IntlSOS 30 Years - From East to West - Page 145

08 Developing a Global Infrastructure | The Tools of Technology
The Tools of Technology
Technology-based services have become a major
part of our offering to clients and are fundamental
to our ability to provide a truly global service.
Having experts on hand 24/7 requires access and
co-ordination, and that in turn means making the
most of available communications and information
technologies. Some of the telemedicine technologies
we use today have already been mentioned.
It was somewhat different in the early days in Asia
when there was little technology available. Even the
phone systems were basic; it could take weeks to
get phones installed in our Assistance Centres.
Telexes, faxes, notebooks and spreadsheets were
the usual tools within AEA at that time, as they were
in other similar sized companies. But running
Assistance Centres, communicating with remote
locations and building up a network of providers
meant making the most of emerging technologies.
In the late 1990s we undertook a number of website
developments to support our business operations.
One of the most significant projects was WINIS
(Worldwide Implementation of a New Information
System) which began in 1998. As members were
increasingly travelling to different places, and
therefore receiving support from different Assistance
Centres, it was essential to create a single, centralised
customer list that everyone could access. WINIS
started this process of global standardisation.
We have already seen how information and
advice was put online to keep members informed
of unfolding events such as SARS, Avian flu and
the tsunami. A more proactive approach was
also needed.
As well as centralising information about our clients,
we needed to keep track of our growing network of
providers. Again this information lay in different
Assistance Centres in physical files. SPIN (the
Service Provider Information Network), developed
by Dr Doug Quarry and Thierry Watrin went online
in November 2002. It was followed, in 2004, by a
global case management system. Developed by
Mark Crawford and later supported by Linda Lee. It
aimed to ensure that anyone dealing with a case,
from any Assistance Centre, would see the same
details in real time. Whilst WINIS was eventually
replaced by, SPIN and Case
Management are still used today.
This was the time of the .com revolution and
creating SOS On-Line was seen as a natural step –
it was exactly what clients were expecting. At a
time when the company was looking to raise funds,
it was also an important way of adding value to
the company in the minds of potential investors.
Once work to develop internal systems and
processes was underway, the need to develop
client-facing services was addressed. Although a
website existed with basic information it needed
enhancing to deliver a good service to members.
This was formalised in 2000 when SOS
On-Line Division was set up under Tim Daniel.
As Tim explains: “The aim was to capture the vast
knowledge and expertise in the heads of our people
and share it with clients in a meaningful way. SOS
On-Line paved the way to offering an industryleading online and on-call solution. This made a very
powerful combination of information delivery.”
Tracking flights, Philadelphia
Assistance Centre, US, 2013.
The first step was to move operations from
Singapore to Philadelphia. This was done mainly
for technological reasons. Tim’s team gradually
built up a huge database of medical and security
information for access by members; by 2005 more
than two hundred Country Guides had been
produced. Reflecting the multilingual nature of the
company, these were available in English, French,
Spanish, Japanese and Chinese. The site could also
serve as a secure repository for employees’
emergency contacts and medical history – another
useful feature for clients. The content and languages
of SOS On-Line have continued to grow; today there
are 226 Country Guides and 390 City Guides.
Arnaud Vaissié: “As a global 24/7 operation we have
to be able to access the expertise of our people all
around the world at any time. The extraordinary
pace of telecommunications and IT developments
over the last 30 years has massively helped. We
rode on the waves of these advancements and we
continue to harness emerging technologies to
better serve our clients.”


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