Transitioning between policy system business process outsourcing (BPO) providers in 2008 and 2009 proved anything but smooth for United Property & Casualty Insurance (UPC). First, reports Vern Kirchhoff, product manager for the P&C insurer, the analytics tools offered by its new BPO vendor were insufficient for UPC's needs. Then, he adds, it turned out the old and new BPO datasets were incompatible. "With our old provider sunsetting and our new provider focused on claims conversion," Kirchhoff recalls, "we decided to seek an outside solution for both challenges."
In September 2009, St. Petersburg, Fla.-based UPC, a subsidiary of United Insurance Holdings Corp. ($320 million in total assets), identified three suitable business intelligence (BI) vendors. According to Kirchhoff, Alpharetta, Ga.-based iPartners rose to the top. Key attributes of the solution, he says, included a customized, web-enabled dashboard with multiple metrics and considerable street cred. "IPartners assured us they had worked with both our old and new BPO providers in the past," says Kirchhoff, who declines to identify the other BI providers that were considered.
With the old BPO contract set to terminate in January 2010, iPartners set to work in November 2009. "Since the expiring vendor's dataset was static, it made sense to start with that data," says Kirchhoff. But the iPartners team quickly ran aground when it discovered the old BPO provider's dataset was idiosyncratic and exception-laden. "It took until April 2010 for two of us at UPC to resolve the inconsistencies," Kirchhoff admits. "But the new BPO [engagement] frequently needed me, so I was sometimes the bottleneck."
By contrast, when work began on the new BPO dataset, that vendor dedicated a sizable contingent to assisting iPartners and UPC. Together, the representatives of the three organizations formed an implementation team.
Since the original deployment concept called for iPartners to receive a monthly data feed from the BPO provider, the only challenge was switching to the daily extraction that the new BPO vendor actually provided, Kirchhoff relates. An error that goes unnoticed for two weeks results in 14 days of data to correct, he explains. "So we had to develop safeguards that would flag an error right away," he says.
After testing was completed in October 2010, iPartners finally went live. "It was a quantum leap" in business intelligence, Kirchhoff affirms. "Today we can look at loss ratios any way we'd like -- by specific city, time frame or type of house construction." Additionally, the new BI tool has helped UPC cut its 12-month gross non-catastrophe loss ratio from 30.3 to 22.7, he reports.
Further, a host of new metrics enabled by iPartners helps UPC identify business trends that the insurer was missing before, Kirchhoff says. And now the vendor is building custom features for UPC, including tools to allow actuaries and regulators to extract data for use in other applications.
"Building something meaningful takes time," Kirchhoff reflects. "Where speed matters is with vendor responsiveness. Otherwise, there are no good shortcuts through the process."
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