There's no way around it: It takes a long, long time to develop the software programs for a new underwriting and billing system. Then throw into the mix the risk of the internally built system not working properly, taking longer to implement, and perhaps even draining cash flow."I've been in the business for about 30 years," says Mark Gire, vice president of information services for Norcal Mutual Insurance Co. "I've never seen it take less than four to five years" to develop a solution internally.

For Gire, time is the most critical ingredient. "In my experience, it's been less risky, less expensive and much faster to purchase (information technology software) products (than to build your own)."

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