For most people, a computer glitch such as the one that recently hit BlackBerry Bold 9900 phones may cause users a lot of frustration and companies to lose productivity. Annoying , yes; life-threatening , not really. But for some members of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), a software glitch has created a bureaucratic and emotional nightmare that goes far beyond inconvenience.
CalPERS hired a leading technology consulting firm to consolidate nearly 50 archaic IT systems and create one new online system for its members. But rather than simplifying things, the new “my CalPERS” has caused nothing but fear and stress. A glitch in the new system resulted in insurance policy cancellation letters being incorrectly sent users to some members, and delayed the mailing of death benefit checks to widowed spouses. While the company stresses that members will not go without medical coverage due to the erroneous correspondence, some members are doing just that until each case can be resolved.
And it is also causing CalPERS major headaches in terms of both customer support and IT fixes. Instead of decreasing the amount of time it takes to administer death benefits, the new system has doubled the processing time. Customer service on-hold times have also increased significantly since the switchover. Launched just two months ago in September, programmers already have implemented 16 system-wide updates and 1,340 fixes/enhancements. CalPERS member services staff estimate that the problem will be fixed in 60-90 days – a long time to go without health insurance,
The impact of a software glitch on users and companies goes way beyond aggravation. For CalPERS, the consequences are loss of time, money and productivity as well as damage to their corporate reputation. For its members, the glitch has resulted in the unnecessary payment of medical costs, delayed availability of prescription medicines and the anxiety that comes with losing one’s safety net.