"We were looking for two key features," ICAT SVP and CIO Joan Zerkovich says of one of the insurer's top IT initiatives -- "an environment that allowed our underwriting staff to participate in the development of the document issuance solution, and an architecture that integrated with our Web services environment."
The selection process began in early 2006. According to Zerkovich, the list of potential providers was narrowed to a few vendors from about two dozen after ICAT considered each product's architecture and features. After online demos and on-site meetings, ICAT chose Thunderhead's (Elstree, Hertfordshire, England) enterprise communications platform.
The catastrophe insurer was impressed by a number of the solution's tools, Zerkovich relates, including its business features, a capability that allowed documents to be constructed within the software, the workflow and the user interface. "What was critical to us also was the ability to feed that data into the document issuance system using a Web service, generate the document and then store it out to our document management system," she explains.
After a month-long proof of concept, ICAT decided to implement the system for its Florida product line in June 2006. The application was operational within two weeks, Zerkovich says. "When we select a vendor, our expectation is that its solution and the architecture it provides allow a fast implementation," she adds.
The new document-issuance system was the final part of ICAT's push to construct a new architecture for growth. [For more on the initiative, see Zerkovich's 2006 Elite 8 profile] That architecture is J2EE- and Java-based, and runs on BEA (San Jose, Calif.) WebLogic and JBoss (Atlanta) Web application servers. Zerkovich says it is the key to ICAT's quick implementation times, noting that the 2005 claims system rollout was completed in just three months.
"When we looked at this implementation, we already had servers here, we already had a defined environment and were able to just install the Thunderhead environment on top of that," Zerkovich explains. She notes that the Thunderhead solution was installed on a Dell (Round Rock, Texas) 6850 server.
As a company experiencing 30 percent to 40 percent annual growth, ICAT views the Thunderhead deployment as an investment in the future. As a result of the project, "We're not going to hire [more] staff as the company grows," Zerkovich says. "We were able to integrate [the Thunderhead solution] with our new systems, where we may have had to spend money had we maintained the old system." Going forward, ICAT will run all its forms through the Thunderhead solution, Zerkovich adds. "Our No. 1 priority is more-standard document issuance," she says.