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Core upgrade brings analytics capabilities along at AMA

  • February 27 2017, 5:16am EST

AMA Insurance thought that its 2007 core transformation would carry it through the rapidly changing insurance industry for several years. But it 2015, it was back at the drawing board.

“We came to the realization our relatively new core systems limited our ability to grow and adapt to changing market needs,” says Collin Moody, VP and CIO for the Alberta Motor Association (AMA), the Canadian insurer’s parent. “As we looked at our forecasts, as well as emerging customer expectations, the only way to achieve our digital business and self-service goals was switching platforms.”

A lifeline came in the form of a recent deployment of Guidewire’s InsuranceCenter suite by AMA’s sister organization, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) South Central Ontario Insurance Company. Following their colleagues’ recommendation, AMA’s IT staff decided that Guidewire was the way to go.

“We used CAA’s framework to perform a gap-fit analysis for all evaluated options,” Moody says. “Ultimately, we decided InsuranceCenter offered the best, most proven solution.’

But the idea was a hard sell at first for a wary organization. Though core systems transformations typically come with some amount of disruption, the previous modernization had been exceptionally rocky for the Edmonton, Alberta-based carrier, creating a low organizational appetite for another journey. This made for an exceptionally painstaking requirements phase.

AMA scrapped a core system installed in 2007 in favor of GuidewireAMA Insurance“Throughout the summer of 2015 a group of subject matter experts looked at a half-dozen alternatives, including re-engineering our existing platform,” Moody says. “Then we carefully built a business case to present to our board.”

In addition to the core systems change, AMA elected to replace its existing data warehouse with Guidewire’s InfoCenter and adopt DataHub for data integration. The two components are key to AMA’s overall analytics strategy.

“Guidewire’s solutions will provide us with business analytics,” says Moody. “This compliments our [Willis Towers Watson] Emblem deployment, which we rely on for rating analytics.”

Although AMA aspires to move core functions to the cloud, its aggressive implementation timeline led to adopting the premise-based version of InsuranceCenter for now. “We wanted our personal auto and property to go live by early December of the following year,” says Moody. “This gave us a 14 month deployment and training window to convert over 90 percent of our total book of business.”

What’s more, AMA also leveraged the transformation to adopt paperless claims. “We already used Thunderhead and OpenText, which integrate with Guidewire, so it just made sense to automate all related processes at once,” Moody says.

In October 2015, AMA kicked off a series of nine sprints drawn from CAA’s agile playbook. The insurer also fully embraced InsuranceCenter’s workflows. “To keep our aggressive timeline we functionally adapted our processes to match Guidewire’s, rather than the other way around,” says Moody. “In the rare cases where we needed to determine whether to customize Guidewire to meet our unique needs, our transformation steering committee made the call.”

Aside from the typical development hurdles, the biggest challenge for AMA was training. “Given our launch timeline, we needed an alternative to classroom-based training,” Moody says. “Instead, we pursued a blended training model emphasizing online learning and collaborative self-service tools, like community forums, plus a coaching system involving managers and expert users.”

The blended model not only required producing an appropriate curriculum but also re-engineering the capabilities of AMA’s training department, the latter of which commenced at project launch. Then, starting in earnest around the fifth sprint, the insurer began developing curriculum modules. “It was a successful exercise,” says Moody. “When user training commenced in the fall of 2016, we discovered it took only about two weeks instead of the historical six.”

Strategy pays off

AMA’s deployment strategy really started paying off when the insurer smoothly hit its December 5 go-live window. “The blended training model and user forums minimized disruptions considerably,” says Moody. “Most users sought assistance from the curriculum or posted a question to their peers. Consequently, our help desk spike lasted only a matter of days and then tapered off. Now, there are no open help tickets because questions get resolved via our coaches, the online curriculum or forum support.”

What’s more, AMA’s transformation vastly improves self-service. “Customers and prospects can get an immediate online quote, anytime and on any device, for personal auto and property,” says Moody. “We’re also in the final stages of testing Guidewire’s ‘buy’ module, which will enable our dedicated agency to bind policies based on the inputs customers make – no complicated steps or re-keying of data required.”

If there was any disappointment, it came with the process of deploying DataHub and InfoCenter. “We were frustrated with the heavy lifting required to get the data mapping to work,” Moody says. “We haven’t yet had time to discuss it with Guidewire, but look forward to improvements in future releases.”

Regardless, the analytics benefits are already evident. “Previously, we were limited to monthly reporting,” says Moody. “Now, with InfoCenter, data refreshes intra-day, giving us near real-time insights into loss ratios, reinsurance, cycle times and all other types of industry KPIs.”

Over the next few quarters, AMA plans to complete the transformation by migrating its commercial offerings onto the platform. After that, it’s no limits.

“This core modernization is a game-changer,” says Moody. “Having a best-in-class platform, used by much larger carriers, enables us to leapfrog our competition. It also unshackles us from our previous limitations, ensuring we can meet the rapidly-evolving expectations of our customers.”

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