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14 November 2007
Leading Romanian insurer Allianz-Tiriac Asigurari needed to provide its field staff with real-time access to its enterprise applications. Without access to current customer data, the field employees could not accurately calculate premiums for offers or determine whether customers had valid claims. The company decided to give its field staff Windows Mobile powered devices. In October 2006, it began developing a client application to connect the devices to the company's internal systems by using the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework. The project was completed in just one month.
Allianz-Tiriac Asigurari is a privately owned insurance company headquartered in Bucharest, Romania. A market leader in Romania, the company sells life insurance, property and casualty insurance, and employs more than 2,000 people.
From 2002 to 2005, Allianz-Tiriac consolidated its infrastructure and rewrote its existing enterprise applications by using the Microsoft .NET Framework. Although this change provided employees and customers with easy access to information, not everyone at the company benefited. Sales and service teams who work remotely were unable to access customer profiles and other key information from the company's databases in real time.
Because insurance premiums are based on the risk that the company assumes in extending coverage, sales people needed key information to correctly assess risks and calculate premiums. They needed to know a customer's claims history, relationship to other customers, and other risk factors. Without this data, sales people sometimes made inaccurate offers that, once accepted, were legally binding and could not be reversed.
What's more, each type of insurance required access to different data sets. For example, when company representatives provide a quotation for car insurance, they need to consider both the current value of a vehicle and the value of a new car. Until recently, a sales person either had to carry a ten-pound catalogue that showed the prices for all the makes and models of vehicles, or the sales people had to call the local call centre to get those values.
The company's claims representatives were also at a disadvantage. Without access to customer profiles, claims inspectors often did not know if customers were paying premiums on time, if they had made recent claims, or if they were on a 'black list' for insurance fraud. As a result, some claims were paid that should have been denied.
Given all of its needs, the company began looking for a mobile solution that would work with its .NET-connected infrastructure and that would give its field personnel ready access to the company's enterprise applications.
From the beginning, the IT team at Allianz-Tiriac planned to use the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework to bring its field employees onto its internal network. The majority of the company's programmers were experienced with the .NET Framework and with C# programming environments, as well as with Windows operating systems. Allianz-Tiriac had been among the first companies in Romania to perform a .NET implementation.
"With our backgrounds, we thought it would be relatively easy to program for Windows Mobile 5.0," says Paul Petre, .NET developer at Allianz-Tiriac Asigurari. "And Microsoft provides a lot of productivity tools for developers, so Windows Mobile was an obvious choice."
"We also wanted online connectivity that would keep data in the field in sync with the data on the computers back at the main office," says Adrian Ene, .NET IT manager at Allianz-Tiriac Asigurari. The company specified that the devices include a camera, so the field employees would be able to take photos of insured items, as required by Romanian law.
Having reviewed all of its needs, the company purchased 470 Windows Mobile powered devices, consisting of a split between E-ten M600+ and Qtek 9000 models. In October 2006 the development team started to work on programming for the solution. The 11-person team developed a client application for the devices that uses Web services to connect with the company's main systems over the Internet.
In November 2006, the IT team extensively tested the devices before deploying them, and now use them with Orange wireless services. "We had no problems," says Ene. "The .NET Compact Framework worked very well for our Windows Mobile deployment. It didn't seem to matter how many users we added."
Allianz-Tiriac is already seeing many positive results from its Windows Mobile solution. Today, everyone at the company has ready access to corporate applications and key customer data whenever they need it. "Now, sales people can make appropriately priced offers to customers, because they have all the information they need to correctly calculate risks," says Marius Balica, CIO at Allianz-Tiriac Asigurari.
Claims inspectors have benefited from the ready access to information, too. Allianz-Tiriac is already experiencing savings in this area. "The customers who have paid their premiums can still go directly to a garage for repairs," says Balica. "But now, because the claims people can check a customer's profile in real time, we are only paying legitimate claims."
Allianz–Tiriac gained another huge advantage from its mobile solution: the data collected in the field is entered only once. "With our Windows Mobile solution, we have increased our productivity by 30 per cent and decreased costs by 20 per cent by eliminating duplicate data entry," says Balica. The company has also eliminated the time required to attach photos to policy offers, as well as the mistakes introduced by manual processes.
One important reason that the IT team at Allianz-Tiriac chose the Windows Mobile solution was that it only took about a month to develop. "The development was two or three times faster than with any other system," says Petre. "The Windows Mobile productivity tools from Microsoft helped."
Petre specifically cited the Mobile Client Software Factory, Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 development system, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Mobile Edition database software, and the integrated Windows Mobile 5.0 in Visual Studio 2005, which made the task much easier throughout the application design, development, and testing cycles.
The speed with which the company can process offers and claims has also increased. Customers can sign an offer or claims notification on the touch screen of the mobile device, where it can be immediately sent to the company. Claims inspectors can also collect information, pictures of the damaged insured items, and the signatures, and send it all in an instant to the core system. The customers then receive an instant confirmation by e-mail message, which also acts as a double-check that the data was entered correctly. As a result of these new processes, customer satisfaction has risen.
In addition to the security features built into Windows Mobile 5.0, Allianz- Tiriac finds its mobile devices help it keep client and company data secure. "All of the client and core business information is stored in our back-end databases, not on the devices," says Ene. "If a device is stolen, we only have to disable it from a list of permitted equipment. And by not deploying the business applications on the devices, we save money while providing our employees with the latest versions."
The Windows Mobile solution that Allianz-Tiriac put in place will help the company not only in the near-term, but also in the future. The company plans to move soon from IBM Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and the Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 messaging and collaboration client for its e-mail message system.
In addition, the insurer is working on a project to extend the value of its mobile solution with the global positioning system feature embedded in its devices. The company plans to collect and map its policyholders' locations at the time of risk assessment. Among other things, this mapping could help the company alert policyholders by e-mail or text messages in the event of a pending disaster. It could also help it pay claims and assess potential losses faster. Proactively, the system could aid in advising customers of potential risks or in targeting the marketing of specific products.
With the anticipated mapping project, Allianz-Tiriac predicts that more opportunities are yet to come. "In the beginning we thought that we knew all the good outcomes from our Windows Mobile solution," says Balica. "But every day we are discovering more."