COI management for public entities

Managing certificates of insurance (COIs) has always been a challenge. With increasing pressure on the budgets of state and local governments, dedicating the resources required to effectively manage this process can mean sacrificing time spent on other core functions. Relying on color-coded spreadsheets and a manual review process often leads to unsustainable procedures that fail to scale and adapt as an organization grows.

COI management is risk management

Although the process can be a time-draining administrative exercise, COI management is fundamental to managing risk transfer. The article Contractual Risk Transfer Issues: Reviewing Certificates of Insurance highlights the important role COIs play in risk management, noting, “Because many liability losses occur through the transfer of risk, it has become necessary for a Risk Control Consultant to assess the hazards and controls arising from contracts and agreements in a fashion similar to identifying other hazards, such as exposed wiring or missing guardrails.”

Most public entities are obligated to carefully monitor COI compliance in order to control unidentified risk transfer. Yet the administrative burden associated with endless cycles of hunting down updates and monitoring for expirations or deficiencies can easily exhaust any department. Given the mandate public entities have to stretch every resource to the furthest extent possible, the tension between the importance of an effective COI management process and the toll it takes on those managing it is difficult to resolve.

Process issues with COI management are really communication issues

The drivers that tap resources in the COI management process typically involve wasting time chasing down certificates from non-responsive insureds. Several communication challenges make this process less than efficient.

Email white noise

The vendors and contractors you need to complete/update certificate information are likely facing their own email overload. According to the 2017 Adobe Consumer Email Survey Report, more than 3 out of every 10 business emails sent will not even be opened.

This increases the likelihood that you or a member of your staff will have to follow up. Tracking who needs a follow up through spreadsheets, even those with helpful color coding, still requires someone to send out the emails while continually updating the sheet. This is not the model of a scalable process and typically leads to a huge resource drain.

Customized messages

Complicating the communication process further, not all insureds should receive the same message. Different vendors and contractors may require vastly different minimum coverages. This means creating separate messages for different types of insureds and spending time deciding which insured requires which message.

Our post Managing certificates of insurance (COI) successfully discusses how complexity adds to the challenge:

“A manual process for COI management can easily become a resource draining nightmare. In Why You Should Be Concerned with Certificate Tracking Gibson highlights, ‘…properly managing certificates of insurance poses a significant administrative challenge. It is time intensive and complex.’ It is this combination, time intensity, and complexity, that creates the administrative burden frequently associated with certificate management.”

Disruption costs

Most organizations cannot afford to have resources dedicated solely to COI management. This means that the employees managing the process have to add the cycles of emails and paper chasing on top of their regular duties. Research shows, however, that adding a disruptive task—one not related to the previous work—can be especially damaging to productivity.

The CIPHR article How to manage email overload at work notes, “In a study from the University of California Irvine, researchers shadowed workers on the job, studying their productivity. They found that after a worker completely changes their focus to another task – such as checking email – it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on your original task.”

The referenced study, The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress, indicates that the measures workers use to combat the loss of focus may have negative long-term effects. It states, “Our data suggests that people compensate for interruptions by working faster, but this comes at a price: experiencing more stress, higher frustration, time pressure and effort.” This means that the added stress and frustration arising from the disruptive nature of COI management could contribute to burnout and job dissatisfaction.

Problems with the status quo

A manual COI management process suffers from all of the problems identified above. Email overload means that insureds are less likely to even open requests for updated information, leading to additional follow up and more cycles. One-size-fits-all messages don’t reflect the diversity of requirements needed for different vendors and contractors, which means multiple messages must be created and sorted through. And the 20-minute productivity hit that comes from breaking away from core duties to sift through emails, on top of the time figuring out who needs which email and what responses have (or have not) trickled in, can generate stress and frustration in the employees responsible for this process.

Tackling COI management with a different approach

Given the communication issues present in a manual COI process, how can the right technology help make management sustainable and proactive?

Problem #1 — Large amounts of time spent hunting down the non-responsive and non-compliant as expiration dates near
Solution — Condition-based emails

Let the system sort out who needs which email (e.g., those at 30, 60, or 90 days before expiration; insureds with possible deficiencies; etc.). Origami Risk monitors those conditions continually and lets you send notices to everyone in the same bucket with one click. No more time spent figuring out who is ignoring your requests and which follow up they should get. With the ability to add or delete recipients at the time of send, Origami allows you to fully automate this process and create exception-based rules. This creates smart follow up, which is a useful way to eliminate the time wasted chasing data.

Problem #2 — Time spent customizing/modifying emails to indicate the appropriate minimums and coverages that apply to each type of insured
Solution — Manage groups, not individuals

Instead of applying rules to each insured, build out profiles that group together vendors and contractors with similar requirements. By setting coverage requirements to as many profiles as needed (and adding new policy types and minimums as required by each profile) you can easily customize each group’s profile, and tailor the certificate request once for the whole group. With template-based emails, you can make sure that each insured gets the request that applies to his or her profile, without having to customize each individual email sent.

Problem #3 — Time wasted through disruption costs
Solution — Offload the nagging and focus on the reporting

With the system identifying which insured should receive which email template—and when to send them—your team can move from the administrative taskmaster role to a risk management function. Origami can also help you notify those within the organization who are scheduled to work with insureds that have deficiencies or expired certs, opening additional ways to enforce compliance before it becomes a liability issue. Connecting the risk transfer process to those directly affected by it turns this from an administrative chore into actions that reduce risks for your organization. Effective dashboards and reports pushed to the affected agencies/departments keeps everyone on the same page, and the collective “eyes on the prize.”

Flexibility and sustainability — Key ingredients for success

Given the variable nature of COI management scenarios, a rigid system — or one that requires a great deal of attention to maintain — is likely to struggle to keep up. The ability to create new profiles and set customized coverages for each profile is a key aspect of flexibility. A fully comprehensive COI management approach, however, requires more.

Origami Risk allows you to waive requirements as needed, and tracks the reasons for each waiver. If a contractor is working only in one state, for instance, the requirement for coverage in all 50 states could be waived. This ability to make reasonable exceptions as warranted, yet maintain an audit trail of each waiver, allows your organization to have the real-world flexibility required to make the process adaptable.

The sustainability factor involves more than making the email process simplified and automated. Entering in hundreds or thousands of insureds manually into a new system can itself be a huge resource drain. Origami Risk allows for batch imports through the easy-to-use Data Import tool. Take the spreadsheets that contain the insured information and simply upload them through the Data Import. Easily add new batches of new insureds at any time without having to manually input each one into the system. In this way, the ongoing maintenance demand is reduced.

Beyond the ease of batch processing, utilizing custom portals can make the process of onboarding new insureds even easier. Direct insureds to the portal, let them fill out the information needed to assign a profile (instead of having your team entering that data), and set up the rules for review/approval. This process eliminates the initial back and forth with a new insured. Offloading the form completion to the vendor/contractor, while still being able to monitor onboarding progress in a centralized dashboard, means that your organization can control the process instead of merely throwing resources at it.

COI management is a serious challenge for even the most vigilant public entity. There are a lot of moving parts involved, and each one threatens to take away precious staff resources and send them into an administrative black hole of paper chasing. But there is a better way. Manage your COI proactively and keep your staff out of that resource trap.


Origami Risk can help you tame the COI process without burning up your resources. Request a demo today.