Spectrum Gets Off the Ground (1995-1996)

Clearly, Spectrum was needed. The first version of Spectrum would be deployed at Minnesota. Working out of a 1,000-square-foot office in North Carolina and connecting to Minnesota via a modem, the FARRAGUT developers got to work. Converting Minnesota to a different flavor of COBOL with an Oracle database went fairly smoothly.

The years 1995-1996 were marked by frustration. “It was hard to get the specs under control,” said McTeer. “We didn’t yet have a well-developed capability as an organization. Conversations tended to be circular. People felt things were obvious. Meetings took up lots of time.”

When Wisconsin and North Carolina finally did go live with their first version of Spectrum, each of the bureaus held a celebration. It was the culmination of years of hard work. But it was still just the beginning of a long journey.

Removing the Training Wheels (1997-2000)

In November of 1997, Bruce Tollefson became president of the Minnesota bureau. Although Spectrum was still in its infancy, Tollefson quickly became an evangelist. “It was clearly a great way to save costs, but even more than that, getting the independent DCOs to operate in a more similar fashion helps the whole industry significantly,” said Tollefson.

Tollefson’s leadership came at a pivotal time. “He is a visionary,” said Jain. “And he has great relationship skills. Slowly, the vision began to pull together.”

FARRAGUT added new modules and applications to Spectrum and began to prepare the system for Y2K, a “pretty traumatic time” as Tollefson remembers. “Each of our shops had to go through a major data conversion to migrate the data and time ran out, none of us had yet gone live. It dawned on me that we just needed to pick a date and say come hell or high water we are going.”

The conversion went well, and subsequently Wisconsin and North Carolina followed suit. The Spectrum Partners/FARRAGUT team were picking up steam and gaining confidence as they sailed into 2000.

Spectrum is born

It was 1994, and the original founders of Spectrum, the bureaus of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Hawaii and North Carolina, were each running their own rating system on disparate legacy environments—systems that were not sufficient to support their day-to-day operations let alone future development.

Also, during this time frame there were a number of varying thoughts and ideas on how the “data submission/collection process” should be handled across the country.

Each bureau was independently working to come up with a solution to bring its own system up to speed. Minnesota, which had perhaps one of the newer systems, was still struggling to come up with a way to modernize its technology within a limited budget. “I had been talking to a lot of consulting firms at that point about the idea of migrating COBOL,” said Kostur. “It seemed to me like a no brainer but everyone else was saying ‘oh, horrendously expensive, very difficult, not likely.’”

Expanding the Consortium (2000-2001)

Then the Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts (WCRIB), the fourth member of the consortium, entered the picture. The WCRIB found themselves in a hopeless situation, having just spent a considerable amount of time and money over a five-year period trying to create its own system. “The consultants were incompetent and the system never worked right.” said Paul Meagher, former President of the bureau. “We were never able to function more than 16 days in a row without the system being down for a day or more. Experience ratings were not issued on time.

The failed project was abandoned. The WCRIB spent four months evaluating other approaches. Ultimately, Spectrum was selected. “It was working in three other organizations like ours so it had credibility,” said Meagher. “While expensive, it was still cheaper over the long run than the mainframe system that we were operating. It kept us independent, and it provided a more uniform approach from the members’ perspective.”

But the Spectrum Partners were nervous. Although it was believed that the WCRIB would ultimately be a strong partner, it was a risk. The WCRIB needed to be up on Spectrum in one year. “That was a big deal,” said Tollefson. “Essentially, they had to take their whole internal guts, rip it out, and install a completely new system. But ultimately, we decided we needed to share the burden.”

For the FARRAGUT partners, that meant stepping back from their own agendas to focus on the WCRIB installation. Ultimately, it was a risk that paid off. In ten months, Spectrum was live in WCRIB. The software was functional the very first day the conversion took effect.

“Spectrum and Farragut were literally life savers for our organization,” said Meagher. “FARRAGUT delivered a very complicated project on time and on budget. Without Spectrum being available at a critical time in our existence when our license was in jeopardy, I do not think we would still be a viable entity. With Spectrum, the Partnership and FARRUGUT we have grown stronger every year and can focus on improving our services rather than worrying every day as to whether a system that never worked right would be up and running each day we came into the office.”

Soon after Spectrum went live at the WCRIB, Meagher went to FARRAGUT’s annual meeting and talked candidly to the employees about how much the success of Spectrum had meant to him on both a professional and a personal level. “It was a powerful moment,” said Allen Gavilan, Vice President, FARRAGUT. Gavilan had been part of the Spectrum FARRAGUT team almost from its early days. “I don’t think anyone who was in that room that day will forget it. It drove home what kind of personal impact we can have.”

“Paul is a very authentic, genuine person,” said Jain. “It’s part of what makes him a great leader—his deep personal investment in the success of his organization. It’s also part of what makes Paul a great partner.”