October 23, 2012

Marcus Ryu
Marcus Ryu, Guidewire
A next-generation core system platform will be essential for insurers to remain competitive, but it won’t be enough, said Marcus Ryu, CEO, Guidewire Software (Foster City, Calif.) introducing Guidewire Live offering during his keynote address at the company’s user conference in San Francisco yesterday. The vendor describes Guidewire Live as a network connecting Guidewire customers to one another, to curated external content, and expert tools. Customers can access the network through what Guidewire calls instant-on, easy-to-use apps.

A vendor announcement describes Guidewire Live as available as a cloud-based, instant-on solution that can be used by Guidewire customers within days, without the need for an implementation project. The statement asserts that Guidewire Live enables insurers to compare their operational performance against their peers at a level of accuracy and granularity new to the industry. The network's apps leverage the technology platform and core data model shared by all insurers using Guidewire applications, as well as curated external content such as weather, geographic and demographic data, the statement says.

In his address, Ryu celebrated Guidewire’s successes during the previous year, including 32 new customers, 35 insurers live or implementing the vendor’s PolicyCenter policy administration system, and an increasing global reach exemplified by new customers in South Africa, Poland and Peru, and by the opening of a new office in London and a new development center in Dublin. He argued that the vendor had succeeded in providing a new approach to core insurance systems designed to simplify technology environments, facilitate efficient and intuitive processes and provide built-in adaptability to changing market conditions. Ryu said that the value of the technology was "no longer theoretical" and said that benchmarking had demonstrated that "improvements of 2.5 to 4.5 percent in operating margin — pure profit — is within reach of any company that takes transformation seriously."

But while affirming that having next-generation platform would be essential for carriers to compete, Ryu added that, "core system are not enough” in a world of increasingly vast amounts of data.

"It's painful to admit, especially for me," Ryu elaborated, "but while we were working over past 10 years, the world changed. You’ve been asking us how can this operational environment be much more aware and integrated with all these proliferating phenomena outside."

The Guidewire Live network is an attempt to answer that demand by harnessing data within a meaningful context through the combination of three activities: connection, curation and "appification," according to Ryu. Guidewire Live connects members of the Guidewire customer community, it gathers data from both within and outside that community and enables its presentation in a meaningful context, delivering through intuitive applications, much like one would find on a hand-held device. The Guidewire Live network debuted with its first five apps, which the vendor describes as follows:

Compare: Enables insurers to compare themselves against themselves or a peer benchmark, across dozens of key operational metrics, for any time period in history.

Contrast: Quickly identify hotspots and potential areas of interest by presenting metrics and industry benchmarks in explorable, zoomable maps.

Before & After: Allows insurers to set a milestone date and see how they and others performed before and after that milestone.

Hail Forensics:Users can travel to a particular time and location and see where the hail fell, how big it was, which policies were affected, and what claims were filed.

Connect: A secure discussion forum of like-minded, forward-thinking insurers designed to foster learning and networking among members of the Guidewire customer community.

liveapp

Guidewire Live represents a move forward for insurance core systems on several fronts, according to Chad Hersh, a partner with Novarica (New York) attending the conference. “For analytics, the data visualization features mitigate some of the need for separate BI or analytics tools,” he said. “Broadly speaking, its ‘app-like’ approach to adding features is taking advantage of the consumerization of technology. The ‘networked’ benchmarking takes aggregation and sharing of data to a new level for insurance.”

Chad Hersh
Chad Hersh, Novarica

Expanding on Ryu’s theme in a conversation with Insurance & Technology, Brian Vannoni, Guidewire's director of product marketing says that Guidewire Live emerged from customers’ requests for the vendor to help them make more meaningful use of data. "Customers have asked for help to cut through clutter and create context, actionable information," he said.

At the same time industry has become even more competitive and people struggle to understand industry context, Vannoni added. "Customers would say, 'You work with 130 insurers, does Guidewire have a view on how to perform better?' — it was that drive and experience that got us asking how we could leverage our assets to solve that problem."

"We went back to unique assets in our customer community and connected them, centrally sharing data in their core systems," Vannoni continued. "We were able to connect and normalize that data, and overlay solutions. We can host that and provide insight into specific metrics and performance, how they are performing against peers or industry context."

Guidewire Live is available at a basic level on an op-in basis for customers as an expression of the vendor’s customer commitment, as well as on a premium subscription model beyond the basic benchmarking capabilities, according to Vannoni. He declined to comment on what apps might be in the pipeline beyond the initial five described above.

The community aspects of Guidewire Live could produce a new cross-over category of application that one might call “Social BI,” meaning business intelligence analyses and reports developed by a network of users, noted Donald Light, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based senior analyst with Celent attending the conference.

“[Guidewire Live] is an interesting way for Guidewire to leverage its customer base, with potential benefits for both the customers —providing access to valuable information — and for Guidewire — giving insurers another reason to buy Guidewire software,” Light says.

The expansion from core systems to data-leveraging applications and community interaction could well prove to be an industry trend, suggests Novarica’s Hersh. “We’ll likely see a great deal more of this both from Guidewire and from other vendors in the coming years,” he predicted.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek ...