting items such as additional insured and most definitely if you are asking for both completed and ongoing operations additional insured endorsements, you may find a good part of your organization’s time and resources are spent on making these phone calls to contractors, working with agents, and advising of requirements. A software-only approach does not do these tasks for you.
Certificate of Insurance Management Services
COI management refers to the engagement of a third-party provider who can provide a tracking and management solution to other organizations. These typically offer a team of trained processions who handle all aspects of the COI tracking and management lifecycle – everything from gathering the COIs to confirming the language and coverage, as well as expiration dates and ongoing status of COIs provided.
This proactive and ongoing management of COIs is perhaps the most significant advantage of using a COI service. Understanding what the contractual requirements are coming from years of expertise and experience working with such documents. With each COI submitted a COI verification should be done by someone with a deep understanding of insurance policies, how they are written and laid out, as well as what the requirements are of your program. PlusOne has created a technology + people approach where we use data extract technology to pull key information from the standard Acord 25 form, as well as a manual review to ensure proper language is also included. The salient data is then tracked in our proprietary system and easily accessible and viewable for users who may be unfamiliar with reading COI documents or may want to drill down to find specific information only. Upon receipt of the COI, we also reach out to service providers and agents if anything is incorrect or missing from the coverage. We have an automated email function with SmartLinks which makes the process efficient and user-friendly for both insurance agents and the service providers. No matter the reason, it is this combined approach that produces the most accurate results for our customers.
Additionally, most COI management services also offer a great deal of support to organizations when it comes to supporting the process. Managing everything from questions from contractors, working with agents, benchmarking, and reporting on compliance levels are often commonplace in the offering. These key features improve the overall compliance with the program and ensure businesses truly mitigate their risks and are doing more than just a “grab and store” approach to COI tracking. The implementation process for a third-party solution is often very streamlined and efficient and can be far more expeditious than the procurement and go-live process of a platform solution.
Another strength of engaging a COI management service is that the burden is moved from the organization, and its employees, to the partner. This allows businesses to focus on other mission-critical tasks while the third party manages the COIs, explains the process and requirements, and manages the minutiae. The individuals completing the work are specifically trained in COI management, often receive ongoing training, and may even take industry-related courses to improve their knowledge base.
Depending on the approach, the COI tracking service does have a cost. This may be a subscription service based on the number of companies in the program, there may be variables for the number of policies to be tracked and other factors. However, based on most network sizes, this cost can be lower than the cost of maintaining staff to manage the function internally. And when the cost is balanced against the additional insight and compliance levels that are achieved, it is even more valuable. Of course, organizations do have to give up some control but, in many cases, COI management is not a task most organizations relish.
Both COI tracking software and COI management services provide viable solutions for organizations. The choice between the two will depend on the priorities of the business and whether the control is more important than a robust and expertise-based program. If there is available time and resources, then keeping the process in-house may be preferred but this is not likely the preference of most organizations.
Contents are provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Users are reminded to seek legal counsel with respect to their obligations and use of PlusOne Solutions services.
About PlusOne Solutions
PlusOne Solutions has been an industry leader in the risk management field by specializing in compliance programs that meet the complex challenges of geographically dispersed contractors, vendors, and employee networks. PlusOne Solutions protects companies from possible financial, legal, and reputational risks associated with contractor and vendor relationships while creating safer work environments. To learn more, visit https://www.PlusOneSolutions.net.
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