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Sea Change at CSC: What I Saw at the Connect for P&C Conference

The modernization gesture that began with Java versions of key CSC applications has blossomed into a full-blown strategy dominated by forward-looking commitments.

At an industry conference a few years ago, video monitors played a continuous loop of Novarica analyst Chad Hersh saying, "You know that insurance legacy systems are dead when even CSC is developing all their systems in Java." Hersh's comment cut two ways: yes, it reinforced the ingrained perception of CSC as exemplar of the insurance industry's legacy system addiction, but it showed that modernization was finally part of CSC's strategy. Today, modernization is central to CSC's strategy, judging by presentations at the vendor's Connect for Property and Casualty user group meeting in Nashville this week.

During Connect, CSC emphasized the company's cross-industry capabilities through prominent participation by Jim Cook, president of CSC's Business Solutions and Services -- which comprises all of the company's private sector business -- and Bill Koff, corporate chief technology officer. More importantly, the vendor announced major new insurance offerings that signaled a departure from the company's legacy tendencies: CSC unveiled its FuturEdge modernization services, which you can read about here; and SaaS delivery for its Exceed Billing platform for all industry segments. At a media and analyst briefing, Sloan Plumer, the vendor's CTO for P&C presented on the company's business-process-as-a-service (BPaaS) workers' compensation offering, as well as its BPaaS/SaaS Legal Solutions Suite.

These moves leave little room for doubt that CSC has decisively broken from previous ways of thinking. My past attendance at CSC user conferences left me with the impression that, despite its gargantuan size, the vendor maintains an intimate relationship with its customers and listens attentively to their concerns. The problem is that to some degree CSC and its customers have mutually enabled their legacy dependency: insurers were reluctant to wean themselves of legacy technology, for bad reasons as well as good ones, and CSC faced a temptation to pander to them.

This co-dependent relationship was implicitly acknowledged at the above-mentioned media and analyst briefing by Jeffery Schwalk, president of CSC's P&C Insurance Division. "A strong customer base has been our strength and weakness," he said. "We don't want to leave customers behind but must find ways to move them forward more quickly."

He suggested that some customers are proving impervious to the idea that CSC has committed itself to modern systems and solutions. "I can't tell you how many clients I tell that CSC does all these things and it just doesn't sink in."

Schwalk also characterized CSC as beginning to orient not as a product but as a solution organization. With regard to the company's move to new delivery modes he said, "We want to get across the message that 'cloud isn't vapor at CSC.'"

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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