Fireman's Fund Insurance

Fireman's Fund DRIPs information to users


Project: Diversified Risk Internet Project (DRIP)

Purpose: To provide customers with the ability to review and analyze claim information from a variety of summary and detail perspectives.

Benefits: Eases the delivery of ad hoc reports to internal and external clients; reduced monthly paper production by one-third within two months of implementation.

Platform: Windows NT

Through the 1990s, Fireman's Fund Insurance had successfully built systems that provided electronic information to its internal users. By the end of the decade, developers were working hard to extend those capabilities to its extensive external network of independent insurance agents, third-party vendors, re-insurers and others that required fundamental data to do their jobs.

"We wanted to extend the system to provide customers [and partners] with a vehicle that would let them read information online that they had to get on paper in the past," said Dave Freese, business systems manager at Fireman's Fund's Novato, Calif., Commercial Division. "We wanted to do it without having to tie into our network; therefore, we needed a Web-based system."

Thus were the plans laid for the Diversified Risk Internet Project (DRIP), an intranet-based system that allows external Fireman's Fund partners and employees to access, review and analyze claim information from a variety of summary and detail perspectives. The project was initiated as a proof of concept effort in late 1998, marking this development team's entry into the world of Web development.

Freese said an early decision by the development team and its managers to use a Web-based toolset from SAS Institute Inc., Raleigh, N.C., was made quickly because the data to be distributed was already stored in SAS data marts stored in SAS server technologies. The data marts held information accessed from Fireman's Fund corporate mainframes. He noted that the Fireman's Fund unit has been using SAS since 1983, which kept developers very familiar with the base technology. Following an evaluation of SAS data publishing tools, the team decided to utilize the SAS/IntrNet technology for the project. The team also settled on Microsoft's Web server, the Internet Information Server (IIS), as the access point for external access. Developers utilized SAS data libraries and SAS reporting logic that already existed within the operation, saving significant development time and money, Freese said.


Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), SAS/IntrNet data server

The biggest challenge facing the team was ensuring that client data and Fireman's Fund data remained secure during the interactions over the intranet, Freese said. The decision was made to build a security system that used several new systems in addition to the standard user ID and password requirements. For example, developers used the SAS tools to design a customer profile management system that can limit access to specific data, he said.

The decision to add Internet capabilities to the DRIP project was well received by veteran developers at the unit, who are looking to work with new technologies, Freese said. He noted that just two years ago, this development unit did no Internet development. Today, 30% to 40% of projects are Web-related, said Freese. The DRIP team depended on training from SAS instructors and "a good portion of trial and error" in building the intranet, he added.

Testing began on a beta version of the product in November 1998, and the system moved into production by July 1999. "The system started as a proof of concept," Freese said. "We built it quickly and sought acceptance from users. We went from design to [beta] delivery in six weeks."

Freese said the system quickly proved its cost-cutting mettle in savings resulting from reduced paper requirements. After just a month or six weeks on the new systems, nearly half of the users requested that the distribution of paper reports be stopped. "That cut the paper outlay by 40% just to these users," he said.
— Michael W. Bucken