Thursday Jun 04, 2015

Delivering Best of Breed Solution to Manage Policy Lifecycle

In recent years, we’ve seen increasing interest from small-to-mid-sized carriers in transforming their policy administration systems (PAS). The business case for transformation is clear as leading insurers are already showing the benefits of modern and flexible policy administration systems. PAS transformation simplifies the IT environment by reducing the number of redundant systems and processes as well as reducing overall IT costs. They can also improve market agility by creating a more flexible platform for quickly responding to customer needs and regulatory requirements.

Even though the business case is clear, one of the biggest considerations for PAS transformation is the selection of a technology partner for this transformation journey. Carriers must be aware that selecting a core system ties them to the product vendor for years to come, so picking the right vendor – one that can provide the latest features and technology that can support your specific business goals and optimal business processes – should be the main priority. Carriers should look at vendor’s functionality, advanced features, affordability, usability and architecture in detail and determine if the vendor provides the best solution for each of the policy lifecycle processes.

With the objective of helping small-to-mid-sized carriers reducing the risk and getting the best of breed solution to make them successful in their transformation journey, Oracle is partnering with Sunlight Solutions to deliver best-in-class insurance administration solution for P&C carriers. Sunlight Solutions is a new up and coming company that provides modern policy administration system for P&C market. The joint solution will deliver greater speed-to-market, business agility and lower cost while reducing the risk.

Additionally, Oracle will be exhibiting at the IASA conference in Las Vegas June 7-10th. Please stop by Oracle Booth #440 to learn more about the joint solution. Learn more about other activities at the conference by visiting oracle.com/events.

The Transition to Standard Software in the Insurance Industry

I spend a lot of time talking to a range of individuals within various financial services institutions (predominately Life & Annuity Insurance carriers in fact), directly and indirectly, about the “fun” aspects of maintaining and modernizing their business processing systems, especially when faced with the prospect of having to comply with  new and ever-evolving regulations requiring companies to

  • Maintain a regulated level of charges and demonstrate it
  • Reveal your audited processes to the outside world
  • Change how you remunerate your distribution network – for future business only, that is
  • Start providing enrolment services for your corporate clients
  • Be prepared for unannounced visits from compliance staff
  • And so forth

Actually, these tend not to present themselves individually  but seem to be a constant part of doing business. Companies’ responses to these requests from regulators are comfortably reliable and familiar as they rely on the resourcefulness of the in house team to adequately “polish up” the existing estate. In essence, companies are dependent on a group of long-term employees who are passionate about the systems they support (and may have built) for quick fixes instead of developing a strategy for modernizing.

Having been in this situation in the past, it’s not surprising to me that companies turn a blind eye to “how” things get done as long as 1) it gets done and 2) doesn’t interrupt business life as usual.

So how long have businesses left themselves in a vulnerable position by relying too heavily on in-house software maintained by these types of passionate teams?  Well I forget personally, but my sources have recently informed me that this has been perpetuated since the early nineties. This historically tried and tested development regime has a cumulative “agility strangulation” cost, as I learned from personal experience and regularly try to communicate to the aforementioned financial services institutions.

Being an Insurance industry expert helps when trying to convey this, but coming from a vendor they sometimes assume that I am biased. Imagine my joy when I came across the following from those nice people at McKinsey

I couldn’t have put it better myself, as Oracle is in an ideal position for many reasons to be an active partner in the transformation programs McKinsey so articulately and knowledgably describe as the “5 T’s”  in the “Lessons in standardization” section of the article. I recommend you read the McKinsey article as well as the most-recent Gartner Magic Quadrant report to anybody finding themselves caught up in this dilemma of how to transition to standard software.

You may also want to read a recent blog post on core system vendor selection.

If you want more information on Oracle’s comprehensive set of solutions for insurers and how they apply to individual parts of the business, visit oracle.com/insurance.

Wednesday May 06, 2015

Avoid the “Big Bang” Approach to Legacy System Replacement by Utilizing Business Process Management Solutions along with Oracle Insurance Policy Administration

Insurance companies have long recognized that they have a need to adapt quickly to new market opportunities, regulations, and technologies as well as customer and corporate needs. Many have to carefully navigate modifications to their existing complex infrastructures and processes with the introduction of new ones. Business Process Management (BPM) allows for the introduction of new technologies and streamlined business processes that can improve costs and visibility while at the same time protecting investments in legacy systems.

Carriers that utilize any form of Business Process Management and Orchestration can be considered as operating in an Intelligent and structured manner, bringing the advantages of:

  • Process orchestration
  • Model driven
  • Content management
  • Human interactions
  • Process management and Business Activity Monitoring (BAM)
  • Effective implementation of Service Level Agreements (SLA)
  • Connectivity
  • Knowledge repository

Using BPM solutions, business users and IT can more easily collaborate to implement and maintain a system that eliminates unnecessary manual processes and allows for end-to-end visibility of new streamlined, automated workflows. Together with the Oracle Insurance Policy Administration solution or Oracle Insurance Calculation Engine, BPM tools can be used to orchestrate new business, rating, underwriting, and claims processes while providing insight into key insurance performance measurements.

A catalogue of predefined and pre-integrated template product models and rules provided by Oracle Insurance Policy Administration can be easily integrated with predefined connectors for various third-party platforms and data services. With a good BPM suite, legacy systems can still be utilized and made part of a virtual service catalog allowing for a more manageable migration from older platforms and processes to newer ones. It reduces the need for carriers to take a “big bang” approach to legacy system replacement and gives the flexibility to migrate in phased manner and reduce the risk.

To learn more about Oracle Insurance Policy Administration and how Oracle’s solutions can be used to support and transform your business, visit oracle.com/insurance.


Don’t forget to keep up with Oracle Insurance year-round via social media.

Wednesday Mar 18, 2015

Oracle Insurance Policy Administration Named Leader in new Life and Annuity Policy Administration Systems by Two Analysts

In recent analyst reports by Gartner and CEB TowerGroup, two of the world’s leading IT research firms, Oracle Insurance Policy Administration for Life and Annuity has been named a leader among life and annuity policy administration systems.

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

Obviously, this is very exciting news for us, as we have focused heavily on delivering a best-in-class policy administration system that can support both group and individual life policies and deliver any insurance product including life, annuities, group life and worksite/employee benefits, on a single platform. The latest release features expanded rules reuse capabilities that help insurers increase speed time-to-market and improve product agility for new products and plans.

We believe placement as a leader in these reports affirms that our focus aligns well with the needs of our customers as we innovate on a flexible, centralized and rules-based solution that supports end-to-end processes including policy setup and issue, enrollment, underwriting, billing, collections, policy processing and claims.

According to Gartner, Oracle Insurance Policy Administration for Life and Annuity was positioned in the Leaders Quadrant based on the combination of completeness of vision and ability to execute, the two primary criteria for the report. Oracle was ranked among the top 7 providers out of 17 competitors participated in the report.

Gartner wrote that “Vendors in the Leaders Quadrant have achieved significant market share, while demonstrating an ability to respond to customers’ needs. Leaders have robust, scalable products with a wide range of features, a large installed base, acceptable financial performance and good distribution. Leaders are doing well today and are prepared for the future.”

CEB TowerGroup, another leading IT analyst firm, published a new report that focuses on solutions for the life and annuity technology space. In this report, Oracle Insurance Policy Administration was ranked as best in class in two important categories: policy lifecycle attributes and enterprise support. The CEB TowerGroup report ranked Oracle number 1 and gave a perfect 5.0 out of 5.0 score in the policy lifecycle attribute category, outpacing 10 other competing solutions. Oracle also tied for first in the enterprise support category that helps position Oracle as a strong vendor in this space.

CEB TowerGroup found that Oracle Insurance Policy Administration provides product flexibility that is unmatched in the market. Oracle’s solution does not require any programmatic changes as all the rules and logic are built using the Rules Palette, a GUI configuration tool that uses drag-and-drop functionality, allowing the user to define and customize rules. The same configuration can be applied to underwriting, product management, audit trail, and other components of Oracle Insurance Policy Administration.

Over the years, Oracle has continued to enhance our policy administration solution and we maintain our commitment to being the leader in the market. We are convinced that the breadth and delivery of Oracle Insurance Policy Administration for Life and Annuity helps customers accelerate product development, improve operational efficiency and reduce time-to-market. We believe this is why these leading analyst firms continue to recognize and affirm our position of leadership in the life and annuity policy administration market.


Don’t forget to keep up with Oracle Insurance year-round via social media.

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.

About

Oracle's flexible solutions can help insurers navigate the change necessary to meet today’s challenges and have the business agility to be prepared for the future.

For more information, visit oracle.com/insurance.

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