By Kathy Burger Editorial Director
Acknowledging that "implementation is an important part of standard setting," ACORD president and CEO Greg Maciag kicked off the 2007 ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum at the annual ACORD Awards Luncheon, which recognizes excellence in ACORD standards implementation. Forty-four organizations received awards at this year's event. The program featured a panel discussion among past award winners, who provided updates on ACORD standards implementations at their organizations, including "lessons learned" and advice for other companies embarking on that path.Joan Falcetta, AVP, MetLife, reported on the progress of the company's Service Request Director, an integration hub that was launched in 2000 as part of "a directive to transform how we deliver systems" at MetLife. The integration hub "provides shared services internally and externally," Falcetta reported. "It allows us to standardize on many levels, including business rules."
ACORD standards have been critical to the hub's success, Falcetta added. "ACORD helps us in speaking a common language in integration work it reduces complexity; and it has helped us create common interfaces and common logic."
One of the most important lessons that has been learned at Aon Re as it has pursued standards initiatives is "Don't underestimate the testing process," reported Tom Neff, director, industry standards, Aon Re. He also emphasized the importance of heeding the fact that standards implementation is "not an IT project, but an IT and business project. Standards don't happen on their own. It's a volunteer army."
Concurring, Thomas Krapf, VP, Reinsurance Information Management, Swiss Re, noted, "Industry standards can significantly contribute to productive information exchange with our business partners. The biggest challenge is making sure standards are implemented in critical mass."
Krapf elaborated that "it's essential to start on a smaller scale, but always have critical mass in mind - who you want to target, and what you want to achieve." Standards initiatives are not "just about data," he emphasized. It's important to have a "long-term strategy perspective - how does it fit into a company's strategy and overall operational excellence?"
According to Gary Plotkin, VP and CTO, e-business and technology, The Hartford, when it comes to ACORD standards, "it's not if, but how." The Hartford is using ACORD standards "across the board," in applications that support four main constituents: agents, third parties/aggregators; vendors; and, "most important, ACORD standards allow The Hartford to interact with itself [across lines of business] - it makes it easier to share data."
Among the key benefits have been improvements in compliance-related actions, Plotkin reported. "The use of common standards allows our auditors to do a better job of seeing if we're managing to the [regulatory] standards to which we are held," both internally and externally, Plotkin said.
Clem Booth, member of the management board of Alliance, and current chair of the ACORD Board of Directors declared a personal "passion for standards," emphasizing that "standards will be the difference between operating in an industry that has a future and one that doesn't. We're in this together to make this industry what it's capable of being." And, noting that ACORD now has an international membership, including companies that are based in South Africa, Australia and China, Booth declared, "Standards are the enabler for a global insurance industry.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio