In 1999, when PwC Consulting formulated the blueprint for its Virtual Insurance Community (VIC), one dynamic that drove the initiative was its ability to provide insurance carriers with a pre-integrated best-in-class technology solution.The global management and consulting firm, a business unit of New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, developed VIC as a component-based e-business solution for property/casualty insurers-eventually to be offered to life, annuity and group health carriers. And while the Virtual Insurance Community offers best-of-breed solutions spanning a myriad of technology applications, carriers that adopt the program-via licensing or via an application service hosting model-will still be able to deploy various applications that they previously have built and mapped within their IT infrastructure.

The solution incorporates messaging and data translations so that a carrier can deploy an application that isn't part of the community. "The VIC system is all pre-mapped with the middleware layer in place so there doesn't have to be a rewriting of design documents," says Patricia Hamilton, management consulting services, PwC Consulting.

"If a user were to run an application out of the box, all the mapping would have to be done from scratch. However, because flexibility is so important to our clients, VIC components are interchangeable and scaleable," Hamilton adds. "This enables clients to select some of their own components and integrate them with those we've chosen. PwC will update components as vendors improve their offerings in response to technological advancements and changing market needs."

In sizing up VIC, at least one industry analyst intimates that the solution represents an unprecedented opportunity for insurance carriers. "Compared to the component-based solutions that I've seen, VIC is kind of a stretch because it's so multidimensional," says Susan Cornoyer, senior analyst, global industries, Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Dataquest. "An e-marketplace might have three or four application providers on board, but a dozen is really pushing the envelope. It's a testament to PwC's global capabilities in vendor selection and systems integration to be able to marshal this together."

The following are thumbnail descriptions of the technology partners that PwC Consulting has aligned-with varyingcontractual terms-over the past two years, and the contributions they provide to the VIC solution.

ATG Dynamo, Cambridge, Mass.

ATG provides platforms and applications for e-commerce, relationship management and portals. Its frontline applications can help build and manage mutually beneficial relationships with customers.

Callidus TechnologieS, Tulsa, Okla.

Callidus provides a commissions platform for a carrier user within VIC. However, if a carrier has an existing commissions system in place, VIC defers to that particular solution.

Castek Software Factory, Toronto

Castek has created core business handling software for the financial services industry, including Insure3 (insure cubed), a family of flexible software products for global property and casualty insurance carriers.

CrossWorlds Software Inc. , Burlingame, Calif.

CrossWorlds Software provides business integration software that unites and extends business processes. The company's products-a combination of business process integration modules, sophisticated, easy-to-use tools and a patented, scalable architecture-make integrating processes within the enterprise and across the Internet possible.

Fiserv Inc. , Des Moines

Fiserv provides first notice of loss and claims status data as well as bureau reporting required by Insurance Services Office Inc. (ISO). Fiserv products and services enable carriers to perform market and customer base promotion and analysis, train and license agents, support policy issuance and administration, handle billing, claims management, reinsurance processing, accounting functions, and correspondence production, as well as management, statistical reporting and consulting.

HNC Software, San Diego

PwC has established an agreement to deploy HNC's Blaze Advisor, a rules management technology. Blaze is a 100% Java software solution for companies wishing to automate, manage and personalize business processes according to the rules that define how they do business. The application fosters efficient underwriting decisions, particularly in areas such as eligibility.

Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif.

Intel provides hosting services for the program users that wish to go the ASP route. The initial adopter of VIC, American Modern Insurance, has opted to license applications. The ASP model is expected to be appealing to startup clients that adopt VIC.

Iplanet E-commerce Solutions, Palo Alto, Calif.

iPlanet provides the security technology layer that serves as a complementary piece in support of the Web-based portal entry components that carrier-clients access on the front end.

PeopleSoft, Pleasanton, Calif.

PeopleSoft, a provider of collaborative enterprise software, enables organizations to reduce costs and increase productivity through collaboration with their customers, suppliers and employees. PeopleSoft's integrated, best-of-breed applications include customer relationship management, enterprise service automation, supply chain management, human resources management, financial management and enterprise performance management.

Sun Microsystems Inc. , Palo Alto, Calif.

Sun Microsystems Inc. is a provider of industrial strength hardware, software and services that power the Internet. One of its focal points is to take clients into the network age, providing a core technology platform and operating system support. Sun also offers systems and software with the scalability and reliability needed to drive the electronic marketplace model.

Siebel Systems Inc., San Mateo, Calif.

Siebel provides technology to enable customer service representatives working within a carrier call center to interact with external affiliates that are using VIC to perform policy management functions. Siebel's focus on customer relationship management spans every major CRM category-marketing, sales, service, partner relationship management and employee relationship management. Siebel's e-business applications provide a solution that enables organizations to manage, synchronize and coordinate all customer touchpoints over the Web, in the call center, by field sales and service personnel and through channel partners.

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