In-Depth

Citizens and Hanover Insurance Companies

I. Project Information

Citizens and Hanover Insurance Companies: http://www.bowstreet.com/
Project Designation:

Citizens and Hanover Insurance Companies, a property and casualty insurer based in Worcester, Massachusetts, had flat revenue growth, which was even declining in some cases. The company was mired down in a large part due to their aging IT infrastructures and agency products. Transforming the technology infrastructure to support the company’s new growth strategy became top priority.

Goals of Project:

At Citizens and Hanover, sales and revenues come almost entirely through a network of independent agents. They found that pricing of policies was not a large factor in choosing a provider, the ease of doing business with an associate and the efficiency the transactions impacted consumer decisions. Strategically, if the company was able to create an easier way for independent agents to conduct business transactions faster they would have a competitive advantage and pull ahead in the industry.

Business Risks:

Due to the aging infrastructure, it would be a challenge for Hanover and Citizens to implement this new operating system for their independent agents. Transforming the technology infrastructure to support the company’s new growth became top priority. Citizens and Hanover decided to pursue three strategic decisions: the operating system, the plug-ins and the architectural path. Achieving these three objectives would be crucial to updating their aging technology infrastructure in order to impact their flat revenue growth. Since this project was a significant financial investment, it was important to choose the most suitable products for the company.

How the System Helps Users:

Citizens and Hanover Agents Portal resulted in several immediate benefits:

  1. Transaction times for agents up to 75 percent shorter
  2. Increased efficiency and productivity of independent agents
  3. Speed of development of new portal applications at least twice that of the old system
  4. Improved customer process times
  5. Productivity of agencies’ customer-service operations through new portal up 15 to 20 percent
  6. Access to real-time data for managers, such as financial statistics on how much business is closed per day
  7. Unique log-ins per day on new agent portal are up more than 100 percent since launch
  8. Put the company on a trajectory to increase its property and casualty revenues substantially in the next three to five years.

II. Organizational Objectives

Short-term and Long-term benefits:

As detailed above, the benefits of the project were extensive. The most important objective was to decrease the transaction time for the independent agents so they would be able to serve their customers faster by decreasing transaction time. One way they could influence their flat revenue growth, would be to serve more customers in the same amount of time. By implementing this new system, Hanover and Citizens is now able to serve four people in the amount of time it used to take them to serve one. In addition, they boosted customer-service operations of its agencies by 15 to 20 percent, and as a result, doubled the agency- and customer-related traffic through the website.

Business Purpose of the New System:

The purpose of the new system was to transform the technology infrastructure to support the company’s new growth strategy. It was important to support business growth through a web portal based on rapid development of easy-to-use applications since sales and revenues came almost entirely through a network of independent agents. In order to be able to pull ahead in the industry, the company had to make it easier for independent agents to conduct business.

Features of New System:

Citizens and Hanover decided to use Linux as the foundation of the new operating system because of its easy maintenance and wide availability of skill sets. In addition, it would lower costs and become a faster return on investment. In order to accelerate the design and implement new portlets and applications, Hanover and Citizens implemented Bowstreet’s Portlet Factory because it was easy-to-learn, and could rapidly develop portlets. Supporting the middleware in the solution includes IBM WebSphere Application Server – Express, WebSphere MQ, WebSphere Studio Application Developer, WebSphere Portal for Multiplatforms, IBM DB2 Universal Database Express Editions 7.1 and 8.1, and IBM Customer Information Control System Transaction Server for z/OS Version 2.3. The hardware component included IBM eServer zSeries 900.

Functions of the New System:

Previously, customer-service reps at agencies had to gather different types of information (e.g. policy, billing, or claim-status) in different ways. They typically would spend five to twenty minutes getting an answer to a customer inquiry. Now, they can access any kind of information via one system and have an answer within two minutes.

Internal Sponsors:

The Chief Technology Officer at Citizens and Hanover was the internal sponsor of the project. He knew it was important to find a way to make it easier for the independent agents to conduct business. As a result, he had to transform the aging IT infrastructure. Citizens and Hanover has an IT staff of around 500 in house employees, plus a large contingent of variable staffers.

Users of System Involved in Planning and/or Development Phases:

Case study not available.

Challenges of the Project:

In order to support business growth through a web portal based on rapid development of easy-to-use applications, it was essential for Citizens and Hanover to find the right products to allow them to achieve their goals. By choosing the Linux operating system, IBM’s products, and Bowstreet’s tool, Citizens and Hanover was able to update their IT infrastructure which allowed their independent agents to conduct transactions in less time.

Goals Change During Project:

Throughout the entire project, the goal remained that it was essential to update the outdated IT infrastructure to make it easier for independent agents to conduct business faster with customers.

Category: E-business Application Development

III. Methodology/Process

Productivity Tools or Techniques Used in the Project:

Case study not available.

Testing Tools:

The first project for the IBM and Bowstreet solution was building a set of agent portlets, including ones for documents searches, new-business processing and inquiries for claims, billing and policy information. Before participation by Bowstreet, Citizens and Hanover anticipated that building the portlets would take about a year. Instead, it was all designed, built, and tested and in production within six months.

Software Development Life–Cycle Methodology Used:

N/A

Project Management Methodologies:

Case study not available.

Software Quality Metrics:

N/A


IV. Technology

Major Technical Challenges:

A significant challenge in this project was to transform the technology infrastructure to support the company’s new growth strategy and technology system. It was essential to find an operating system that would not outgrow the ability to manage them. In addition, SOA was phenomenally important to enable the company to continue making their systems more user friendly.

Software Tools, Operating Systems and Development Tools Selected:

Software used: Bowstreet Portlet Factory for WebSphere

  • IBM WebSphere Application Server – Express
  • IBM DB2 Universal Database Express Editions 7.1 and 8.1
  • IBM CICS Transaction Server z/OS Version 2.3
  • IBM WebSphere MQ
  • IBM WebSphere Studio Application Developer (now known as Rational Application Developer for WebSphere)
  • IBM WebSphere Portal for Multiplatforms
  • Linux operating system

Hardware used:


  • IBM eServer zSeries 900

Each of the products used for this project was chosen for specific reasons. Linux was chosen for its easier maintenance and wide availability of skill sets, and was clearly the way to go for flexibility of approach, lower costs and faster return on investment. Bowstreet was chosen because it offers easy-to-learn, rapid-development products based on its "Factory" technology. The SOA was chosen because you can build, deploy and integrate services independent of applications and the computing platforms on which they run, making business processes more flexible.

Describe the Overall System Architecture:

Please see above.

Most Important Characteristics of the Tools and Technologies Used:

Citizens and Hanover wanted everything to evolve along a coherent architectural path that would allow for the most up-to-date functionality quickly, at low cost, and with maximum flexibility. That entailed what is called "service oriented architecture" (SOA).


V. Project Team

Size of Development Team:

Case study not available.

Describe Software Development Experience:

Case study not available.

Composition and Skill Level of Team:

N/A

Calendar Time Frame:

Before participation by Bowstreet, Citizens and Hanover anticipated that building the portlets would take about a year. Instead, they had it all designed, built, tested and in production within six months.

Management and User Community Consider Project a Success:

The independent agents who use the new system are able to process transactions faster, where it would take 45 minutes to an hour under the old system, and now it only takes them around 15 minutes. In addition, the customer service reps have seen impressive boosts as well. Previously, they had to gather different types of information (e.g., policy, billing, or claim status) in different ways. They typically would spend five to 20 minutes getting an answer to a customer inquiry via one system, but now they have an answer within two minutes. Also, the VP of Operations, said end-user traffic on the agency portal has doubled in the first 12 months after its launch.

If You Did the Project Over Again, Would You Do Anything Different?

N/A

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