Very early on, WWK Versicherungen used electronic filing systems and digitisation early on to handle life and composite insurance. The IT basis for this was software developed in-house. Technical developments in the operation systems then forced the Munich-based insurance company to make a decision: redevelopment or a standard solution. Departing from an in-house solution to a standard solution led to a partnership with the workflow and industry specialists at Macros Reply. The change placed high demands on both partners, but now it has opened up many additional opportunities for efficiency improvements within the insurance company.
Alexander Lauerer, Insurance Technology Department Group Manager, WWK Versicherungen
WWK is a substantial, growing, independent and modern financial service provider. For decades, WWK has been amongst the market leaders in unit-linked life insurance. Likewise in the area of personal and property insurance, WWK is one of the most high-performing insurers. With the in-house WWK Investment S. A. and WWK Pensionsfonds AG, WWK is well-positioned.
“For a software provider, software launches for customers changing from individual development to standard solutions are always challenging projects – and the same was true for our project at the WWK,”, explains Sarah Bargsten, project manager at the software provider Macros Reply
“Background: the specialist departments are familiar with the in-house solution. When comparing this with the standard solution, it’s less a case of right or wrong, and more one of familiar and unfamiliar; historically developed processes and new processes. On the other hand, the company wants to take advantage of a standard solution: future-proof, best practices, cutting-edge technologies and industry know-how from the provider.” Alongside the management’s clear decision in favour of the standard solution, other key success factors for the change within WWK to standard software were early and extensive integration of IT and specialist departments into the project, and great flexibility on the part of the software provider during the implementation of features and processes. The standard software gained further plus-points thanks to its new additional features, which were beneficial to the work of the specialist departments, but nevertheless still in accordance with the sequence and the progression of the project.
On the bases of a proprietary solution, the WWK’s life insurance and composite departments have long been profiting from efficiency improvements resulting from the early digitisation of incoming post and from software-supported work with electronic filing systems. The manufacturer then announced termination of support for the application and the company was faced with a decision: redevelopment or a standard solution.
The Munich-based company carried out extensive evaluations before making a decision. Experienced and specialised IT consultants like Zöller & Partner were invited to the company, visits were made to reference installations at other insurers, and the in-house IT department was asked to work on concepts for in-house development. The strategic orientation favoured standard software. Alongside the advantages of being future-proof and of having regular updates with new features, standard software was also viewed as offering the possibility to move away from what had been, up until then, a document-centred view of in-house development towards a more strongly process-orientated modus operandi.
On the basis of this evaluation and extensive preliminary meetings, the decision was made in favour of a Macros Reply solution. In order to meet the needs of the specialist departments with respect to interfaces and special processes, the comprehensive configuration and expansion possibilities of the software were used. Without any major process changes, the life-insurance and composite departments at WWK are now working with the standard solution.
“Up to the end of 2014, we in the Claims department had avoided digitisation and electronic filing systems due to the clearly more complex processing activities. But the success and experience of this solution in other departments caused us to rethink,” explains Alexander Lauerer, Group Manager of the Insurance Technology Department. And his colleague Herbert Schwarzer, Internal Company Consultant at WWK, added:
“The specialist departments also wanted to offer their customers more service and faster processing. Despite the increasing importance of electronic mail for communication regarding claims settlement, it was very difficult to map this within the existing paper-based processes. Often, we had to print out emails and attachments. Here too, the same software was to be introduced, but the challenges could not have been more different. The specialist departments for life and composite insurance were accustomed to working with electronic filing systems and therefore had fewer points of contact with software-supported processes. The employees had however “struggled” to some degree with differently configured interfaces, with process changes and with the more process-orientated working methods in the standard solution. In the claims department, in contrast, it was necessary to transform what were clearly more complex processes from paper-based processing to working with electronic filing systems – and it was necessary to persuade a team that had always worked with paper up until that point.
“To give the specialist departments more security and to show that we were taking their concerns seriously, we entered into a very comprehensive requirements-engineering process (pilot project), bringing in quality assurance from Fraunhofer Institut for the workshops and definition of the requirements and processes”, said Alexander Lauerer at the beginning of the project. Another innovative idea: the playground. Supervised in small groups of four people and two experts, employees were given specific tasks and scenarios which they had to handle in a test installation. The playground was therefore a change management tool, a training centre and a software test all at the same time.
“And this success proved us right. For the introduction, we were able to limit the training to half a day. In addition, employees rated the repeated software tests and training sessions with realistic processing scenarios as significantly better than the otherwise-common and interrelated training which takes place over a longer time period,” emphasised Herbert Schwarzer. For this, it was always important to get the provider – Macros Reply – involved. They illustrated the best practices and tools present in the software. One example: the configurable checklists which show the departmental processing status at a glance, transparently documenting process operations automatically and in the simplest way.
With the introduction of the Macros Reply solution for claims processing, WWK has been working completely with the standard software for DMS and electronic filing since mid-2015. In the life and composite insurance departments, where work had already been done with software developed in-house, the company uses many functional extensions – such as checklists, the substantially more flexible policies for mail distribution and the integration of email communication – and also a view organised around processes rather than documentation.
“Naturally, the benefits are even greater in the claims department. The claims processing is completed much more efficiently and quickly. Customers benefit from good email integration and the ability to get information about the status of a process at any time,” summarises Alexander Lauerer. Employees have also noticed the advantages of electronic filing systems and software in a quite unexpected location:
“Unlike with the old inbox for paper filing systems, the electronic inbox isn’t bursting at the seams after a holiday. Policies can be set to reassign the work of absent employees conveniently and pretty much in real-time,” explains Herbert Schwarzer.
Within the company, the switch to the Macros Reply standard solution can be regarded as a total success. What advice would the two WWK experts Herbert Schwarzer and Alexander Lauerer provide to colleagues in other insurance companies who are also facing a decision between proprietary development and standard software? Investment in the change-management process, getting colleagues from the specialist departments involved early on and transparent, reasoned decisions during the course of the project promote acceptance and speed up the actual introduction phase. In contrast, politically motivated deviations from the standard – for example to “buy” the agreement of individual users or interest groups in the short term – are to be avoided at all costs. Deviations from the standard should be considered very carefully and only for technical reasons, due to the updates which will become more complex as a result.
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