Supplemental benefits carrier UnumProvident (Chattanooga, Tenn.) is rolling out Plane.biz, its next-generation, Web-based application that provides a common enrollment platform for all of the worksite marketer's products and enrollment strategies. Plane.biz improves on the carrier's earlier Plane system by eliminating manual processes and effecting rapid collection of enrollment data in a central database, according to Rosalind Connor, assistant vice president of enrollment services, UnumProvident. The new system will be used during face-to-face enrollment sessions, through call center interaction and via employee self-service over the Internet, she relates.
While the previous Plane system could be used to enroll employees across a similarly wide range of product offerings, it only functioned well in a face-to-face, laptop enrollment scenario, Connor notes. "Plane.biz will allow us to ... support employees who are unable to meet with an enroller," she says. "Because it's a browser-based application," Connor continues, it supports call center interactions and employee self-service.
And, since data is centralized within the Plane.biz system, employees can deal with any enroller or contact center operator when making enrollment changes; they also have the option to make changes via Web self-service. "After an employee goes home to discuss the enrollment with their spouse, they could call our contact center and it would already have the information, whereas before, the contact center wouldn't have access to that information because it resided on the laptop," Connor says.
"What we've created with this new process is a way for enrollers to just push a button, which will synchronize the data and get it up to the place where we can process it," explains Steve Meller, assistant vice president, enrollment technologies, UnumProvident. The platform is built so that it can "sniff out" a wireless connection, Meller says. "If the connection is there, we will seamlessly start sending data, and the user won't even be aware that it's happening."
Though the system is Web-based, it was designed to function in a disconnected mode as well. This presented difficult technology challenges, according to Meller. "There's some difficulty any time you want to allow a Web-based system to work disconnected from the Web," he says. "To address these challenges, we've stuck to standard Microsoft [Redmond, Wash.] technology - we use a .NET application framework and we're running a Web server on the laptop. We use Web services technologies for when a computer is connected to the Internet to synchronize our data and provide updates."
The employee self-service module currently is live; other major pieces will launch this fall, including contact center integration, according to Meller. UnumProvident says it will be able to provide core benefits products enrollment on the system by early 2006.
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