Thursday Feb 19, 2015

Oracle’s Dave Shively Offers His Thoughts on Core System Solution and Vendor Selection

Dave Shively, Oracle's Senior Director of Life and Annuity Policy Administration, discusses the topic of core system solution and vendor selection in today’s post:

Over the past ten years, the vendor landscape for back-office Insurance solutions has changed tremendously. The number of offerings based on modern technology has increased dramatically and the breadth of capabilities offered by these solutions has also improved significantly. As the market evolves, capabilities that were once cutting edge become default and new functionality becomes differentiating. Capabilities which once were “nice to have” are now “need to have.”   

The current vendor landscape can be broken down into the following classifications:

  • Emerging Players - newer vendors who are starting to gain a foothold in the marketplace, but do not yet have a proven track record.
  • Market Pillars - established players with very strong vendor credentials, but whose technology has not kept up with the competition.
  • Innovators - have demonstrated innovative product strengths that act as their competitive advantage in appealing to niche segments of the market but whose solutions may not yet be ready for enterprise level deployment.
  • Champions - have a strong market presence, modern competitive solution, and are the trendsetters for the industry.

When assessing the viability of a solution vendor, it is important to not only consider the strength of their product offerings, but also their strategy and reach. For their product offerings, evaluation criteria would include functionality, advanced features, affordability, usability and architecture. The other important parameter driving a product’s strength is its adaptability –providing fundamental business capabilities along with the ability to adapt to change and support growth and changing business and regulatory requirements over time.

But there are several factors that should be considered when choosing a vendor partner that go beyond the capabilities of the solution itself.  Carriers have to keep in mind that selecting a Core System ties you to the product vendor for years to come.  The average life-span of a Core System in a carrier is more than 30 years so it is important to consider not only the immediate need, for which the solution is being selected, but also the longer term needs and viability of the solution.  A few of the factors to consider include:

Financial Stability and Transparency

The long term stability of your vendor is critical to the success of your business. Vendors showing poor financial performance/statements are risky as there is a significant probability of acquisition or even insolvency. There are many examples of vendors who have created innovative solutions but could not weather market down cycles.  Vendors not willing to share audited financial information or shying away from providing an accurate picture of the past performance of their products/offerings are likely doing so for a reason. Hence, selecting vendors who can prove that they are financially stable, profitable is undoubtedly a critical criteria for selection.

Resources – Ongoing Product Investment

Significant levels of investment are required for sustained development of next generation products, maintenance of current products and customer support. Additionally, investments done in R&D that add to the performance, stability, functionality, reliability of the product demands depth of industry experience, true knowledge of the solution and a rich experience in implementing the solution. Hence, selecting a vendor who has industry experience, solution knowledge and product implementation expertise along with a proven track record of ongoing product investment is key. Additionally, as with anything you buy, there are fees and costs associated with investment products and services. Fees that seem small initially but over time grow, such as ongoing consulting fees, may have a major impact on your investment portfolio over time. All ongoing fees and charges should be well understood and vetted in order to ensure you are getting good value for each dollar paid over the life of the product.

Experience in Domain

Domain experience is critical not only to implementation success, but also to the long-term viability of the solution. Minute details of the industry are known only to those who’ve spent years in the Industry rather than having just researched it.  With regard to the implementation of the solution, you want to ensure the vendor team has the experience to quickly understand your business needs rather than your team having to educate them about basic insurance principles.  In addition, you want to make sure that the product development team understands the Insurance market so that the solution evolves with the market rather than stagnating and becoming irrelevant.  In addition, it is not only important that the vendor can put forward one or two industry experts, but rather you should look for a team of people supporting the solution who all have a solid understanding of the Insurance business.

Scalability

While most vendors profess to have a scalable solution, it is important to look for proof points around this supposition.  A vendor should be able to provide large scale implementation references, have well documented scalability testing results, and be able to succinctly articulate how their solution achieves scalability.  They should be willing to let your technical team “under the hood” so they can understand the underlying architecture and how it responds as business volume increases.

Documentation

Documentation detailing the use of product features and configuration capabilities are a basic requirement for a complete packaged solution. Guides providing installation and use instructions that are well-documented and readily available with the product are critical for the adoption of the solution by your organization.

Product Vendor versus IT Services Provider

A recent trend in the marketplace is the acquisition of industry products by services companies in order to drive services revenue.  The challenge is that services companies lack the basic product management disciplines such as providing technical support, packaging and rolling out software upgrades, supporting new releases of platform software (OS, DB, Web server), and generally having discipline around product strategy.  In addition, they are not incented to provide rich out-of-the-box functionality; rather they want to create solutions that drive services revenue by providing good core capabilities but requiring a carrier to pay for services to “customize” the solution to their needs.

Experience

Last, and perhaps most important, is the vendor’s relevant experience implementing their solution for similar carriers.  They should be able to provide both case studies and references for customers that are of a similar size and with similar product lines.  In addition, it is important to look at their list of customers that have the solution live and in production today to verify what they are telling you about their ability to successfully deliver their solution.  Just because they have sold to a lot of carriers does not mean they have a track record of success on the delivery side.

The Bottom Line

Following these criteria can result in creating long term partnerships and strategic engagements, the output of which can be the best business-product evolution in the industry. When insurers connect their business with a product and vendor well-equipped to meet today’s challenges and provide a platform for future growth, the best is sure to follow.

Monday Mar 28, 2011

Game Changer for Insurers: An Adaptive Approach to Core Systems Migration

Improved speed to market, more competitive product offerings, better customer service - these are a few of the advantages that come with replacing an inflexible, aging policy administration system. So why do insurance companies still hesitate to undertake a replacement project and modernize?

One reason is the risk involved in migrating from an old policy administration system to a new one. New ways of thinking about core system migrations, including data conversions, can help insurers reduce this risk and realize the benefits of a modern core system, like Oracle Insurance Policy Administration for Life and Annuity. The concept of "adaptive migration" combines proven data conversion methodologies with an adaptive, highly configurable, rules-driven core system, turning programming code into business rules and inflexible processes into flexible ones.

You can read more about this new approach, and how it can reduce the risk and bring the benefits of migrating to a new policy administration system. Download the newest Oracle Insurance strategy brief "Changing the Rules of the Game: An Adaptive Approach to Core System Migrations" to learn more.

You can learn even more by stopping by Oracle partner's Universal Conversion Technologies' (UCTs') booth at The Life Insurance Conference, April 11-13, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Representatives from both Oracle Insurance and UCT will be on hand to answer your questions and share best practices about adaptive core system migrations.

Not coming to The Life Conference next month?  Stop by and see us during the Life & Annuity sessions at the Core Systems Summit 2011, April 15 in Chicago, or join Oracle Insurance at ACORD LOMA 2011, May 22-24 in San Diego.   Find out more about Oracle Insurance Policy Administration for Life and Annuity and our other solutions for the industry by visiting the Oracle Insurance booth #225 and ACORD LOMA sessions featuring Oracle Insurance executives and our insurance customers.  We'll highlight more about what we have planned at ACORD LOMA this year in an upcoming Oracle Insurance blog. 

Helen Pitts is senior product marketing manager for Oracle Insurance's life and annuities solutions.

About

Oracle’s solutions provide the modern, rules-driven flexibility insurers need to support Digital Insurance transformation, simplify their IT environments, and innovate to keep pace with changing demands.

For more information, visit oracle.com/insurance.

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