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Dell Launches Ins. Vertical

Professional services acquisition drives hardware giant's initiative.

Following the May 31 acquisition of Plural, Inc., a New York-based consulting firm with a mostly financial services clientele, Dell Computer (Round Rock, TX) has launched an insurance vertical professional services practice, headed by Chuck Johnston, formerly vice president and director, insurance information strategies, META Group (Stamford, CT).

Among the goals of the new insurance practice will be the creation of an integrated solution set tailored to the needs of the insurance technology marketplace, according to Johnston. "Dell has had a professional services arm focused around their hardware offerings and infrastructure for quite a while and now is looking to add to that and provide additional value to their clients through traditional application and strategic consulting," he says.

Given Dell/Plural's experience in financial services, a move into the insurance space was logical, Johnston adds. "If you don't treat insurance a little bit differently from the rest of the financial services industry, you have a tendency to miss the point. "

Johnston describes Dell's professional service practice as somewhat of a departure for a company known best for its hardware manufacturing and services. "We are talking about more traditional professional services consulting engagements where there's going to be application development work, although I personally have an eye towards re-hosting and downsizing," he explains. "There's a strong interest right now in cost-reduction, right-sizing, doing the right things on the right platforms, and obviously these are things where Dell has something to contribute."

Among those contributions is what Johnston calls a more consolidated offering around the Microsoft (Redmond, WA) "Wintel" platform. "A lot of the things that have been crafted in the past are not necessarily enterprise-class, mission-critical-type things because of the legacy nature in the way a lot of insurers think about these platforms," he says. Since these platforms have reached a point now where they are becoming central to the core value processes of the insurance company, holistic solutions arerequired, Johnston adds. "It's not just about buying the hardware, it's not just about installing a Microsoft-centric OS, it's not just about designing some cool Web page under IIS or GBB or .NET—it's about integrated solutions that solve business problems."

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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