Zurich U.S. Insurance is one of the nation's leading property-casualty insurers with $6.2 billion in annual revenues. Its largest clients include global corporations in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical, healthcare, technology and retail industries. These customers carry premiums averaging $1 million and more.

Risk managers at these client companies are always looking for ways to reduce the overall costs of their company's insurance programs. They rely on critical insurance information to help them identify workplace injury and accident trends more quickly in order to reduce claims.

Zurich first implemented a full-client solution in 1996 to address its customers' needs for timely information. Called the Risk Manager Workstation, the solution involved sending data to clients in the form of monthly CDs. By the time risk managers received the information, it was usually outdated, pertaining to claims that were 45 days old on the average.

This solution was in place for less than two years when customers started to complain. Dissatisfaction with the system was first aired at the executive level at the Risk Managers Council, a quarterly forum attended by senior executives of client companies and senior Zurich executives to discuss customer concerns.

The managers immediately enlisted three major business units at Zurich and the IT department to either enhance the Risk Manager Workstation or replace it. Customer focus groups were held to help crystallize what was needed: a solution that would expedite claims information on a daily basis and offer greater analysis and customization capabilities. It became evident that only a new system could provide the kind of information delivery that was being requested.

Next, we pulled together an initial project team to come up with a budget and a project definition. I was handed the responsibility to run the project, working in conjunction with ITS, the international accounts, national accounts and construction business units. I pulled together a focused development team consisting of six individuals. Because this Web-based system was going to be a long-term strategic initiative for Zurich, we planned on handling it internally, using only a few consultants for mentoring.

We began by taking inventory of our existing technology. A data warehouse was in place to develop reports for Zurich's claims division and used BusinessObjects, the full-client decision support tool from Business Objects, to analyze information from the mainframe. We decided to leverage the existing decision support technology and build an e-business intelligence extranet that could provide faster information delivery.

The system Zurich developed is an innovative Web-enabled claims information tool called RiskIntelligence. Launched in November 1998, it was the first customer care extranet in the insurance industry. Built on WebIntelligence, the e-business tool for the Internet from Business Objects, and a data warehouse, the system offers Zurich's large customers immediate access to their critical loss data and insurance information downloaded daily from Zurich's claim system.

Zurich clients now have access to over 90 standard, up-to-the-minute reports, which are organized in various categories such as loss data by customer location, type of injury and product line. With this information, risk managers can identify problems and take corrective action. Noticing an unusual spike in back injuries at a factory, a risk manager might recommend increased use of forklifts and lifting training.

Since this was the first extranet Zurich had ever developed, many of the software and hardware tools were new to the project team. We offered extensive training and established close working relationships with software vendors such as Business Objects so that team members could quickly gain proficiency in the requisite technologies.

Anyone implementing a Web-based business intelligence solution should plan for more potential users than anticipated. We based our numbers on our former solution and quickly surpassed that figure in the first three months of deployment. The technology proved so simple to use that risk managers were eager to share the system with sometimes as many as 20 people! We increased server capacity and generally scaled the system to meet demand.

RiskIntelligence's purpose was to improve customer satisfaction. During our project pilot, from August to November of 1998, we received feedback from 23 customers who told us we were heading in the right direction. To this day, customer feedback, whether in the form of phone conversations, face-to-face discussions or e-mail, has always been an excellent indicator of the project's success and remains overwhelmingly positive.

RiskIntelligence also has helped Zurich obtain significant competitive advantage and cost savings. In a recent study, Zurich found that RiskIntelligence has helped attract and retain five percent of all new business. Also, by eliminating the need to ship monthly CDs to clients, the company estimates it will save close to $400,000 this year. Based on these and other savings, Zurich estimates an overall return on investment of 250 percent across three years.

As a result of the success of Risk-Intelligence, Zurich Financial Service Group, the $45 billion parent company of Zurich U.S., is now piloting an international version of the extranet, called Global Financial Intelligence, for its worldwide corporate customers.

WebIntelligence is the industry's most complete solution for thin-client e-business intelligence. This query, reporting and online analytical tool (OLAP) is from Business Objects, the world's leading provider of e-business intelligence (e-BI) solutions.

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