When its existing business process management (BPM) solution began struggling with scalability in mid-2009, AXA-Winterthur found itself at a crossroads. "Development and deployment became extremely complicate and risky, requiring significant resources," recalls Reimund Rozek, Head of BPM and Information Management for the Winterthur, Switzerland-based insurer. "We needed a better way."
By early 2010 Rozek's 18-person team was assessing the BPM market. Then, an accidental meeting proved a turning point. "I bumped into an old colleague who had a new role at [Zurich-based] Appway," Rozek says. "I took 10 minutes for a quick lunch and he gave me a tour of the Appway solution. I was very impressed."
After a thorough evaluation of five potential solutions -- including three from well-established vendors -- AXA-Winterthur (a division of AXA Group, Paris, France; US$1 trillion in total assets) ultimately selected the Appway Platform for its scalability and three other key factors.
"First, its architecture uses industry standards," explains Rozek. "This was very important to us for integrating with the dozens of other enterprises applications. Second, the design of the product's architecture and its modules was the same, which reduced complexity and enabled faster implementation with less risk.
"Also," he continues, "we tested Appway's partnership abilities during a proof-of-concept. We assessed their ability to help us solve problems that we identified, such as adding functionality to meet our needs, as well as locating – and addressing -- weaknesses in their own products."
Leveraging IaaS and SOA
During 2011 another AXA Group company, AXA Technology Services (Paris, France), established a new hardware and software environment for the new BPM platform and delivered it via infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). It included a cluster of two VMware-virtualized eight-core servers running Red Hat (Raleigh, N.C.) Linux and JBoss with an Oracle (Redwood Shores, Calif.) database controlling the cluster.
Concurrently, Rozek's team began building a new framework, including a browser-based user interface, for deploying Appway. "Our organization leverages SOA [service-oriented architecture] extensively," notes Rozek. "All of our BPM interfaces to other primary systems are services-enabled."
During the otherwise-smooth development process, two challenges arose with the Appway platform. One involved the auditing system, which Appway handled correctly for regulatory purposes by deleting the audit trail at the appropriate time. "However, we wanted to continue using the audit trails to create historical data to establish a BPM lifecycle," Rozek explains.
The other challenge concerned migrating old processes to new optimized processes whenever external changes occurred, such when a new law goes into effect. "Appway had migration tools, but we required additional functionality," says Rozek.
In both instances, Appway stepped up. "It provided high-quality accommodations within a short time," Rozek says.
As testing progressed, Rozek's team designated one business "power user" for each process. "Some individuals own multiple processes, so there are 10 power users in all," Rozek says. "As each process went into production, we met with the power users daily to learn about, and fix, any problems."
An Unexpected Detour
To roll out the system, a phased migration was planned. It began with two less-used, but very complex, processes surrounding life insurance cancellations. These went live successfully in May 2012.
Next, AXA intended to roll out 17 of the remaining 21 processes the following November. "But, our users identified a few difficulties with the interface design," says Rozek.
Although some processes could've rolled out while the interface was adjusted, it meant successive disruptions for end users. "Instead," Rozek says, "we established March 2013 for the majority of P&C processes. Then, we scheduled the remaining P&C processes for May and the most significant Life processes in June."
Now, with the platform managing of two million processes and 5000 users, the benefits are rolling in. "In IT, we can develop and optimize a new process approximately five times faster than we could, before," reports Rozek.
On the business side, new functionalities are also paying dividends.
"The new interface provides users with drag-and-drop capabilities for improved productivity," Rozek says. "Also, we implemented a case browser, enabling customer service representatives to quickly review the overall status and then drill down to individual documents or activities with a few mouse clicks."
Integrating BPM and VoIP
Moving forward, AXA plans to migrate the final six processes, all Life-related, onto the new platform in October 2013. Then, in 2014, the Appway-enabled BPM system will be integrated with VoIP telephony.
"We're already beginning to run the project in parallel," says Rozek. "The integration will enable our call center to become a service center by automating and prioritizing voice and non-voice tasks."
Regardless, Rozek gives the relationship with Appway a big thumbs-up. "My employees and I are really satisfied with Appway because their representatives listen to us intently," he says. "They're genuinely interested in learning about how we use their product so they can make improvements."
"Also," he continues, "anytime there are problems, which are common with enterprise systems, Appway always approaches them in a positive, constructive way. It's been a really great partnership."
CASE STUDY SNAPSHOT
Company: AXA-Winterthur Switzerland (division of AXA Group, Paris, France; US$1 trillion in total assets)
Lines Of Business: P&C, Life.
Vendor/Technology:Appway (Zurich, Switzerland) Appway BPM Platform.
Challenge: Replace an aging BPM platform with a modern, scalable system.
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio