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New Applications Enrich User Experience, Improve Productivity

Featuring Patrick Walsh, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Instec

Posted on 20 Apr 10

In this edition of Insurance Unplugged, we are featuring Patrick Walsh, vice president of Sales and Marketing, of Naperville, IL-based Instec, an industry leader offering rating and policy administration software and services for insurance carriers, MGAs, brokers, and self-insured groups. Pat spoke at the Peak Performance Insurance Ski Conference about the evolution of the web and how Instec optimizes the latest in technology innovation to help provide our industry with robust solutions that are easy to use.

Founded in 1982, Instec became the first company to develop a P/C rating software product with bureau content. Throughout its nearly 30-year history, Instec has introduced new products and services, including its most recent release of quicksolver® 3.0, a comprehensive rating and policy administration product for Commercial Lines that uses Rich Internet Technology. Instec is a privately held company that was purchased by its employees through an ESOP in 2002. Employees have an average of more than 10 years of relevant industry experience, keeping their pulse on industry and technological advancements through training and participation in P/C organizations.

With a BS in Computer Science and a Masters in Electrical Engineering, Pat brings 28 years of experience to Instec as a provider and consumer of technology solutions. Prior to joining Instec in 1997, Pat worked for seven years at MCI Systemhouse (now a part of EDS) where he initiated and led the development of the company’s insurance practice in the Midwest Region. He began his career with AT&T Bell Labs as a hardware and software developer.

Annie George (AG): At Peak you spoke about the evolution of the web and how new applications have taken the user experience to the next level. I’d like to discuss this evolution and the benefits of this new technology.

Patrick Walsh (PW): “The basic theory behind the web initially was accessibility. With a simple browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.), you can be anywhere in the world and log-on to the web and access thousands of sites. This works real well for many things – such as ordering products from sites such as Amazon or eBay. Over time, the web evolved into an interactive and collaborative platform as demonstrated by Facebook where you can modify content; the underlying technology at work was transforming what were once static, brochure-type sites into immersive and interactive user experiences. Companies at first were simply advertising their products and services on-line and the user couldn’t touch or interact with the content; now you have social media platforms and sites where engagement and collaboration takes precedence.

“The technology underlying this collaborative and user interface capability is Rich Internet Application (RIA) (also known as Rich Internet Technology). With RIA, you can reach consumers and create a deeper experience with them that becomes integral to your brand, improve data visualization and access, design better-looking sites, and much more…this helps to build brand loyalty and increase business because users can get to meaningful data quickly, navigate through the site easily, and where applicable, create their own product or experience. Nike ( is a good example of how RIA enriches the customer experience, allowing visitors to the site to customize the look of their shoe on-line, changing the color of the base, the ‘swoosh’, the lace, the tip, etc., and then ordering the shoe that they designed. [In this example, the shoe on top was the original; the bottom one is what we designed in seconds.]

“Before RIA, the web user interface had been limited. Traditional browsers constrain you to using square frame and menu bars, and creativity was limited. With RIA, you can use videos and have reflective, rotating images, such as in the case of Nike.

“In addition, traditional web browsers interact with the user in pages or screens. With each change or data entry by a user, the screen is refreshed and presented with a revised screen to reflect the change. You aren’t able to change one thing on the site without refreshing the entire screen. RIA now allows for individual fields on the screen to be changed; you no longer have to refresh the entire screen. Data entry is faster.”

AG: How does this apply to insurance rating, policy administration?

PW: “With traditional web-based policy administration software in Commercial insurance, there are so many fields to input, that the user experience during data entry can be quite poor, the response is sluggish. For example, our tests have shown that entering data and rating a typical BOP policy in a traditional web environment takes about 45 minutes. Performing the identical task in a RIA-based application takes about 15 minutes. You get a savings of 30 minutes per policy because there is no waiting for screen refreshes, which can take up to a minute depending on the environment.

“If you look at the different lines of insurance business… Property, Auto, Workers Comp, etc., the amount of data to input varies in each line. For example, Workers Comp requires the least user input - only four data elements (state, payroll, exposure, and effective date) are needed for the most part. The downside therefore of a traditionally based web application is not significant with Workers Comp as there isn’t that much data entry. But when you are completing an Auto policy, you may have up to 30 data elements. The potential extra time required to enter this information with traditional web software is huge as compared to RIA-based software.

“Architecturally, with RIA you leverage the horsepower of your computer more than with traditional web. With traditional web, all the processing such as rating and user interaction occurs on servers in the clouds somewhere, and the desktop computer does little more than run a simple browser. Conversely, with RIA the rating and forms processing still occurs on the servers, but user interaction and screen appearance is controlled at your desktop. Basically, plug-ins such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Foundation [WPF], take over user interaction which results in a more immersive and faster (no refreshes) user experience.”

AG: How has Instec used RIA in the solutions it provides to our industry?

PW: “We have just released quicksolver® 3, which uses Microsoft’s WPF. When users are entering policy information into quicksolver®, the WPF code now controls the interaction so data entry is faster and there are no refreshes. There are built-in real-time search functions that query the server based on the characters input so you get ‘live’ feedback in your search results. Also you can interact with the search results functionally which makes the user experience much more efficient. In the old version, you used an old-fashioned ‘windows’ navigation tree or random search terms to get the desired results. And the look and feel of the screens are much more user-friendly. Just looking at the two screens, you can immediately see how RIA changes the user experience.”

Quicksolver® supports the full range of transactions, including policy quote, bind, issuance, renew, endorsements, cancellations, reinstatements, and audits. The entire policy can be printed, included decs, schedules, coverage forms, and worksheets from Instec’s library of thousands of bureau and client-unique forms. Quicksolver® is often interfaced with a client’s other systems, and is designed to fit into a company’s current and future environment. Data can be imported and exported in real-time, batch, or on demand.

A broad range of Property/Casualty clients use quicksolver® – from small and medium-sized MGAs to large carriers. To find out more about quicksolver® and the latest release, please contact Pat Walsh at 630-799-6325 or email him at