Vendors that support insurance companies have a lot riding on new business opportunities, both from a reputation and an economic standpoint. So it's no surprise that many vendors work diligently to craft the most thorough, fluid and customized proof of concept strategies that they can."We begin by getting an insurer's rating manual and rules engines and basically immerse ourselves in a company's processes," says Wendy Corman, business development officer for Bolivar, Mo.-based Duck Creek Technologies Inc. "We set up side-by-side screens to exhibit what our tool set can accomplish for insurers."

David Holmes, executive vice president, sales and marketing, for Atlanta-based Jacada Inc., relates that when his company's team arrives at an insurer's office, the way a POC proceeds can vary. "For instance, is the carrier wanting to evaluate ease of use of our solution set? If so, they are literally sitting over your shoulder at the desktop watching everything a programmer is doing," Holmes says.

"But if it's a project that doesn't require learning a new system directly, then the insurer might let our skilled people go off and do their thing for a few days. Then, the insurer's people might be brought back in to verify the system's performance. They might say, 'get it done and then I want to see that it's coming up okay in my environment.' "

Prior to a formalized POC, "an insurer will present a plan to us ahead of time, give us a chance to ask questions about it and then we will come on board to launch it," Holmes says. "By the time we get on site, we know what's asked of us and what skill sets to bring to the table. We have tech folks that are part of our sales team. These are people who can demonstrate what the difference is between our product and others. We also have designers who enter the picture. Each component serves a distinct role."At Chester, Pa.-based AdminServer Inc., the cycle starts with insurers furnishing AdminServer with product specifications about what it wants to embark upon, explains Ric Young, AdminServer's chief marketing officer.

Before the "test drive," AdminServer devotes 50 to 60 hours to preparation before coming on site to an insurer's office. AdminServer usually assigns three people to conduct its test drive, including what Young calls two "high performers" and one trainee.

AdminServer typically works with an insurer's actuarial team. "We design a test drive from the actuarial perspective," Young relates.

"We get a hold of the tables for the various product lines that are in spreadsheet format and import them to our platform. A life or annuity policy administration system is mind numbing-it's very complex. I ask actuaries for the most complex product they have, such as a fixed annuity, to design on our system. When they see their most complex product migrated to our platform, it provides the most compelling case of what we're able to accomplish."

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