Advice to Vendors Preparing for IASA

Jeff Goldberg

With the IASA annual conference rapidly approaching, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from core systems vendors about how to best present themselves at big events like this. The advice is not the same for every vendor, but there are some points that are true for just about everyone.

1. Your sales team will not convince an insurer to purchase a core system if they aren’t already in the market for one. That means your primary goal is to make sure that you end up on an insurer’s long list when the time for replacement does come (on their schedule).

2. Event attendees will be seeing a lot of booths and meeting a lot of vendors. The majority of them will not remember the details or nuance of your pitch and they will not read every word of a 5 page brochure. At most they will take away two or three key facts. What do you want those three facts to be? Decide ahead of time, and make sure you work to highlight them in your conversations and in your marketing material. What are you selling, who is your target client-base, and what key features makes your system stand out?

3. It’s hard enough to convey the full scope of your system’s functionality in an hour meeting. It’s even more difficult to give demos in an event scenario. Instead of trying to walk someone through your normal demo script, you should have multiple parts of the system staged and ready to go. Don’t waste time keying in policy data or document text; instead, have several tabs open in a browser with pre-entered information, bring up the right tab based on your audience’s interest, and show the relevant parts of the system in action without having to step through lots of pages.

4. Positive quotes from referenceable clients are better than any marketing text you can write.

Making a Project Succeed with Users Who are Reluctant to Adopt a New System

Jeff Goldberg

When planning for change management or a core system replacement, we focus a lot on getting buy-in and sponsorship from leadership. But even though end-users may be required to go along, getting their support is critical to success. So how do you handle it when the users of a system are reluctant or even openly resistant to change?

1. Get input and review from key users before the project begins. Make them feel some ownership and buy-in, even if they aren’t part of the decision making process. Include them in updates as the project proceeds so that they have time to prepare and, hopefully, get excited. Remember that time spent in up front education not only helps get reluctant users involved, it also reduces training time at the end.

2. Plan for proper training that includes not just how to use the project, but also what the values of using it are. If you can’t articulate the values before the project begins then something is wrong.

3. Implement a plan to push still-reluctant users. Have dates for shutting off replaced systems, metrics to track how people are using it, and firm incentives (both positive and negative) for adopting the system.

4. Especially with data and Business Intelligence, never forget that usability and design matters when getting users to adopt a new system. Integrate the new system into the existing daily process. Make it easy to use. Design isn’t an afterthought, it’s a key component of driving adoption and avoiding support request and mistakes.

As always I welcome your feedback. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me a note at email.

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2015 Vendor Selection Best Practice for Insurance Carriers: Simplified vs Extensive RFI

Martina Conlon

In my last vendor selection blog post I highlighted a few best practices, one of which included using a simplified Request for Information (RFI) that was easy for the vendor to complete and for you to score. I’d like to delve into this topic more and explain why a simplified RFI can make or break the vendor selection process. A simplified RFI will get you through the vendor selection process much faster, and will help your selection team focus on what really matters – your unique requirements.

From a functionality perspective, don’t inventory the ordinary; instead focus on areas that are specific to your business. We know that any insurance application that is in production with several insurers will support basic transactions. For example, all policy systems have a new business, policy change and cancellation transactions so there is no need to spend time and focus on them. Instead, dig into features that matter to your business. Perhaps you need robust premium audit features to support your workers comp business, or you need advanced reinsurance capabilities to support your middle market commercial business. Ask questions in the areas where you may be stretching the capabilities of a vended solution.

Having been involved in over 50 vendor selection projects (rating, policy administration systems, claims, billing, agent portals, business intelligence, etc.), Novarica recommends that during the RFI phase the focus should be on discovering reasons not to consider a particular vendor (the “deal-killers”). Novarica’s experience has shown deal killers generally fall into one of four areas: Staff, Organization,Functionality, and Technology, easily remembered by the acronym SOFT.


  • Do the staff have the right skills and experience?
  • How well are they likely to understand your needs?
  • What resources are available for implementation and support?
  • What assurances will you have that the staff you meet during the sales process will really be the staff that you work with?


  • How stable is the organization?
  • Is it big enough for your company to do business with?
  • Is there a conflict in the company’s ownership (i.e., are they owned by a competitor)?
  • Who are their other clients?
  • How much of a role do clients have in product development?


  • Does the solution support the lines of business, states, and high-level functionality that you need?
  • Which functions are actually live at reference clients?


  • Is the solution’s technical architecture compatible with your enterprise standards?
  • Does your IT staff have the skills to support it?

The typical Novarica RFI includes 100-150 questions. The typical response for 30-50 pages takes 2-4 hours to score. Your time is valuable – don’t waste days reading and scoring complex RFI responses full of information you probably already know. This simplified approach will typically allow you to narrow the range of potential suppliers in any particular solution category to 2-3 candidates much more quickly and effectively than with a large dense RFP.

For more information about vendor selection best practices, make sure to register for our upcoming Vendor Selection Best Practices webinar taking place Thursday, January 29th at 2 p.m. (ET) or send me a note at email.

2015 Vendor Selection Best Practices for Insurance Carriers

Martina Conlon

Over the last few years more and more insurance carriers have forgone custom software development projects and turned to the vendor marketplace to find solutions to their most pressing problems. While there are many advantages to leveraging vendor solutions, many insurance IT departments are not experienced in finding and evaluating solution providers to meet their needs.

The traditional methods used by insurance carriers for selecting vendors can limit success and take an inordinate amount of time, leading to challenges long before a project even begins. By focusing on asking the right questions and engaging business leaders and users early in the process, insurers can streamline the traditional process while providing far better results. Below I have highlighted a few vendor selection best practices, including:

  • Get business commitment to the process upfront.
  • Limit purchasing/sourcing departments control until the contract negotiation stage.
  • Focus on strategic needs rather than current practices.
  • Use a simplified RFI that is easy for the vendor to complete and for you to score.
  • Set the agenda of demos and evaluation meetings, rather than letting the vendor drive.
  • Focus on where your organizations is unique, don’t over analyze the ordinary.
  • Question vendor pricing models and negotiate for what you think is a fair partnership deal.

The best practices above are a sampling of the lessons learned during years of Novarica vendor selection projects and conversations with experienced CIOs. For more information about vendor selection best practices, register for our upcoming Vendor Selection Best Practices webinar taking place Thursday, January 29th at 2 P.M. (ET) or contact me via email.

Digital Failings

Rob McIsaac

We live in a brave new world now with digital devices and equipment surrounding us in a sea of capabilities that (generally) improve the quality of our experiences. They also allow us to extend ourselves in ways that would have been hard to contemplate until recently. While this has many great potential benefits, there are also some unintended consequences that we need to be mindful of, particularly as technologists. In a world that reflects the Internet of Things, smart buildings and self-driving cars are no longer future state fiction. They are modern realities that have real world implications associate with them when they work. And when they don’t!

I was reminded of this in a recent analog world event. After restoring my Dad’s 35 year old Moto-Guzzi motorcycle, I’ve come to enjoy quiet country road excursions. Not long ago, while on a pleasant cruise I felt a little “hitch in the giddyup”. Was it real or my imagination? What I found was an analog failure in the ignition system. It entertained me with a gradual failing through diminished capability but provided plenty of time to return to the shop and get a replacement part. The failure was gradual, graceful, moderately elegant and easily controlled. Good thing too, since there is no backup system. The only path forward is the happy one.

Which got me thinking about how different circumstances are in our digital world. Things work right up to the point when they don’t. One minute they can be fine and the next it is like someone flipped a switch. Lights out. One of my more exciting CIO moments was caused by such a failure. Our online portal was a composite of capabilities, some of which we owned and hosted, other served to us from trusted vendors. When it all worked, it was a thing of technical beauty. We had architected things on our end carefully too, with redundancy and failover capabilities embedded and tested.

It turned out, however, that some of our third party solutions had taken a less robust approach which we did not fully appreciate. And so, when they went down … they took us with them. Like running into a wall. To our customers trying to argue that we were up and it was actually a third party problem that was keeping them from reaching the functionality they wanted was a moot point. It was our site with our logo; don’t try and deflect! Own it, love it, fix it was really all that mattered.

All of which made us realize how important it is to plan a digital playbook that anticipates the non-happy path moments and can support nearly instantaneous cutover to a path less traveled. Digital advances are truly remarkable … but they require a different sort of planning when failure can be both instantaneous and catastrophic. A self-driving car that can fail like that would require some serious discussion about liability insurance and advanced training for an operator.

New capabilities and new opportunities require new planning and architectural paradigms that must evolve concurrently. A digital framework constructed around analog ideas of what failure will look like will, almost certainly, lead to unfortunate results.

As always I welcome your feedback. To send me a note or set up a complimentary 1 hour consultation, contact me via email.

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Sometimes The Best Way to Speed Up … is to Slow Down

Rob McIsaac

I was recently reminded of this old adage while racing through A New York area airport. I had allowed a meeting to run a little long, which ate into my traveling “margin for error”, which had then caused me to get caught in rush hour traffic. One small event led to a much bigger one and now, bag in hand, I was rushing toward security. And then I hit a double whammy. The security line on a Friday night looked like a pre-release event for a new i-Phone … and my boarding pass didn’t include the magic words “TSA Pre check”. Spending the night at the airport now seemed a real possibility.

The temptation? Jump in line and hope for the best. The smart play? Go back to the ticket counter and get them to issue a new boarding pass that was my “Get Out of Jail Free Card”. Slow down even more, on the chance it would speed me up on the overall process.

At the counter the agent blamed the issue on a software bug (nice irony there) and dutifully printed the new pass. With no one in the Pr-check line I sailed through security and into a blissful repose at the back of a regional jet winging my way toward home. Victory was mine.

Which got me to thinking about some of the work we, at Novarica, do with carriers. Increasingly we see companies across all lines of business recognize that their existing core systems don’t have the ability to properly position them to deal with imminent competitive threats. Implementing new products takes too long and is too expensive. Supporting new channels presses existing technology past the breaking point and support for a 24×7 world creates an architectural model that only Rube Goldberg could love. With time to market pressure high and business leaders trained by Apple and Google to be dazzled by new features, the idea of slowing down to speed up may seem inane. On the other hand, pursuing the current course may ultimately be the world’s biggest game of “push the wet noodle”. Entertaining but hardly productive.

Which leads to the search for alternatives. A quick scan of many carrier IT organizations finds that they don’t have the institutional memory for knowing how to do an effective vendor selection. In many cases the process, unaided, can start to look like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. About the time it is done, you need to start over. Fundamental things have changed and what was once a good answer or approach may no longer be. Slowing down this much doesn’t speed anything up! It just leads to indecision.

A better alternative? Using a structured and repeatable process that allows a carrier to leverage industry expertise so that it can focus internal SME’s on the things that create real competitive advantage for the carrier itself. This can be where a process like Novarica’s can make a significant difference. A typical vendor selection can be done in 10-12 weeks, a pretty far cry from what many carriers experience when they “roll their own”. Armed with better process and tools can lead to a much faster end to end process.

The ultimate irony, of course, is that I was late to the airport in the first because we were wrapping up a carrier vendor selection effort … and enjoying a protracted discussion around how we’d met a self-imposed goal of selecting a new core system in ten weeks. All is well, it turns out, when it ends well!

Three Questions to Ask about Every Analytics Solution in Order to Get Actionable Insight

Jeff Goldberg

I recently joined Novarica as a Principal after a brief hiatus from the insurance industry during which I founded and eventually sold a SaaS data analysis and business intelligence company in the health & wellness space. For most of my career I’ve been thinking about how to best leverage insurance data, and after spending so much time deep in the weeds of designing and selling a data analysis solution, I have a new perspective on actionable analytics and BI.

The idea of “actionable data” has been a minor buzzword for at least a decade, surrounding all of the many advances and evolutions of data projects and services. We all know intuitively what it means: make sure that we can take action from our data. And we all know examples of projects that failed to heed this advice, where after much time and money spent on bringing different data sources together and building reports against it, nothing in the business changed as a result.

But how do you actually get actionable data and what kind of action do we mean? After having spent so much time at a company that provided online business intelligence reporting to clients, is it perhaps surprising that I often don’t like reports? Or, rather, I frequently feel a report is just a stepping stone to a better business process. Clearly there are users, typically at the strategic or executive level, who need to be looking at big pictures and trends. But for most operational users, poorly designed business intelligence acts as a dead end rather than a call to action.

Now whenever I see a report, often with excellent data and filled with tables and charts and graphs, I ask three questions about it:

  1. What is the key take-away from this data, and if it can be distilled down to one or two important facts then why is the whole report even needed?
  2. Can these one or two important facts be worded in the form of an action or a “to-do” list?
  3. Can I get these “to-do” items directly into the hands of the person who needs to do them, either via e-mail or some other process integration?

As an example, my data company had a very popular report showing a manufacturer’s product distribution across retail stores. It contained a lot of trend and sales information at a macro and micro level. For an industry with a lot of middle-men and where manufacturers often don’t know where their own products are being sold, this was a very important report. But when we asked the above three questions, we got the following answers:

  1. The key take-away is a list of the top five or ten stores where a manufacturer’s full product line is not being sold, ordered by how much potential business is being lost.
  2. The action is to call those stores and sell them on carrying the additional products.
  3. The best way to get these actions done it to split them up by region, and have a list of stores to call (with phone numbers and product information) sitting in each sales person’s inbox on Monday morning.

The head of sales and marketing wants to look at the big picture and be able to analyze the data, and for her the original report is still the correct source. But for most users, by answering those three questions, we’ve just taken a potential confusing dead end and turned it into a driver of their ongoing behavior. (And for a startup that relied on a monthly SaaS subscription, getting data integrated directly into a client’s operating process whether or not their employees ever logs into the website was a great way to become invaluable.)

Every report in your business should be put to the same three questions. For example, any time a data analysis solution helps an underwriter make a risk decision it’s the result of taking what was once large reports with multiple tables and lots of data, boiling that down to the key rating, and then putting that rating in front of the underwriter right within their toolset.

To be clear, I’m not anti-report. Sometimes insurers’ services aren’t integrated or modern enough to support this kind of distribution across tools and systems. But if you can answer those three questions about a report, even if the kind of automated distillation and distribution of the data won’t happen for a long time, then you can better train users on how and when to use that report to take the action that makes your business better.

Document Management and ECM – New Novarica Market Navigator Report

Tom Benton

Insurers are showing increasing interest in improving workflow and customer experience.  This often includes providing multiple communication channels, such as mobile texting, social media and video, along with traditional paper and e-mail.  The growing amount of unstructured data from these communications brings challenges for management, storage, workflow and distribution along with leveraging the data for analytics and reporting.

Insurers are finding that legacy document management systems are not able to meet demands for customer experience and workflow initiatives.  Many find that replacement is necessary, and that current document management / ECM (Enterprise Content Management) systems have capabilities that are difficult to add to legacy systems. Updating can also provide opportunities for improved process flow along with new deployment options such as SaaS or hosted ECM solutions.

Novarica has published an updated Market Navigator on Document Management and ECM Systems, available now.  This report presents an overview of the current solution provider marketplace to assist insurers in drawing up their shortlists of potential providers based on vendor market position and offering details.


Evolution in London Market Vendor Landscape

Catherine Stagg-Macey

The 325-year-old Lloyd’s market makes changes slowly. The complexity of the risk, the uniqueness of the market place and the importance of relationships are all factors in the speed of change.

However, one area of noticeable change in the last three years is the core solution offerings to Lloyds. Traditionally, a small number vendors serving the local insurers, syndicates and managing agents developed software for each client. These vendors were small in size with management and development staff drawn from the Square mile.

There was significant re-use of the software across clients but the software offered was some way off from being productized. As a result, the clients (insurer, syndicate, managing agent) would be faced with on-going services bill to maintain what is essentially a bespoke core systems implementation. This had the advantage of being significantly fine-tuned to each client’s requirements but at a cost.

The Lloyds vendor market was known for mostly over-promising and under-delivering. CIOs would make comments like “our vendor is the best of a bad lot”. The sector is notorious for difficult and painful implementations. With only one or two new deals a year for vendors, it was a hard market to ensure continued investment in the solutions.

For years, the idiosyncrasies of the Lloyds market (messaging into the Bureau, peculiarities of business process, and complexity of the risk) were significant barriers to entry for other vendors.

Then two trends converged to create a more interesting target sector for the non-traditional London market vendors looking for continued growth:

  1. Mainstream software market matured significantly and insurers were able to partner with vendors with sophisticated partner programs, and strong delivery records to take on some serious legacy system challenges.
  2. Lloyds/London market insurers started to expand globally and were open to looking at more mainstream solutions for their non-Lloyds business. Several made investments in Europe or the US for their regional businesses and successfully implemented new underwriting and claims solutions.

The result is several of the big names in the core P&C systems market now have the global Lloyds or London market insurers as their clients, albeit for their non-Lloyds books of business for underwriting. Implementations are mostly in the US or in Europe.

The Claims area is a different picture. Several vendors have made the necessary investment (with thanks to their charter client) to be London market compliant and support Claims in the Lloyds market. This mostly involves modifications to messaging to be compliant to the London market message standard of ECF.

So the next uncharted territory is for a mainstream vendor to partner with a London market insurer and invest in the localization requirements. Our view is that is probably 18-24 months away.

It’s a good time for the insurer in the London market. There is increasingly more choice from established, well-funded vendors with better implementation track records and experience in product management. It’s a challenging time for the incumbent traditional London market software players as the competition is going to really hot up with these new market entrants. Time to buy ring-side tickets.

New Report: Business Intelligence Solutions for Insurers

Martina Conlon

The continuing hype around “Big Data” is focusing ever more attention on insurers’ data management and BI capabilities. Analysis of data, creation of predictive models, and the ability to take action based on the outcome of those models has always been at the core of the insurance industry. But BI tools and platforms, big data technologies and the availability of data analysts and scientists is spurring interest and adoption even further.

On Friday, Lis Maguda and I published the updated Novarica Market Navigator report on Business Intelligence Solutions for Insurers that profiles the solutions and tools in this space. The report contains a brief profile of each vendor solution: 4Sight Business Intelligence, Cover-All, Guidewire Software, IBM Corporation, InEdge, Information Builders, Innovation Group, InsFocus, Insurity, Microsoft, Policy Administration Solutions, SAP, SAS, SNL iPartners, Tableau Software, and Yodil. Most of the solutions profiled in this report provide insurance-specific models, dashboard, and reports. A few offer industry-agnostic tools to enable the insurer to develop their own custom BI environment, and a few others offer both tools and insurance data models/visualizations. All offer products that can accelerate delivery of a robust BI environment.

Business intelligence continues to be one of the most common areas of investment for insurers. The rising tide of Big Data threatens to overwhelm enterprises that have not yet gotten the most out of “little data” (structured enterprise data). Implementing a comprehensive analytics and business intelligence environment is a major step on the road to data mastery. Many insurers recognize that leveraging internal, external, and big data is the key to improving their business performance, and are investing accordingly. This report can assist insurers in assessing the options for enabling this critical capability.