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Carrier Confidential: Allianz of America

Allianz of America CIO Oliver Bussmann and his senior technology executives have established a shared-services model that allows the carrier's P&C and life companies to leverage IT synergies while remaining focused on their unique challenges.

Buy Rather Than Build

One of those best practices is to buy technology solutions rather than build them, according to Bussmann. He points to AZOA's large-scale implementations of Accenture's (Chicago) Underwriting Components and Claims Components, and ISO's (Jersey City, N.J.) Ascendant One policy admin platform as examples. Other features of Bussman's approach to driving AZOA's success through the IT shared-services model include collaborating toward buy-in on the part of the business; regulating change efforts through project management, communications and business partner relationship management; tracking benefits back to the business; and, perhaps most important, hiring an experienced leadership team.

Alexander Bockelmann, vice president of IT strategy and operational transformation, joined the AZOA team in May 2007. Responsible for IT governance, process improvement and portfolio management, Bockelmann describes himself as a "friend of the continuous improvement process." As AZOA's change manager, he says, his philosophy is "to create buy-in early in the change process and then execute with a strong connection to the IT team rather than a big bang approach that drives change first and builds consensus later."

The Best of Both Worlds

Bockelmann was charged with developing the strategic road map for the combined Fireman's Fund/Allianz Life organization. The task, he says, included identifying the best of both companies, combining it with industry best practices and defining the ideal for AZOA. One of Bockelmann's innovations was to implement performance metrics for all IT employees. "This was a challenge because individual tasks are often not automatically measured, [as are] those in a call center or business processing department," he comments.

Over the past year, Bockelmann kept a focus within AZOA on improving processes, streamlining the carrier's application portfolio and improving its vendor resource mix in order to increase throughput and quality. In terms of outward-facing concerns, he says, "Our focus was to improve our partnerships, help our partners to increase their resource retention and knowledge management, and also improve their quality and throughput."

Among the results of what Bockelmann calls "a highly successful year for operational transformation" in 2007 were CMMI (capability maturity model integration) compliance rates of 98 percent (which is well above the goal of 80 percent), owing to a concerted ongoing education and mentoring program put in place by AZOA's audit team; a reduction in problem-ticket backlog by 24 percent; an incidence of defects for deployed solutions of less than 2 percent against a goal of 10 percent or less; successful sunsetting of 104 percent of identified applications above a goal of 80 percent; and an increase in throughput by 63 percent, due to work done in CMMI, IBM optimization, application sunsetting and quality improvements, according to Bockelmann.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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