New Software Solutions Benefit Insurers on the Inside and Outside
Robert Regis Hyle | February 12, 2014
Union Mutual of Vermont wanted what most carriers seek: improvements in the way they deal with agents and internal business users.
By Robert Regis Hyle
Technology never rests; it is ever changing. So when insurance carriers study the possibility of investing in a new technology platform, the decision often comes down to two key areas: Will the new platform improve ease of doing business with independent agents; and will the technology enable them to make important improvements in the processes performed by internal users to make them more efficient.
Carriers also have to look closely at their own IT department and how the staff is prepared to deal with both the new technology being proposed and the older less-efficient technology that calls for programming skills that younger IT workers either don’t know or don’t want to know.
With its legacy system running on the COBOL programming language, Union Mutual of Vermont Companies, a personal lines carrier that operates in the Northeast, felt strategic planning in those compelling areas were more than enough reason to invest in the solution it ultimately chose: the SurePower Innovation System from ISCS.
Union Mutual had no preconceived notions of where this project would lead them, so the carrier brought in an outside consultant from IPA to help guide them on the path, according to Gary H. Ouellette, senior vice president, operations for Union Mutual of Vermont.
“[The consultant] helped us define our needs, the products that were available on the market, and identified 15 vendors with products that had the potential to meet our needs,” says Ouellette.
Union Mutual put together a project team that included, among others, Union Mutual’s CFO, CIO, and the head of their project management office as well as leaders from the business side. The search for the right partner took six months, according to Ouellette, and in the end ISCS won the contract by a unanimous decision.
“Their technology was the driver,” he says. “We didn’t feel the other vendors were quite there yet. We also were looking for a partner, not just a vendor. Partnership was important to ISCS as much as it was to us.”
Having the PMO in place helped accelerate the implementation and was critical to the success of the project, which Ouellette explains took just five months.
“We were well prepared for this, plus ISCS uses an agile development process to move things quickly,” he says.
Ouellette explains that the company was so pleased with the agile development that it has adopted agile development for all of its projects moving forward.
“I feel that agile development kept the business side more engaged in the project because we were implementing parts of the system as we moved forward,” he says. “The daily meetings and regular testing during the project, which are integral parts of the agile approach, kept us on track toward our goal. I look forward to continuing to use the agile approach.”
The project was launched in two phases, according to Ouellette. Ninety-six percent of Union Mutual’s business is done in three lines—auto, home, and business. That made up phase one of the project. The remaining four percent of the carrier’s business was part of phase two. Which the carrier wrapped up at the end of 2013.
The ISCS platform is built on Linux with Java-based programming, according to Ouellette.
“It’s good to go for the future with regular updates,” he says. “ISCS has an active research and development department and they understand the needs of their client base.”
For his part, ISCS president Andy Scurto appreciates the value of Union Mutual as a partner.
“Union Mutual of Vermont is an important part of the New England insurance community, with a strong history of independent agent and local support,” says Scurto. “We are proud to be a partner in their use of new insurance technology to provide their time-tested, personal service to policyholders and agents and to grow an even stronger presence in these evolving competitive markets.”
An integral issue to the success of any new policy system is data conversion and Union Mutual hired ITS Data Services, a strategic partner of ISCS, to assist in this area.
“We had a 90 percent success rate on conversion,” says Ouellette.
With any technology implementation, the proof of success comes from the performance and in Union Mutual’s case, its approval rating in the area of ease of doing business has been loud and clear.
“We have record new business,” says Ouellette. “When independent agents saw that we have new interfaces and that we were easier to do business with, it caused a swell in our business. This definitely is a platform to launch our company into the future.”
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