Below is the 5th of 11 Novarica Research Council Impact Award nominee case studies, which INN is presenting in no particular order. The awards will be presented at the research and advisory firm’s August 13th event in New York and honor best practices in insurance industry IT initiatives and strategy.

Property/casualty insurer Encompass deployed software to re-engineer its point-of-sale system, which is used by independent agencies to quote, bind and issue personal lines package policies. The new point-of-sale software enables agents to serve customers faster and more efficiently.

Support for the initiative came from the top, with the company’s president being the primary champion and marketer for the project. Agency process specialists were involved day-to-day with the project team, creating the initial workflow and user interaction design while making key design and rollout decisions. The project team consisted of 20 IT employees and 10 staffers from an outside IT services provider.

Encompass also set up a cross-functional steering committee to provide overall guidance. The group included representatives from sales, marketing and technology, as well as agency support organizations.

The project took 18 months from inception to countrywide rollout, including gathering feedback from agents that helped determine how the company would re-engineer workflow and user interaction.

The user interface underwent multiple iterations to identify the optimal design. The workflow architecture of the original portal was also re-engineered, migrating from a rigid, tool-generated HTML user interface architecture to a flexible architecture based on Google Web Toolkit.

Among the challenges the team faced were that the re-engineered system needed to support previous functionality without disrupting the agent experience. They addressed this by running the new and old systems in parallel and allowing agencies to make the transition at the click of a button.

As a result of the upgrade, the number of new business submissions increased up to 15 percent, and full quotes completed in the point-of-sale system rose by 30 percent. As measured in benchmark studies, the time needed for agencies to enter a quote was reduced by an average of 25 percent.

Other benefits include improved ease of doing business with agencies, and a more efficient allocation of resources for marketing representatives.

In his own words, Curt Kibler, Director of Technology at Encompass, shares lessons learned from this project.    

 

Change Management

For Encompass, our primary customer is the independent agency, and we realize they have a choice. When it came time to roll out the new generation of Encompass Express, we gave agencies the choice to use the old version or the new version, and over 80 percent of them chose the new version on their own, with no training required.

 

Project Management

Iterative development was essential for getting the design right. The team would get feedback directly from agencies piloting the system, then incorporate those changes into subsequent iterations.

 

Staffing

Having one integrated, dedicated team, jointly led by people from Sales Operations and Technology, was critical to overall project success. We were able to take advantage of a global staffing model to work nearly round-the-clock to reduce the overall implementation timelines for this extensive project.

 

Technology

Leveraging Google Web Toolkit technology, the new version of Encompass Express replaced the entire user interface architecture and redesigned the agency workflow to focus on agency ease of use.  A recent survey of agencies in one state showed an improvement in ease of use of over 20 percent in just one year.

 

What would you do differently?  

If I could do it over again, I would do this work two years earlier. The significant, positive impact it has had on our growth and agency ease of use has been simply incredible.

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