Only a few months ago, in a 2007 Tech Savvy CEO profile, Thomas R. Watjen, president and CEO of Chattanooga, Tenn.-based employee benefits provider Unum Group (2005 assets of $51.9 billion) described Simply Unum.
A new operating platform, Simply Unum was a project two years in the making that, Watjen said, would simplify the process an individual might go through to service a customer. Earlier this month, Unum officially launched the new platform, calling it one of the most significant product and service initiatives in the company's history.The platform, designed specifically for small and midsized business owners, represents substantial changes in the technology and processes in place at Unum. "It's been a very transformative initiative for us," says Kathy Owen, senior vice president of business applications at Unum. "It really covers the entire insurance value chain. All the way from quote and proposal to the payment of the claim."
Owen says Simply Unum is unique because it combines a very broad set of products under a single platform, giving customers more choice and increased simplicity at the same time. "It's a combination of process change, technology change and a new way to view product," she says. "How you bring the voluntary and employer-paid products together has really been one of the dilemmas in the [employee benefits] marketplace. So, from a platform perspective, we've tried to bring something together that offers a more simplified process that enables that."
In the first phase of the roll out, which launched this month, Unum enabled four of its offices to begin quoting and selling products offered under the new platform. In November, a second wave will add the corresponding back office administration pieces. In January, the platform will be rolled out to the rest of the marketplace.
The new system will allow Unum to quote multiple products and create integrated proposals. Customers will have access to a single Web site and increased self-service capabilities. "It enables employers to view all their benefits from one point of view," Owen says.
Several new tools were implemented leading up to the launch of the new platform, which is built around a services-oriented architecture, including a workflow solution from Tibco, Microsoft Customer Care, Microsoft BizTalk and Exstream's Dialogue document management solution.
Regarding the buy versus build debate, Owen says Unum likes to buy when it's looking for capabilities that are fairly standard in the marketplace. "We look to vendors to provide the plumbing, so looking at a workflow tool would not be something we would choose to build," Owen explains. "Where we really do invest more of our time is around core business logic. That is an area where we think we have some unique knowledge. Spending time and energy on those things will be a value for the company."