When it comes to selecting an insurance core system, there are a few things that are crucial to think through before selecting a vendor — whether the system is cloud-based or a Software as a Service (SaaS) vendor, the implementation process, and service model.
We sat down with Troy Michalski, Origami’s VP of Professional Services - Core Solutions, to get his thoughts on key things that insurers and MGAs should know before selecting a policy and/or claims administration system.
Q: Let’s first start with your background. Many of us at Origami already know you as our guru on this topic, but what has some of your experience in the field looked like?
A: Prior to joining Origami in 2020, I spent over 16 years in strategy and service delivery at a variety of companies in the P&C insurance and financial services industries with responsibility for project portfolios totaling in the hundreds of millions. The decade of my career immediately preceding Origami Risk was primarily focused on full technology transformation initiatives for large carriers. (i.e., Policy, Claims, Billing, Digital, Data, etc.)
Q: Given your background, I feel like one of the first questions we need to address is how to choose between an on-premise, cloud-based, or Software as a Service (SaaS) system. What needs to be considered beforehand?
A: After the pandemic, I don’t see why anyone would consider an on-premise deployment. Today, systems need to be accessible from anywhere in the world from a web browser in order to remain strategic. On-premise systems also require substantial human and financial resources to maintain. This is especially true when it comes to insurers and MGAs.
With true multi-tenant SaaS systems, you gain huge financial and logistical benefits that you can’t get from cloud or on-premise systems. Transferring your organization’s infrastructure, database, and DevOps accountabilities to a SaaS partner is a game-changer. It reduces complexity and cost for client IT organizations, enabling them to focus less on maintenance-oriented tasks and more on projects that enable their company’s business strategy. And with Origami being a multi-tenant SaaS, all of our clients are on the same version of the software and receive quarterly releases, so there’s no lengthy upgrade to get the latest features.
By contrast, with some of our competitors, companies need to plan for a multi-month, multi-million dollar upgrade project every few years just to stay current with the vendor’s most cutting-edge enhancements.
Q: Once an organization has identified it’s preferred system type, what’s important for them to know before heading into an implementation?
When starting an implementation, a new team is being formed between client and vendor organizations. It’s important to have open communication and transparency, clarity on the business vision and expected benefits, the scope of work to be delivered, roles and responsibilities, how the team will communicate and manage the project and what the governance or escalation path is.
With Origami, certain scope and considerations around technical infrastructure, architecture, security, etc., have already been made, which can help to streamline the focus towards configuring the system to meet the client’s needs and identifying which third-party systems and services we need to integrate with as part of the project. We receive a lot of positive feedback on the transparency and honesty of our teams through implementations. Something as simple as communicating what can and cannot be done, updates to the project timeline, etc. can make a world of difference in whether an implementation is successful or not. This type of transparency is something that all organizations should look for in their vendor / client relationship, no matter the system.
Q: Any advice you can share for organizations that are looking at a new implementation?
A: There are some key pitfalls to avoid from the onset that need to be addressed from within. While it’s also imperative that you know what to expect from your vendor and vice versa, getting these few things in line can really make a huge difference:
- Have a clear vision and alignment at the execution versus executive level
- Have proactive, consistent Organizational Change Management at all levels of the organization
- Define clear roles, responsibilities, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
- Adopt a Minimum Viable Product mindset. Basically, know “what do we need now versus at a later phase of the project?”. Being disciplined in this space is critical.
Generally, it’s never too early to start planning for operational readiness and production support, including how you balance your organization’s resource capacity and budget across support and new delivery.
Though, a good vendor should be working with you and help you to have a clear understanding of whether your organization is ready to go live throughout the project.
Q: That’s great advice, even for organizations without upcoming implementations! Let’s shift perspective a bit; how are you seeing implementations differ between policy and claims solutions, or even between insurers and MGAs?
A: What I see as the biggest differentiator between insurers and MGAs is a higher prevalence of non-admitted business with the MGAs. Many MGAs have more of a start-up feel to them as well, driving aggressive timelines to capitalize on market opportunities. This means your implementation needs to be seamless or you’ll quickly find the project off track — which goes back to making sure you have a vendor that works with you in ensuring your organization is in line for an implementation, because that lack of preparedness can quickly become costly.
As for policy and claims solutions, the approach is really driven by the customer’s specific needs and business drivers. At Origami, we try to look at what will deliver value and enable the client’s business strategy in the most effective way and tailor our recommendation accordingly.
I will add that if an organization is implementing both a claims and policy solution, and decides to lead with implementing the claims administration solution first, it’s critical to still have a strong understanding of the policy structure to avoid rework down the road. A strength with Origami being a single-platform solution is that clients can implement a number of solutions in phases or all at once without facing numerous integrations as they otherwise would have had they decided to use a number of systems.
Q: What about service post-implementation? You've decided on a system type, you’re over the hurdle of understanding what implementation will look like, but what are some things that buyers need to think about beyond implementation?
A: Support model — implementations are not the only thing that can eat up a lot of time and money. I’ve seen upgrades with other core insurance systems take as long as a year and consume significant resources in the process. In many cases, on-premise upgrades can be close to a full re-implementation in the form of magnitude, resource consumption, and cost.
You need to understand where the vendor starts and stops, and where you as the customer fits into their model. There are testing activities that need to be contemplated and planned for, new features to be enabled, and more, so it’s important to have an understanding of how new features are released into the environment and the product’s update cadence before you get locked into a system that could routinely take up a considerable amount of resources.
Q: As an add on to that, how would you describe Origami’s service model?
A: At Origami, customer satisfaction with our products and services is our North Star. The customer is at the heart of everything we do and all decisions that we make.
We target insurance industry and technology veterans as members of our team who understand our customers’ businesses and we only partner with firms that also have significant domain knowledge and thought leadership within the markets and lines of business in which our customers operate.
As I mentioned above, a good vendor is truly a partner in the implementation and beyond. We’re involved in the implementation from day one and provide ongoing support. That’s critical in our ability to retain the knowledge of a client’s specific implementation and business needs instead of handing it off to a third-party group. This enables us to respond quickly to any issues and easily engage in and support new projects a customer prioritizes.
This is genuinely something that organizations need to be looking for in a vendor’s service model, that you, the client, are at the center of it.
Q: That’s a great point, Troy. What parting wisdom do you have for our readers considering an insurance core system switch in the future?
A: Know what you want and need out of a vendor and ask the hard questions. Make sure you truly understand what that vendor’s system type, implementation process, and service model mean for your internal resources not only as you’re getting the system up and running, but long-term as well. Partnering with a vendor should be just that, a partnership.