Protegrity Services, one of the largest privately held workers' compensation policy providers in the nation, recognized that the lack of Web-based, self-service insurance applications presented an extraordinary market opportunity. However, its AS/400-based insurance application did not have any inherent e-business capabilities. Instead of replacing the entire system, Protegrity used a middleware application to extend its legacy application to the Web, bringing the company that much closer to its vision of becoming the world's leading insurance services organization in terms of service quality and profitability.
A Network of Agents
From its headquarters in Longwood, Florida, Protegrity Services provides workers' compensation underwriting, claim management, and administration services to more than 10,000 business customers in 20 southeastern and midwestern states. The company had revenues of $36 million in 2001.
One of the ways that Protegrity sells workers' comp policies is through a network of agents and brokers. Traditionally, agents filled out hard-copy applications and faxed or mailed these forms to Protegrity's regional offices. This process usually took a week or more. The company realized it needed a better way to interact with its network of agents and brokers if it was to expand in this fiercely competitive business.
"Usually, the first guy who walks in with a competitive product gets the business," says Greg Kerrebrock, Protegrity's senior vice president for e-commerce, marketing, and communications. "Shaving a week off the time it takes you to get a quote provides a real competitive advantage."
The Making of a Web Site
Protegrity's legacy AS/400-based insurance application was a solution from Progressive Data Solutions, a Fiserv company. The IT department reviewed several options for bringing the solution to the Web. PDS Version 3 is critical to Protegrity's business, as it provides policy management functions such as sales, underwriting, premium payments, and audits for all of Protegrity's workers' compensation policies. Once this legacy system was fused with the online interface, agents would be able to access underwriting, rating, policy, and claim-related data through the new Protegrity Web site, www.workcompnow.com.
Protegrity decided to use a Windows NT-based middleware application called ClientBuilder, from ClientSoft, to Web-enable the PDS application. Protegrity selected ClientBuilder not just for its ease of use, but also for its scalability and its ability to be rapidly implemented.
ClientBuilder is a comprehensive development environment that allows host-based applications and databases to be extended and transformed quickly and affordably to employees, customers, and partners over the Web. This was important to ensure Protegrity's fast, easy, and secure access to its data while simultaneously achieving its first-to-market goal.
"To make Workcompnow.com a reality, we needed a proven tool that would allow us to transparently connect our existing legacy systems with a new Web-based network, and ClientBuilder was truly the ideal solution to meet that need," said Kerrebrock. "It also helped to provide us with another way to increase our premium revenues and improve customer relations management while reducing our administrative costs."
No Pain, No Upgrade
In early January 2000, members of Protegrity's IT staff, with assistance from ClientSoft representatives, installed the ClientSoft software on a Windows NT server at Protegrity's Longwood headquarters. The software was configured to pass underwriting and quote data, as a Component Object Model (COM) object, between Protegrity's AS/400 Model 730 and its dedicated Web server hosted by Coleman Technologies in Orlando. No changes were made to the AS/400 system.
Once installed, the solution was tested to ensure that all of the data was being transmitted accurately between the legacy system and the Web server. During the testing phase, problems were identified with session timing. In particular, the legacy system was taking an inordinate amount of time in its data calculation, causing the session to time out before the data could be passed back to the Web server. Part of the problem was how the legacy system prioritized multiple sessions. Once the ClientBuilder session was assigned its own job queue, so that it was not competing with other session demands, the problem was resolved.
There were no other major problems encountered with ClientBuilder during the installation process, which was quick, simple, and practically turnkey. In fact, most of the 12-month development cycle was spent building and designing the graphic and textual controls through Dreamweaver to achieve the user-friendly, comfortable, and recognizable interface for all agents.
Training and Deployment
Once the solution passed system testing, user testing was initiated for several weeks. During this phase, internal users ran multiple sessions to test the overall performance of the application and to identify any remaining problems in functionality and process. This phase proved effective, because the testing group was very familiar with the practices of the user, and the input was extremely useful in making adjustments to functionality.
Following internal user testing, the application was rolled out to a select group of independent agents for their feedback. The agents were given test user IDs and passwords so that they could test the application using live data. This allowed Protegrity to segregate test sessions from the real sessions that continued to run on the legacy system by internal users.
The testing phases were highly productive. The AS/400 legacy systems and ClientBuilder truly proved to be a stable partnership and were soon ready to dispense information to the agents. Once internal and external user testing was completed satisfactorily, the application was publicly rolled out live in early December 2000.
As word got out, the site began to register agents. The system was successful in scaling to meet the increased volume, and the site continued to generate more and more quotes without problems.
Demand for training was relatively light, as the site was intuitive to users. When training did occur, it was handled via telephone support and weekly Webcast demonstrations. The majority of problems experienced by new users were related to their browser configuration or their Internet connection. A dedicated call center staff, accessed via phone or email, provides support for registered agents as well as those who are involved in the registration process.
To date, the site has received over 1,600,000 hits, hosted over 8,000 visitor sessions (averaging 90 sessions/weekday), and processed over 1,000 quotes, representing nearly $6 million in premiums. Because the site gives agents the ability to provide quotes in a matter of minutes, it has been enthusiastically adopted by independent agents who might have gone elsewhere. This has expanded Protegrity's reach into the independent agent market, helping the company to reach its goals.
A Claim for Success
The site also takes the hassle out of faxing and mailing forms, thereby driving down transaction costs. Stacy Coleman, a customer service representative at Oklahoma-based Beacon Insurance Agency, is one of Workcompnow.com's leading users. "Submitting business online beats mailing or faxing applications anytime," she says.
By streamlining the workers' compensation quote process and reducing transaction costs, the site also helps to make its users more competitive. According to Beckie Ervin, an agent with Texas-based Accident Insurance Services, the cost of coverage offered through Workcompnow.com is 5% to 7% lower than the cost of the closest competitor's workers' compensation services.
There are, however, other reasons for agents to use Workcompnow.com. Using the Web site, agents have one of the largest insurance services and products companies service their accounts and provide them with proven, cutting-edge technology to make their jobs easier. According to Hugh Raiford, vice president of Marketing for ClientSoft, "Protegrity's Workcompnow.com site is truly a breakthrough in the field of workers' compensation insurance, and ClientSoft is of course delighted to be playing an important and ongoing part in it."
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