If I could characterize the past year, it would be the time when “the rubber met the road.” ACORD XML Standards and real-time delivery capabilities truly came off the paper of theory and into the realm of reality, impacting agents and their carriers in a big way.
In just the last year alone, 44 new XML messages for property and casualty business have been developed, in addition to the build-out of several other messages, bringing the total number available to 644.
As a result of all of this activity, some interesting trends have also emerged. Were seeing carriers and solution providers gaining greater appreciation for the impact XML standards can have internally, helping to connect the many different systems together. It has already been established that systems integration can often be the difference between a successful partnership and one that fails. The “go” or “no go” decision in a merger or acquisition deal sometimes hinges on whether the new, larger entity will be able to operate smoothly or suffer from prolonged and “resource-draining” incompatible systems.
Fortunately, one trend we see is the recognition by carriers that building those linkages to connect disparate internal systems based on industry XML standards is a way to truly achieve a positive return on investment in information technology. A new system that leverages standards to integrate existing systems, once youve completed the first project, only grows in value. The more disparate systems that link through standards, the greater the value, and since its reusable, the cost savings increase. Since integration is inevitable, some companies have realized that theres no time like the present to begin implementing standards.
More and more of the case studies ACORD publishes have to do with new systems integration projects. Those “first movers” are showing the rest of the industry that “getting from here to there”, from the costly mindset of point-to-point solutions to the open standards-based “any-to-any” flexibility, can only be achieved with a long-term vision. And like any journey, it begins with a first step.
Another trend we see is in the projects many are choosing to tackle. The frustration many companies felt early on in the rollout of industry XML standards is fading. Because of the nature of these standards, implementation can begin slowly and on a small scale. Everything doesnt have to be done at once.
And where did companies find the biggest return on investment? They found it in the wishes of agents. One of the key findings coming out of the AUGIE Agency Survey last year was the need for real-time transactions. In fact, the billing inquiry standard was submitted for development in June 2002 and just approved last November, as a result.