Applied Systems India: Driving innovation in the insurance industry for global impact
CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Pramod Guttal, Chief Operating Officer and Director, Applied Systems India.
Can you tell us about some of the products developed by Applied Systems in India that are impacting globally?
- Applied Systems is a leading global provider of cloud-based software that powers the business of insurance. Recognized as a pioneer in insurance automation and innovation, Applied is the world’s largest provider of agency and brokerage management systems, serving customers throughout the United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom.EZLynx® owned by Applied, pioneered personal lines real-time comparative rating, enabling agents to generate quotes from multiple insurance carriers with a single data entry point. Today, over 20,000 agencies rely on EZLynx to provide more than seventeen million home, auto, and package rating transactions every month. EZLynx has also expanded beyond personal lines comparative rating by creating innovative software solutions that transform every facet of agency life, including agency management, client self-servicing, sales pipeline management, marketing and communications, accounting, eSignature and more, all available on a unified, one platform solution.
Applied Systems India (formerly Webcetera Software Solutions Pvt Ltd) has been in existence in India for the last 17 years and is integral to Applied’s global product development organization. It owns key products that Applied sells all over the world, with product management, engineering, and Quality Assurance, all working together to build and release innovative products that solve key problems for our customers.
Our India engineering team has been instrumental in developing EZLynx® comparative rating application for personal lines insurance market in the United States which is currently one of the major products in Applied Systems portfolio. This product, since its release way back in 2004, has grown stronger by the year with required architectural changes and multiple product enhancements, all handled by the India teams, including product maintenance and backend support. Additionally Applied India has also developed other product applications like Sales Center, Retention Center, Communication Center and Client Center, all key product extensions of EZLynx® Agency Management System.
What challenges have Applied Systems faced in delivering 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 United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom and is backed by an equally strong marketing team. To provide required support to the S&M team, the company has other teams led by domain experts and functional specialists for managing the products and providing required services. Teams out of India are completely integrated with their counterpart teams in the United States and work seamlessly by applying the FTS (Follow The Sun) model to ensure uninterrupted flow of communication and service to the customers.
What key factors contribute to the company’s success in developing and delivering these products to the world? What are the opportunities?
- Two major factors made India operations successful in developing and delivering the product to the US market. (1) Trust placed by the parent company in the India Teams and (2) The capability of the India team to deliver. Off-shore development centers in India typically adopt instruction-based working model where specific requirements are fed by the on-shore teams for development of products & services. It is a rare phenomenon where any off-shore development center is given a free hand to run end to end SDLC. Applied India operations with their talent, capability and successful track record managed to gain the confidence and credibility of the parent company to be given such privilege. Additionally, key contributors to this success are the employees who started their careers with the company during the early days and grew here. During their long stay, not only they acquired in-depth domain knowledge, but also upskilled themselves with newer technologies which helped in the development of the product with better quality, added features and enhanced functionalities. The local management kept these key contributors happy and motivated them through their long-term stay in the company.
How do Applied Systems balance the demands of providing high-quality services with developing innovative products, and what strategies have they found successful?
- Applied System is currently largest provider of agency and brokerage management systems in the United States. One of the main reasons for this is the ability of the company to offer a host of products and applications for the entire insurance lifecycle. Through advanced automation and the ability to seamlessly connect to insurers and the insureds, agents using Applied products can improve productivity, simplify management, optimize serviceability and increase profitability.
Applied is building insurance tools that help optimise our customer’s workflows, making them more efficient and more productive. Using Google Data storage platform Google BigQuery, Applied sees lot of opportunities for product innovation to uncover insights that are buried in the petabytes of data they manage on behalf of customers.
How did Applied Systems identify a global market for its product, and what strategies did it use to enter and succeed in these markets?
- EZLynx®, comparative rating application for personal lines insurance market in the United States is currently one of the major products in Applied Systems portfolio. This product idea was conceived way back in 2003 by 2 friends of Indian origin. One of them with the knowledge and experience in insurance software, visited US and identified the need for a real time comparative rating product for the personal line insurance agencies, while interacting with a known contact in that space. Soon after, both the friends got together and developed the first prototype in about 3 months.
EZLynx®, one of the star products in Applied portfolio was the first web based real time comparative rating application. Architecture with which the product was built turned out to be so good that the same is being used by thousands of users across North America even after 20 years, running millions of transactions. While other well established bigger companies operating in the same domain were struggling to meet the growing expectations of the customers, EZLynx® leveraged its disruptive technology to gain entry in to conservative insurance market place and kept itself way ahead of the competition by quickly building capacity in India operations. Applied Bengaluru office, with their young and highly talented engineers kept firing from all cylinders to provide the required support in the area of development, QA, support, product management and workflow automation. As a result EZLynx® has become the undisputed champion of comparative rater for personal lines in the US.
Can you provide specific examples of how Applied Systems has ramped up and delivered at speed and scale for clients
- Despite the initial challenges of highly conservative insurance market, EZLynx® could break the barriers and get acceptance by the agency community as well as insurance carriers. With the increasing demand and customer expectations, EZLynx® had to work on multiple fronts like adding new carriers, new product features, enhancing data security, optimizing product performance etc. EZLynx® Indian operations started in 2005, could raise up to this challenge and successfully scale up to build a strong product and provide backend support. As a result, EZLynx® starting with 2 carriers & 10 users and less than 100 quote transactions per month, has become the top comparative rater for the personal line in North American market with more than 400 carriers, 35K users and 17M quote transactions per month.
How does Applied Systems ensure its employees are equipped with the skills and resources necessary to deliver quickly and scale?
- One of the biggest factors that contributed to the success of Applied is its highly competent and committed workforce. Right from the start, the management accorded highest priority for employee development and growth through the implementation of ECDP (Employee Contribution and Development Process). While growing customer demands and expectations increased the learning opportunities, local management in India identified the training needs & designed the training modules, invested in tools and newer technologies, encouraged continuous improvement, created a culture of collaboration and innovation and set up team goals and deliverables. Along with that we continuously worked on different initiatives for employee well-being covering various areas such as career growth, on-shore training opportunities, work life balance, recognition and rewards etc.