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A Winning Combination: Software-as-Services Plus Business Consulting and Process Services
By Laurie McCabe
January 30, 2004
Although traditionally slow adopters of new technology, insurers and agents within the property and casualty industry are beginning to embrace Web-based services.
|“For insurers, the ASP trend is only now developing. Serious inroads won’t occur until companies, fresh off of Y2K, begin to once again upgrade their IT infrastructures, which should happen sometime in the next five years or so. |
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Over the last 18 months or so, Wayne Pardue, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Applied Systems, which supplies more than 10,000 independent insurance agencies with its agency management solution, have noticed a major increase in hosted software sales. Since Applied charges up-front licensing fees rather than monthly subscriptions, it’s not an ASP in the truest sense of the model, but 60 percent of new customers are asking for ASP delivery of their purchases.
“(The agencies) just have struggled throughout the years with the IT needed to run their operations,” Pardue told ASPnews. “Somebody has to wear the IT hat there and now they want us to run it for them.”
Competitors Follow Suit
According to Jeff Yates, executive director for the Agents Council of Technology at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Applied’s competition in the agency management software arena, AMS, has also experienced similar gains on the hosted side of its business. Yates said his information indicates 50 percent of new sales involve ASP delivery of the solution.
“I think it’s actually a major trend,” Yates told ASPnews. “What’s interesting to me is some really large agents, savvy agents are moving that way, which suggests to me that they do see the value proposition.”
This is especially true in southern states that regularly suffer direct hits from hurricanes. Insurers in that part of the country love the idea of accessing client data from a browser since, when they need it most, their local computer systems are without power.
In the Northeast, however, where power and phone lines are often cut simultaneously by powerful winter storms, agents there are less enthusiastic about housing information off site.
“So, you do hear from some of the New England guys — who suffer from the ice storms and lack of phone systems — a concern about it,” said Yates. “Meanwhile, in the south, they can’t wait to get for ASPs.”
Climate Change in Northeast
Despite an initial reluctance, New Englanders’ are warming to the idea of hosted applications, said Yates.
To get a jump on this coming trend Worcester, Mass.-based BlueCod Technologies bought a former client’s hosting business two years ago. To date, the company has three live hosting customers using its data center. This may not seem like many, but BlueCod is a full-service independent software vendors (ISV) and business process outsourcer (BPO) for mid-tier P&C; insurers, not agents, so its business is not solely dependent on finding hosting clients.
Also, the ASP trend is only now developing. Serious inroads won’t occur until companies, fresh off of Y2K, begin to once again upgrade their IT infrastructures, which should happen sometime in the next five years or so, said Jeff Brown BlueCod’s president. Still, 15-to-25 percent of all new clients do come to BlueCod with ASP on their minds, he said.
“We’re still pretty early in the cycle and that’s one of things that excites me about this,” Brown told ASPnews. “The P&C; industry are generally late adopters and I don’t think they’ve fully embraced the concept of application outsourcing yet.”
Chubb Leads the Way
One major carrier bucking this late-adopter status, however, is the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Its Web-based initiatives date back to the heady days of the dot-coms and the company continues to rely on the Web to help streamline communication and facilitate document sharing between the company and its thousands of independent agents nationwide.
Its latest initiative involves a third-party intermediary called Ivans and its Transformation Station product (which was actually developed by Applied Systems and licensed to Ivans for use with Applied’s agency management systems) to facilitate electronic data exchange between Chubb and its agents.
The goal of this “Paper Free Producer Campaign” is to eliminate the printing of one million documents a year and automate routine, yet important, information requests from its agents, Mark Galante, Chubb’s e-Business manager, told ASPnews. Ivan’s is also working on the development of a similar product for AMS’s agency management products.
“What we’re trying to do is create a bridge between these leading agency management systems to the information we have on our Web site or in our system. Now [agents] can basically click a button from the system they work in all day long and get [information] back. And, by the way, if the need to see a copy of an invoice or something, they’re one additional click away.”
It would appear the rest of the insurance industry isn’t many clicks behind either.
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