«With Appian you can integrate your legacy systems into more modern ones»

With over fifteen years in the insurance sector, Gijsbert Cox has been an Operations and Change Manager at Hiscox and PartnerRe, working with underwriters to develop new products and provide the best customer experience. He was also responsible for the IT functionality, to make sure the developed solutions conformed with what they needed. “It was then that I stumbled across Appian and was quite intrigued, because you always have to struggle with your IT budget and try to make improvements with what you have. But with Appian this is different, because you can offer much more with less”.

How has the insurance sector changed over the past years?

The insurance sector has suffered a lot of growth by scale. This is because there have been a lot of acquisitions, so insurance companies have grown through mergers. And that results in a collection of systems from the original companies. The way insurers have organized themselves traditionally is quite siloed. What I mean by this, is that there is a department for policy administration, one for claims administration, one for billing and payments, etc. And that is also how their systems are organized as well.

But, as a customer, I expect to call the insurance company and get answers to all of my questions, whether they are about a product, a claim I have pending, or something else. And every time I change subject, I am getting transferred to a different department. So you can easily spend 40 minutes on the phone.

At the moment, it is quite a challenge to “unlock” all the data located in different places within the company, and putting it at the disposal of the agent that is taking your call, so he or she can answer all of your questions without additional transfers.

Thus, creating an engagement layer that can support your broker, your customer operations, and your customer itself

And that is where Appian comes in, because we are agnostic regarding where the information is. And you can design the application you need very quickly, using the data that may be scattered over 15 different systems. That is the way our customers use Appian: either developing small applications that sit on top of the existing systems, or as an orchestration layer over multiple systems. Thus creating an engagement layer that can support your broker, your customer operations, and your customer itself.

So you can, for example, design a process for a department to find out in what state a certain claim is, and that same information can also be exposed in the self-service portal directly for the customer.

On top of that, this additional layer has the advantage that, if at some point in the future the insurer changes its systems, he can integrate the new ones with the same functionality he had previously, just adapting the Appian layer, so the customer doesn’t perceive any changes in its interaction with the company.

What is your differentiating factor?

It is mainly the speed, power and the agility. I’ll explain what I mean by that: first of all, the speed comes from Appian being low-code. You design the application as if it was a process flow. And that is actually your application. You don’t need to see the code that is underneath. It is as easy as using the building blocks we provide, and with them you can build your application. And this helps closing the gap between business and IT. Because someone from the business area can actively participate in building the application directly on Appian, as he/she  knows the processes first hand and sees it visually being created.

Someone in the business area can build the application directly, as the process is known first hand

But these building blocks aren’t everything. There is, for example, RPA (Robotic Process Automation), AI, or OCR. These are all part of the Appian platform. So you can use them to your advantage in your low-code projects.

Challenges of the insurance sector

Recently Appian organized a webinar for the insurance sector called Streamline claims, empower your workforce and provide a seamless CX in which senior officials, related to the claims area participated. What specific challenges does this area have and how are they being addressed?

What I heard is that they really want to automate, and they are doing a lot a projects. But also that they are fixing little things, within their capabilities. A lot of insurers need to deal with their siloed systems, and they are trying to fix something on top of that.

Besides the automation, I think Appian can deliver them a different dimension of fixing things end-to-end, and connecting all the data and automation together. And our customers see that this is very powerful.”

Talking of RPA, do you integrate with RPA system providers?

We partner a lot with RPA companies like Blueprism, UIPath and Automation Anywhere. But we also have Appian RPA now available within the platform. However, RPA as such is powerful, but using RPA alone is tricky, because you may end up creating new legacy systems.

In fact, RPA is a quite mindless process. Just the other week I heard a customer complaining about having to spend something like 1.5 million in maintaining his bots. And that is surely not something you want to go into. But if you have your RPA connected to an orchestration layer, that also brings in the human element, so that the exceptions go to the humans, and they can resolve them, instead of clogging the system. That way you are creating a better value.

De la RPA a la hiperautomatización

En el siguiente artículo puedes ver más información sobre:
Robótica, IA y low-code en los procesos de transformación.

Have insurance companies changed their processes as a result of implementing Appian technology?

Absolutely. With Appian, everything remains low-code. So you have the new power of reviewing your processes constantly and adapt them to what you need.

For example, I can tell you what Aviva, the British Insurance Company, has done: their customer support was organized on a task level, but they flipped it around and organized it by customer. So now, when they talk to you, they close the process only when the customer has all the answers he needs. And that could be a few minutes, or three days. And after that, they continue with the next customer. But you, the customer, have the advantage that you don’t have to speak to half a dozen people in different departments, in order to get your problem solved. Just one.

Which are the main technologies they are looking for in order to digitize all their processes, systems and workflow?

A lot of them start with bots, and that is fine, but they need APIs also, in order to unlock the full potential of bots with some orchestration. There is also a lot of need for OCR, for example to structure and process the documents that come in with e-mails.

In order to do this beyond our own capabilities, we partner with Amazon and Google, so as an Appian user you have access to, for example, Google AI or the translation functionality. In this regard, we always work with the best of breed. Why invent something again, when you can work with the best that is already available?

How has the current Covid-19 pandemic impacted the insurance sector?

Well, if they had their processes automated already, it is almost business as usual. At least regarding servicing your customers and having access to your IT (even with everyone at home, I mean). However, I also heard of people that haven’t done that and that a simple signature made the whole process fall over. So the gaps have become very clear in the sector.

With the pandemic, and everyone working from home, we have seen more interest in, for example, solutions for broker functionality, in order to communicate with the intermediaries. Because they have had a very challenging time, not being able to see their customers face to face. So helping them to do their business, is important.

Another field is the payment process. Some countries still using cheques and fixing the payment process is very important as it has to be done quickly, with the legacy systems that you already have. And this is a very suitable scenario for Appian.

Finally, there is the topic of returning to the office or workplace, which has to be done in a safe manner. Appian, for example, has built the Workforce Safety Solution which allows you to integrate quickly in your organization in order to orchestrate the employees coming back safely. An important detail is that my colleagues developed that in a week, despite being a totally new process that no one had ever thought about before.

What role do employees play in all of this low-code landscape?

The most important thing is that we closed the gap between business and IT. Because business usually says: “I just need this, make sure it works.” And then IT tries to build something and there is a gap in the communication style, and the end result isn’t what business wanted. But if you sit next to them and design it very quickly, and can visualize it, then it becomes alive, right?

Besides this, many of the employees have to use dozens of screens to get all the information they need for a process. That is not a nice work to do. Imagine if they have it all on one screen, so they can concentrate better on serving the customer, and not on what system has what data. That is what Appian allows to do.