insurance

Build v Buy
Build or buy? The data software systems debate.
Build or buy? The data software systems debate. 1024 683 Jon Stace

The decision has been taken to update your software system (never one to be taken lightly). The requirements are done and the spec is written. What next?

Now one of the toughest decisions you face is whether to build or buy your system! This is a contested topic often full of complicated jargon and contradicting claims as everyone battles to sell you their ‘perfect’ solution!

Having been through all, and part, of systems development and implementation with our clients on many occasions, we can help by shedding some light here on the decision-making process and potentially save you some valuable time and a lot of painstaking research.

Build or buy? To help you choose the system that best suits your business needs, we’ve listed some of the pros and cons of each.

Buy:

If there are existing products out there with the functionality to meet your requirements, off-the-shelf software may be the solution for you.

The pros:

  • This route offers a lower entry price and for internal, non-business critical systems an off-the-shelf solution can be very cost-effective.
  • It is generally quicker and easier to implement causing minimal business disruption.
  • Significantly functionality testing has already been carried out by someone else so you don’t have to put in the extra hours.
  • Research and development and bug fixing sits with the software owner, so your business doesn’t have to cough-up the extra.

The cons:

  • The software may fit your business now, but you have no control over the road map of the system going forward.
  • You can’t simply just add another user or add additional modules to the system of pre-existing software as your business activity grows.
  • When fixing glitches, you are totally reliant on the software supplier and can’t take matters within your own hands.
  • Complex licensing agreements can be difficult to control and very costly when they are out of your hands.

Build:

If you are looking for a more personalised experience and don’t want to settle for a part-solution based on what’s available, you can choose to build a tailored software data system instead.

The Pros:

  • Bespoke systems do tend to cost more, however the investment usually offers better ROI due to downstream adaptation and upgrade costs being lower.
  • The data systems are functionally tailored around your business and you control what happens going forward removing the need for additional costly modules that may only then be a part fit.
  • Bespoke systems which are client facing are far better at representing your individual brand and simply by being bespoke, offer you a USP amongst competitors.
  • Work on bespoke systems is often eligible for R&D tax credits which can help to offset a proportion of the cost of the system.

The Cons:

  • Bespoke systems usually cost more than off the shelf solutions.
  • There is often a longer lead time for implementation and before ROI is realised.
  • The R&D behind a bespoke system can be time consuming and costly.
  • Testing has to be carried out at your time and expense to ensure that the software system is perfect for your business needs.

Plenty to think about therefore! We hope your business-brain is a little less clouded and opportunities to improve your software systems are on the horizon.

Software Solved specialises in custom and bespoke development, data visualisation and insurance risk management systems, delivering over 1000 successful IT projects since 1998. We are running a FREE webinar entitled Build v Buy: choosing your next software systems supplier on July 3rd, 2019. To pre-register click the button here.

Register for the webinar

 

If you have any more pressing systems requirements that need  talking through now, contact us on 01392 453344 or  hello@softwaresolved.com. We’re happy to have a chat.

Big Data Course Plymouth Uni
No small talk for big data: Software Solved spend time with Amazon scientist at Plymouth University
No small talk for big data: Software Solved spend time with Amazon scientist at Plymouth University 629 437 Aneeq Rehman

If you want to learn about how machine learning is being applied in the business world, e-commerce giant Amazon is a good place to start.

Software Solved’s Aneeq ur Rehman spent a week with big data experts including Amazon’s Dr Zhenwen Dai at a course at Plymouth University.

Supported by the Environmental Futures of Big Data Impact Lab, the course was led by Dr Antonia Rago alongside key academic figures from the Mathematical Sciences department including Dr Mu Nui, Dr Matthew Craven, Dr Malgorzata Wojtys and Dr Craig McNeile.

That’s a lot of Doctors – all experts in their respective fields!

Dr Zhenwen Dai, a Machine Learning Scientist at Amazon, whose, research interests include the development of scalable probabilistic models and inference methods for autonomous learning from real world data was one of the keynote speakers who shared his expertise with Aneeq and others on the course on probabilistic approaches to deal with huge volumes of data.

Aneeq, who is at Software Solved as part of our own machine learning research project, running in partnership with Plymouth University and funded by Innovate UK, said: “The course was about enhancing people’s understanding of big data and how to use and derive value from large volumes of data to make smarter decisions. Large volumes of data in machine learning often require flexible models that can imitate the way the human brain processes data and assimilates multiple sources. That was a key aspect of what we learnt.”

Topics covered included Gaussian process, machine learning and neural networks.

  • Dr Mu Niu – overview of Gaussian Process, different models and how they function in theory and practise
  • Dr Matthew Craven and Dr Malgorzata Wojtys – detailed explanation into various machine learning parametric methods
  • Dr Craig McNeile – summary of deep learning and neural networks and running hands-on workshops and exercises to learn more about topological data analysis and high-performance computer facilities.

Aneeq, already a Masters Graduate in Data Science himself, added: “It was a good knowledge sharing platform with a blend of workshops, practical exercises and lectures. We reviewed many interesting topics such as topological data analysis, neural network design and artificial neural networks. In addition to this, we also got insights into some of the cutting-edge research and practices in the world of big data and AI.

There were also intriguing discussions over the use of neural networks and gaussian processes and good comparisons over their use and limitations. Some of it was a good refresher session for me, some of it really new and interesting.

It’s all highly relevant to the research work I’m doing at Software Solved into the application of machine learning and advanced data analytics for risk modelling and mitigation for the insurance sector.

It was great to meet with other students and learn from the academics and other organisations. It’s technical but truly fascinating and a fundamental part of how organisations will operate, interpret and derive value from the data in the 21st century- the advantages of which are manifold.”

Author: Aneeq Ur Rehman is Software Solved’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate from Plymouth University

Software Solved are specialists in giving organisation’s a competitive edge through software and data. Contact 01392 453344 to find out more.

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Insurance Survey: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights
Insurance Survey: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights 1024 683 Simon Hollingworth

The team here at Software Solved love problem solving. We’re pleased to share some of our useful resources and insights with you. These have been selected based on the areas we’ve helped our clients with. We hope you find them useful and if there’s anything we can do to help you, we’d love to talk to you.

We love solving technical problems. We’re pleased to share some of our useful resources and insights from our work developing bespoke software for clients.
Insurance: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights
Data has been called the new oil, the lifeblood and a valuable currency. So, insurers are fortunate in that most have vast amounts of this most precious commodity. But, are they maximising its potential or is it too often an untapped resource?

There’s no doubt some insurers are starting to leverage the value in their data, even if an elite group is starting to pull away from the rest of the pack. However, as the rise of InsurTech shows, size is no barrier since smaller providers can prove highly effective through using with the right technology and, not least, having a forward-thinking mind-set when it comes to sharing data.

Whether or not insurance is playing a big enough role in the data revolution is a moot point. The technology now exists to connect legacy systems, while machine learning and analytics allow for transformational work to take place, with the goal for many insurers being to turn their data into actionable insights. The question is, will this remain a goal or become a reality?

Software Solved, who work with a range of large and small insurers to deliver Risk & Claims Management Systems as well as data rich Customer Portals, are seeking to better understand this crucial area and so we conducted a research project, in conjunction with Insurance Post. This involved speaking to around 60 providers, covering commercial and personal lines, and with those providing opinions including directors and professionals from various disciplines including underwriting, claims, risk management and IT.

Download this report from an in-depth analysis of the research findings.

System Audits in the Insurance Industry
System Audits in the Insurance Industry 1024 658 Simon Hollingworth

The insurance industry is frequently accused of being slow to adapt. We often hear about the burden of legacy systems and how they cause problems for the industry.

It’s no surprise when you consider the scope, disruption and cost of updating a legacy system. Yet, with so much money left on the table and businesses at risk from more agile competitors, insurance firms must face up to modernisation.

So, when is the right time to maintain, modernise or completely replace a legacy system? This is a difficult question to answer, but regular system audits can help solve this problem.

Adapting legacy systems

As the insurance industry grew and developed, systems had to adapt to meet the demand. This meant patches and updates beyond a system’s original scope, which complicated them.

Many of the legacy systems used in the insurance industry will be decades old. Countless updates will have transformed them, adapting to each new regulation or requirement.

Modernising or replacing a system can be a big risk for an organisation. Nobody wants to disrupt business critical systems. What if the new system doesn’t work as intended? Or your clients and customers don’t like the changes?

If a system stopped working one day, the decision to invest in something new would be much simpler. But it won’t. It will keep plugging along. A new process here; a rushed update there.

That’s the problem. Legacy systems still ‘work’. But how well?

When should you update a legacy system?

A system audit looks at how your organisation uses all your systems. It gives you precise usage data and identifies priorities for modernisation or replacement.

This is often invaluable when trying to build a business case for investing in new software. Without this information, it’s almost impossible to assess the true value of an update.

In short, system audits help answer the question of whether you should maintain, modernise or replace a legacy system.

New technologies in the insurance industry

So, why has the insurance industry been slow to update ageing legacy systems? According to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, 42% of senior level executives believe that complex regulations slow digital adoption and innovation.

It would be easy to dismiss new technology as another regulatory hurdle to overcome. In reality, the insurance industry stands to gain more from developments such as the Internet of Things or data visualisation than most. More data points and machine learning assist with risk profiling, as well as the accurate and timely provision of data.

Of course, firms shouldn’t adopt these technologies in isolation. You should consider them in relation to the impact they will have on the performance and security of existing systems.

Again, a regular system audit helps ease the adoption of new technologies. It considers your entire system network, identifying appropriate solutions for the wider business.

Systems audits and business agility

We know that global insurance firms are being disrupted by more nimble competitors. Today, more than ever, business agility is imperative to remaining competitive. Firms must adapt to new models and ways of operating quicker than ever before.

For example, the market is currently experiencing a trend towards self-service and customer experience. Whilst this is most prominent in consumer insurance, we know from our own experience that corporate and commercial insurance isn’t that far behind.

How do you know when to adopt these new practices and technologies? A system audit builds a picture of how your business uses its systems so that you can prioritise accordingly. In other words, it helps a business stay agile.

By understanding your current systems, it is easier to assess the value of new technology. You become better informed and can be quicker to adapt when it is necessary.

Instead of reacting to changes, firms who use system audits can proactively plan for them. It creates a forward thinking culture, rather than one that is always fighting fires with patches and updates.

Which, if we’re being honest, is something that the insurance industry needs to be better prepared for.

If your business needs support with an external system audit.

Why Customer Portals are Key for the Insurance Industry
Why Customer Portals are Key for the Insurance Industry 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

Today’s customer has certain expectations about how they will interact with businesses and organisations. Naturally, this extends to the insurance industry – covering both commercial and domestic markets. This consumer expects to be able to get the information they need, whenever and wherever they want – and in a way that makes sense to them. This isn’t something particularly ground breaking, the importance of customer/user experience is well known – we’ve even blogged about it before – Could a poor user experience be damaging your business?

It may surprise you to learn then that certain industries, insurance amongst them, have been slow on the uptake with things like customer portals. The insurance industry is also one that could gain far more than others from implementing customer portals. Giving customers instant and easy access to contracts, schedules, T’s&C’s, and other useful information, such as their risk profile, makes their life easier, and also saves the insurers valuable time and money as well. In an industry where new business is hard to come by, and customer loyalty is a top priority, the importance of this is easy to see.

Carefree Customer Communication

Communication is key to any business, and it’s the least customers will expect. Plus points for the customer portal here then. With information centrally stored and easy to access, 24 hours a day, there can be no more confusion about who is sending what to whom, and if something has got lost in the post or a Junk mailbox.

It also means it is far easier for insurers to update documents and information, without having to resend everything to customers. Update the centrally stored file, and voila. The whole process just became simpler and far more efficient – not to mention the time and money savings to be had as well.

Tailor Made Customer Experience

We talked briefly about the importance of customer experience, and linked to our blog as well. Customer portals are an extremely simple way to improve this. Let me explain, the customer portal is an environment over which the insurer has complete control. I.e. they can decide how it looks and what messages are displayed to what customers. This will ring especially true for those of you in marketing – getting the right message to the right people is the biggest battle.

It also means insurers can adapt the portal to the feedback that they get from customers. Do they want more information on latest offerings? Or would they like more visibility on their risk profiles and how they can be improved? All of it is possible within a customer portal.

Happy Customers = Loyal Customers

Customers value businesses that give them the opportunity to interact the way they would like to. This means giving them easy access to any information they may need or may be relevant to them. If they have to fight against a poorly designed website, or have to phone a helpline to receive a simple document, the experience quickly becomes frustrating. Frustrated customers are far less likely to renew.

Many of these points are quite simple, and may seem obvious, but they are far too often overlooked. In an increasingly crowded industry, where customer loyalty is becoming more and more important, insurers cannot overlook the value to be gained from something as simple as a well-designed customer portal.

If you’d like to know more about our work in the Insurance industry – click here.

Alternatively, if you’d like a free consultation about implementing a customer portal for your business, talk to us today.

Why Insurers Need to Reconsider the Insider Threat
Why Insurers Need to Reconsider the Insider Threat 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

When companies think of the insider threat, their thoughts will usually go to people inside the firewall who are the cause of data breaches or security lapses. This can be either intentional or accidental, and both should be of equal concern and can be equally damaging.

Most companies, especially those concerned with the insider threat will have measures in place to try to mitigate and minimise these risks. Ensuring employee’s update passwords, store USB drives securely and have a good understanding of system security.

The insider threat from legacy technology is however, too often overlooked.

The risk of legacy systems

With companies, especially insurers, spending so much on their technology it is perhaps understandable that they are reluctant to maintain this investment through updates and replacements year on year. When you know replacing a system is going to be extremely costly it becomes a much less attractive proposition. This is a dangerous trap though.

With each year that the system ages, it is another year out-of-date with current security threats, both internal and external. As systems and technologies evolve, so do the threats to those systems and many of the systems that companies rely on are simply not up to the task.

The growing skills gap

As systems age and get more out of date every year, so do the skills available within the company. Increasingly, companies are finding that those who implemented the systems, and maintained them are approaching retiring age or have left the company already. This leaves a worrying skills gap – companies are relying on aged systems that no one has the skills to upgrade or maintain.

It is a tough sell to convince new employee’s to learn and take on out-of-date code and technology as well, meaning the solutions are rather limited.

The risks here a real. You can spend millions of pounds securing your network but if it relies on an out-of-date system that is not being properly updated and maintained because no one knows how, access points will undoubtedly appear.

How to minimise the risk of legacy systems

A data security audit

This will give you an idea of where your data is stored, and how securely, and whether any legacy systems are affecting this. This is particularly crucial in the run up to GDPR going live next year.

Health check or IT audit

If you want to fully understand the vulnerabilities of your systems, then a health check is a relatively low cost way of doing so. This will also provide you with appropriate next steps to remedy any glaring issues.

Business Process Mapping (BPM)

This will help to identify any weaknesses or inefficiencies in your wider processes. Eliminating these helps to reduce the risk of legacy systems by keeping things as simple as possible, where there is less chance for things to go wrong.

If legacy systems continue to remain in place, with no checking and little to no maintenance, they present as much of an insider threat as rogue or careless employees do. The insurance industry, as do others, need to take note and start to properly assess the extent of the problems they face.

For more information on managing your legacy systems, ring for a free consultation on 020 7127 4558.

Alternatively, talk to us today, we’d love to hear from you.