An array of antiquated and disparate systems awaited new CIO and VP Jim Tierney when he joined Washington, D.C.-based Ullico ($4.4 billion in total assets), which provides life and P&C coverage for union employees, in late 2005. "In addition to developing new products and improving speed to market, we were re-entering the commercial market in our P&C division," recalls Tierney. "Accomplishing all of these initiatives required a complete technology refresh -- systems had to be Web-enabled to provide our producers with the latest tools and efficiencies."
Since the refresh ultimately would include migrating off the existing mainframe-based client/server environment, Tierney focused on the new commercial lines. During 2006, he says, a cross-functional team developed requirements for a new end-to-end policy administration system: configurable, rules-based, flexible, paperless and Web-based.
By late 2006 prospective vendors had been narrowed from a couple dozen to three. "Because we envisioned that business users would, primarily, grow the system themselves, configurability was key," Tierney explains. "We gave each vendor our specifications and asked for a prototype. ISCS returned with one in three weeks. The others said it would be too costly and too time-consuming."
According to San Jose, Calif.-based ISCS, its SurePower Innovation policy admin system automates personal and commercial lines underwriting, policy management, claims management, billing and financial reporting -- all with integrated document management. While negotiating a deal for the Web-based platform, Ullico purchased two Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.)-enabled production servers to house the system as well as a virtualized server for development and testing. Implementation began in May 2007.
"Since commercial lines were new for us, we lacked appreciation for the complexities associated with operating in different states," Tierney admits. "So we struggled a little with articulating the appropriate workflow at first."
As a young company, ISCS also contributed some hurdles. "Like any new company there were holes in the system documentation, which led to early architectural mistakes," Tierney notes. "That, coupled with our underestimations, forced us to bring in outside developers and put us about 20 percent over budget. On the other hand, ISCS' modest size makes them extremely responsive."
Still the rollout was completed quickly and for less than $1.5 million, Tierney reports. "Traditionally a project of this size would have taken 12 to 18 months," he asserts. "We were online in just seven, which is a testament to the efficiency of a highly configurable solution. Plus, empowering business analysts to configure the new system means we won't need expensive developers, and productivity will be improved by not funneling every change through IT."
Tierney also credits the system with fast commercial lines revenue growth. "We went from zero, in January 2008, to $10 million in commercial premiums in eight months," he reports. "We launched with seven states and are on target for 15 by the end of this year. And our premiums-per-underwriter are up significantly. Much of it is due to moving away from laborious, paper-based processes."
Going forward, Ullico will migrate all P&C lines onto the ISCS system. "When we can completely retire our legacy systems in 2010, then we'll see the big savings," Tierney comments.
Case Study Profile
company: Ullico (Washington, D.C.; $4.4 billion in total assets).
lines of business: Life, and property and casualty insurance.
vendor/technology: ISCS' (San Jose, Calif.) SurePower Innovation policy administration platform.
challenge: Web-enable systems while simultaneously re-entering the commercial P&C market.
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio