Driving innovation in the insurance industry for global impact

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Driving innovation in the insurance industry for global impact

CXOToday got an exclusive interview with Pramod Gutal, COO & Director, Applied Systems India.

Can you tell us about some of the products developed by Applied Systems in India that are making a global impact?

  • Applied Systems is a leading global provider of cloud software that powers the insurance business. Recognized as a pioneer in insurance automation and innovation, Applied is the world’s largest provider of agency management systems and brokerage services, serving customers in the United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. EZLynx®, owned by Applied, pioneered real-time personal lines benchmarking, allowing agents to generate quotes from multiple insurance carriers with a single point of data entry. Today, over 20,000 agencies rely on EZLynx to secure more than seventeen million home, auto and parcel appraisal transactions each month. EZLynx has also expanded beyond personal lines benchmarking by creating innovative software solutions that transform every aspect of agency life, including agency management, customer self-service, sales management, marketing and communications, accounting, e-signature and more , all available on a unified, single-platform solution.

    Applied Systems India (formerly Webcetera Software Solutions Pvt Ltd) has been in India for the past 17 years and is an integral part of Applied’s global product development organization. It owns key products that Applied sells around the world, with product management, engineering and quality assurance all working together to build and launch innovative products that solve key problems for our customers.

    Our engineering team in India was instrumental in developing the EZLynx® benchmarking application for the United States personal lines insurance market, which is currently one of the core products in the application systems portfolio. This product, since its launch way back in 2004, has grown stronger every year with the required architectural changes and numerous product enhancements, all handled by the teams in India, including product support and backend support. Additionally, Applied India has developed other product applications such as Sales Center, Retention Center, Communication Center and Customer Center, all key product extensions of the EZLynx® Agency Management System.

What challenges has Applied Systems faced in bringing these products to the global market and how have they overcome them?

  • Applied Systems since its inception in 1980 has come a long way in building the organization and growing the business. It has a very strong sales organization spread across the United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom and is supported by an equally strong marketing team. To provide the necessary support to the S&M team, the company has other teams led by domain experts and functional specialists to manage the products and provide the necessary services. The teams outside India are fully integrated with their partner teams in the United States and work seamlessly, applying the FTS (Follow The Sun) model to ensure a continuous flow of communication and customer service.

What key factors contribute to the company’s success in developing and delivering these products to the world? What are the possibilities?

  • Two main factors made the Indian operations successful in developing and delivering the product to the US market. (1) The confidence placed by the parent company in the India teams and (2) the ability of the India team to perform. Offshore development centers in India generally adopt an instruction-based working model where specific requirements are submitted by onshore teams for product and service development. This is a rare occurrence where each offshore development center is given the freedom to manage the end-to-end SDLC. Applied India operations with its talent, capabilities and successful track record have been able to earn the trust and authority of the parent company to receive such a privilege. Furthermore, the main contributors to this success are the employees who started their careers with the company in the early days and grew up here. During their long stay, they not only acquired in-depth knowledge of the field but also improved themselves with newer technologies which helped in developing the product with better quality, added features and improved functionalities. Local management kept these key players happy and motivated them through their long-term tenure with the company.

How does Applied Systems balance the demands of providing high-quality services with the development of innovative products, and what strategies do they find successful?

  • Applied System is currently the largest provider of agency and broker management systems in the United States. One of the main reasons for this is the company’s ability to offer multiple products and applications for the entire life cycle of insurance. Through advanced automation and the ability to seamlessly connect with insurers and insureds, agents using application products can improve productivity, simplify management, optimize service and increase profitability.

    Applied builds insurance tools that help optimize our customers’ workflows, making them more efficient and productive. Using Google’s data warehousing platform, Google BigQuery, Applied sees many opportunities for product innovation to uncover insights that are buried in the petabytes of data they manage on behalf of clients.

How did Applied Systems identify a global market for its product and what strategies did it use to enter and succeed in those markets?

  • EZLynx®, a benchmarking application for the United States personal lines insurance market, is currently one of the core products in the Applied Systems portfolio. The idea for this product was conceived back in 2003 by 2 friends of Indian origin. One of them with knowledge and experience in insurance software visited the US and identified the need for real-time benchmarking for personal insurance agencies while interacting with a known contact in this space. Soon after, the two friends got together and developed the first prototype in about 3 months.
    EZLynx®, one of the star products in Applied’s portfolio, was the first web-based real-time benchmarking application. The architecture with which the product was created turned out to be so good that the same is used by thousands of users in North America even after 20 years, performing millions of transactions. While other established, larger companies operating in the same field struggled to meet rising customer expectations, EZLynx® leveraged its disruptive technology to enter the conservative insurance market and stayed far ahead of the competition by rapidly building capacity in Operations in India. Bengaluru based office, with their young and extremely talented engineers who continue to fire on all cylinders to provide the necessary support in development, QA, support, product management and workflow automation. As a result, EZLynx® has become the undisputed champion in the US personal lines benchmark.

Can you provide specific examples of how Applied Systems is growing and delivering at speed and scale for customers

  • Despite initial challenges in the highly conservative insurance market, EZLynx® was able to overcome barriers and gain acceptance from the agency community as well as insurance carriers. With increasing demand and customer expectations, EZLynx® had to work on multiple fronts such as adding new operators, new product features, improving data security, optimizing product performance, etc. EZLynx® operations in India, started in 2005, were able to meet this challenge and successfully scale to build a strong product and provide backend support. As a result, EZLynx®, starting with 2 operators and 10 users and less than 100 quote transactions per month, has become the top personal line benchmark in the North American market with more than 400 operators, 35K users and 17 million quote transactions per month.

How does Applied Systems ensure its employees are equipped with the skills and resources needed to deliver quickly and at scale?

  • One of the biggest factors contributing to Applied’s success is its highly skilled and dedicated workforce. Right from the beginning, the management gave the highest priority to the development and growth of employees through the implementation of ECDP (Employee Contribution and Development Process). As growing customer demands and expectations increased training opportunities, local management in India identified training needs and designed training modules, invested in tools and newer technologies, encouraged continuous improvement, created a culture of collaboration and innovation, and set team goals and results. Along with this, we have been continuously working on various employee welfare initiatives covering various areas such as career growth, on-site training opportunities, work-life balance, recognition and rewards, etc.

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