Ask any CIO: One of insurance information technology’s biggest headaches revolves around how to keep up with a technology market that is evolving at a frighteningly rapid pace. No one wants to be left behind, but it’s impossible keep up to date with every innovation on the market.
As a result, most carriers end up with several disparate systems handling their various business processes. But as IT is increasingly recognized as an area that can actually drive business growth, it becomes even more important that all a carrier’s data is transparent and available across all systems.
Investing in a broad, all-encompassing business management system might be the right choice for you, if you have a few million dollars and months of installation and training time to spare. But the chances are you don’t have such luxuries, and the legacy systems you’ve already invested significant time and money in work just fine on their own. They just need to be able to work with each other.
Legacy systems are the arteries of an insurance company. They contain the crucial data that is the carrier’s lifeblood, and they drive the various processes that constitute the heart of the company’s operations. Why replace such systems when they are clearly more than capable of doing their jobs? A better option may be to extend both their lifespan and their capabilities by using one of several integration technologies.
When to integrate, when to replace
There are several reasons why a carrier may want to replace its legacy systems. In some cases, there may be a current lack of understanding of the system because it was implemented years ago and the IT personnel responsible for its installation have since left the company. Documents and manuals may have long ago been misplaced. Or it’s possible that the change simply comes from the desire to improve quality and efficiency.
But do any of these reasons actually mean that you absolutely must make way for new technology? Let’s not forget that implementing new technologies throws up a whole new set of conundrums that need to be addressed. What about the inevitable downtime involved in making this transition? What about the retraining of your staff on the new system? What about the final bill from the new system vendor? If you’re the one responsible for answering these questions, then perhaps you need to spend some time thinking about what role your existing IT investments can play in the new environment.
Extending system life through BPI
One of the main reasons why companies consider replacing their legacy systems is their lack of flexibility. Data is often trapped inside disparate silos–such as policy administration or underwriting–and unavailable to other areas of the enterprise. In today’s economy, where customers demand instant access to their information, and organizations want a “360-degree view” of each customer, data silos are analogous to clots in the arteries. Insurers need to find ways to unclog the flow of information and share it across every line of business.