Less than two miles down the road from MassMutual's State Street headquarters in Springfield, Mass., stands the historic Springfield Armory, site of Shays' Rebellion, an armed uprising in 1786-87 that many historians credit with laying the foundation on which the Articles of Confederation were replaced by the United States Constitution. Today, just up the road, MassMutual is laying the foundation for a revolutionary transformation of its own.
Over the past three years, the carrier has undergone a massive effort to rethink its technology, people and processes. Core to that effort, says MassMutual deputy CIO Bob Casale, was a recommitment to the overall mutual status of the company and, perhaps more important, a rededication to the carrier's core life business. "A large facet of the strategy -- that's underlying all of that -- is this turn from a product-focused organization or company to a customer-focused organization," he explains.
In response to that paradigm shift, MassMutual's IT team has embarked on an ambitious modernization effort to ensure that it can support the business as it changes. "Understanding where we wanted to go as a business was critical -- and then aligning that to what [it] means in IT terms," Casale says. "IT has become integral to any business in 2008. We had to set an IT and technology strategy that aligned to where we're going as a business."
Rich Pedersen, corporate VP and division head, U.S. insurance group systems, describes the transformation as a major systems improvement project -- with particular focus on the agency system and the virtues of ease of doing business.
In 2006 and 2007, the work focused on building basic infrastructure technologies. A new enterprise content management (ECM) system was implemented as well as a new set of workflow capabilities. Other parts of the project focused on information management building, the development of appropriate data warehousing capabilities and building out an SOA [service-oriented architecture] framework that Casale describes as "the backbone to our support services."
With that groundwork laid, the company was able to go live with a new whole life platform in July 2007. Released alongside that platform was MassMutual's new Legacy 100 whole life product, which, according to executives, has outperformed even the most ambitious company projections.
Also implemented last year was a strategic distribution service platform that has dramatically updated the way the carrier handles compensation and relationship management, Casale says. "We're finding that the selling community, the producer community, is very entrepreneurial and needs a way to manage its complex relationships," he explains, adding that the strategic distribution service platform is critical to supporting this.
Another tool introduced last year to support producers is a Web-based sales illustration tool, MM Designs. "It's very producer-facing and strikes right at this whole ease-of-doing-business [focus], making it easy for our producers to sell our business," Casale contends.
"We took the approach that we wanted to create the workflow for a day in the life of the producer [that would] be straight-through processed -- electronically processed from the time of illustration all the way to the time of policy claim," Pedersen summarizes. "We do that through some sound foundational aspects, such as SOA and ECM, ... and then presenting all aspects of that workflow through a Web-based interface to the field through our field net portal."
One of the initiative's final building blocks, Casale adds, was put into place at the end of last year, when the organization went live with a new nontraditional life platform. Casale calls the platform the anchor for MassMutual's legacy conversion activity, which is beginning "in earnest" in 2008, he says, and will continue for several years.
Partnership, Partnership, Partnership
Despite all the new technology, to hear MassMutual executives -- from both the business and IT sides -- tell it, the notion of partnership is perhaps more important to the insurer's modernization effort than any single new application. "We consciously set out to create a company culture that's dominated by notions of partnership -- partnership with our field force, partnership internally, partnership with IT, etc.," says MassMutual CIO Mike Foley, who plans to retire at the end of the year.