How can a life insurer improve its capabilities in some of the areas most critical to business growth: improving time to market for new products and features, and reducing total cost of ownership of technology? This was the question asked by Guardian Life, a leader in individual life insurance. For years, the company has been known for its innovative use of cloud technologies, and they saw the answer to that question in terms of a natural evolution of their cloud strategy.
“We felt we had a lot of room for improvement when it came to scaling new product releases as well as making changes to existing products,” said Nick Volpe, CIO of Individual Markets at Guardian Life. “Because of existing technology challenges, adding features or introducing a new product to take advantage of fast-evolving market needs was taking longer than desired. We knew that a cloud-based platform would help us reduce that time.”
After a verification and analysis phase, Guardian chose to implement the Accenture Life Insurance & Annuity Platform (ALIP), a SaaS-based, cloud-enabled life insurance policy administration platform. Guardian was already making extensive use of AWS, so they looked at this transformation, and its push to move applications to the cloud, as an opportunity to build the new platform in AWS. The combination of AWS’s breadth of services and ALIP’s cloud-native abilities are delivered through the transparent three-way partnership between Guardian, Accenture and AWS to achieve Guardian’s business and IT objectives, and then some.
ALIP’s cloud-first design leverages containers and microservices for optimal flexibility and cloud performance. Its execution architecture is designed and tested for high scalability to handle both current and future workloads, and it follows leading practices for software delivery such as DevOps and Agile.
The power of configuration
Especially important to Guardian was the ability to make changes quickly in ALIP—something possible because of the platform’s configurability—it’s a catalog of open services, accessible for integration using off-the-shelf configuration tools. Previously, a lengthy process was needed for Guardian to test and deploy a change to how a claim was executed, or to get data as part of an application. With ALIP, Guardian says, the company can introduce a change on the fly and deploy it within hours in production as needed. Another attractive part of this feature is that a company does not need specific code reporting skills. Power has shifted from just developers to now include business users on the ground.
Guardian has also reaped benefits from ALIP’s data management capabilities. A company generally has APIs and data located in multiple locations, but ALIP can make that disparate data accessible as a single source of truth. In a product model, one is always changing the core database. Through data decoupling, however, instead of having to talk to one of the thousands of granular component services, ALIP uses a mediation layer. Companies can manage a change at the core site in that layer between what the outside world sees and what the company sees from the inside. Backward compatibility can be managed so that when a company makes an upgrade, it’s not breaking the downstream systems.
The self-sufficiency built into ALIP deployment is making a big difference for Guardian moving forward, says Volpe. “We had side-by-side engagement with Accenture to help guide us through product and business configuration and integration during implementation. Then we got support and design consultation when we were ready to take ownership of specific functions such as the building of our own products and customizing our business configurations.”
The company also receives ongoing support for updates to the system. ALIP’s Continuous Upgrade program delivers seamless upgrades and access to ongoing enhancements and new capabilities. A modular, layered and platform-neutral architecture allows for continuous adoption of new technologies, without the need for overhauls caused by gradual, managed updates.
In the end, what has been especially notable, according to Volpe, is the increase in speed from ALIP’s no-code approach and greater configurability, as well as the ability to achieve years of innovation in a matter of months. “Of course, any company faces a longer process to obtain legal and regulatory approvals, but we can honestly configure a product from scratch now in a few weeks or modify a product in a few days. We see that as a significant competitive advantage.”
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