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5 Initiatives Spearheaded in Great American's Innovation Lab

The award-winning strategy has paid dividends in the form of finding time to make quick turnarounds on critical projects, says SVP Jane Bracken.

Editor's note: Insurance & Technology will be profiling each of the four insurance company winners of SMA's Innovation in Action award. Today, we take a look at Great American and Amica; tomorrow, we check in with Western & Southern and Oregon Mutual.

Great American Insurance Company has been in the midst of a lot of changes under CIO Piyush Singh, including a major core systems revamp. But even though that was going on, the company didn't want to let other innovative projects fall by the wayside. The company understood that the pace of technology doesn't slow down while big projects are being completed, so it had to find a way to carve out time and resources within its IT organization to work on innovative projects.

[This is Great American's second Innovation in Action award]

In January 2012, the company opened its i-Lab. The lab took specific business opportunities, assigned them to a group of six IT employees of different functional backgrounds, and gave them six weeks to complete the task. Within a year, the small groups had delivered five major projects:

  • A Mobile Quick Quoter capability for agents, which introduced the jQuery mobile development language to the insurance company.

  • An Executive Dashboard that allows executives to digitally annotate monthly results reports for their units. It can also be used on iPad.

  • A proof of concept for the efficacy of IBM-SPSS predictive analytics software and text mining for the claims organization, allowing it to gain value from its unstructured data.

  • Aggregation of underwriting data, which is being rolled out in phases, using HTML5.

  • A electronic signature capability.

SVP Jane Bracken, who is largely responsible for facilitating the i-Lab, says that the success of these initiatives has taught the larger IT organization a lot about how to complete projects quickly and efficiently.

"We've seen the success of smaller teams in trying to come up with something, so with some of our larger initiatives, we've gone with those 'quick starts,'" she says, "We saw the value in people that were coming from so many disciplines, so now we make sure we have members of different teams on larger projects. In fact, the fact that we were where we were on the core systems upgrade made the i-Lab more successful -- people came from areas that had created the web services or created the early on architecture work and we were using our core systems as an asset."

[To learn more about new opportunities in mobility in financial services, register for Interop here and check out the “New Opportunities for Mobility: A Financial CIO/CTO Roundtable” session on October 3 in NYC.]

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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