Plug and Play: Design Secrets of Platform-Based Architectures Part 2

The concept of “plug and play” has been discussed for quite some time, but the rise of “plug and play” in InsurTech is monumental because it is crossing boundaries and rapidly changing business models. Its meaning has widened over time because it is being applied at so many levels. Think about how insurers are shifting from a vertical industry and isolated entities into participants and creators of plug and play ecosystems. How?

  • Plug and play works at the system level, with platform-based architectures. Plug and play allows insurers to more easily add a technology or component to its system mix.
  • Plug and play works at the partnership level, where an insurer may consider adding innovative capabilities, services or data sources that come from a value-added partner.
  • Plug and play works at a company level, too. We are seeing partnerships between incumbent insurers and startups like L&G and XL Catlin with Slice to create and sell innovative new products.
  • They, along with VC investors, are investing and working closely with InsurTech startups that will augment their growth and innovation plans for broadening new, underserved or unserved markets.

The crucial question for insurers is are they willing and ready to be considered “plug and play” ready. Why?  Plug and play preparedness will open the doors of opportunity, allowing insurers to accept and embrace the connections that will make them more competitive and give them greater digital aptitude. It is a fundamental component of the platform economy and mandatory to become real players in Digital Insurance 2.0.

Plug and play capabilities begin at the system level with platform-based architectures. Platform-based architectures are discussed in detail in Majesco’s thought-leadership report, A New Business Model for a New Era of Insurance. For the last few weeks, we have also been exploring in our blogs why platform-based architectures are at the heart of new insurance business models and next gen technology solutions.

In Design Secrets of Platform-Based Architectures, Part 1, we explored the four chambers of digital fusion: Apps, Content (Data), Customer Experience and EcoSystems. This week, we’re expanding on those secrets to include four more “secret” key ingredients that you’ll find within platform-based architectures. Each one of these capabilities brings specific benefits to the organization — which we’ll elaborate upon.

Microservices Allow for “Micro-management” of Systems and Development

Digital giants like Amazon, Netflix, PayPal, Uber and others have created their businesses by building and scaling their platforms based on a microservices architecture. A microservices architecture is increasingly correlated to benefits such as scale, speed, ease of upgradability, ease of integration, and ability to adapt to the shifting market and business changes and demands.

What are microservices?  A microservice is a “micro application” that enables a specific granular business function like payment, issue, policy documents, FNOL, etc.  The “micro application” can be independently deployed and can communicate with other “micro applications” serving other business functions through a well-defined interface. This approach is in stark contrast to “Monolith Applications,” such as policy management systems, billing systems, and claims systems that work as an aggregation of multiple business functions tightly woven together and must be deployed as a large monolith unit.

A microservices architecture has the following advantages:

  • Velocity and Agility – A microservice is a low-impact, single-responsibility business function that performs its own individual tasks, manages its own data and communicates with other microservices through a well-defined interface. It allows organizations to make and deploy changes reliably, incrementally and more quickly, than is possible in Monolith architectures.
  • Scale – Microservices allow easy monitoring that can predict seasonal or unique business demands on a business function. Since each microservice runs in its own process, it can easily be scaled with elastic containers which efficiently scale up and down.
  • Decentralized Governance and Teams – The separated codebase of microservices allows different parts of an organization to build business functions as opposed to a large, centralized team. This gives insurers the freedom to choose the best technology suited for the business function.
  • Self-Contained and Sustainable – Microservices are self-contained from the Operating System down to the actual code required for implementation. This enables microservices to separately and individually upgrade without impacting unrelated application functions based on business/operational needs.
  • Hypothesis-Driven Development – The advantages outlined above lead to a completely different way of contemplating software development, emphasizing new opportunities, experimentation and observing the application usage. Experimental software changes can be built and deployed quicker into production, in small increments.

A microservices approach requires organizational change, not just adoption of a technology pattern. Organizations must rethink end-to-end DevOps by thinking in terms of small business functions, distributed teams, decentralized governance, and continuous delivery. In addition, the organization must embrace multiple technologies suited for a business platform rather than a single technology platform, which is a significant change for organizations schooled in building applications using traditional software development processes.

Cloud-Native Computing Enables Quick Realization of Platform Value

AM Best recently reported that 61% of global insurers have invested, or plan to invest in cloud computing.[i] Replacing traditional Insurance 1.0 business models with cloud-based Digital Insurance 2.0 platforms is critical to becoming truly digital. A cloud platform opens the door to new ways of doing business, engaging with customers, bringing products to market faster and capturing rapidly unfolding market opportunities. In today’s digital shift, agility, innovation and speed can only be achieved with cloud business platforms, reducing the time to implementation or market substantially from years to weeks or months.

Leveraging cloud business platforms avoids the long, difficult, and expensive implementation process usually accompanying systems replacement and subsequent upgrades. Cloud-deployed core applications give quick wins – especially important when insurers are establishing a new system or new capabilities to respond to a new market opportunity. With the pace of change, this allows them to move to a “pay as you grow” subscription model that allows major financial decisions in three-to-five-year intervals and CAPEX and OPEX savings that can be redirected to business growth strategies.

Cloud platforms sell themselves with their many advantages:

  • Speed: Rapid rollout
  • Lower TCO: Pay-as-you-go pricing
  • Upgrades: Regular and seamless upgrades
  • Scalability: Real-time upscaling and downscaling
  • Security: Preventative security and data protection
  • Support: Support, maintenance and monitoring

Open APIs are Pipelines of Data Insights

The first generation of modern insurance core systems were integrated to enable sharing of information between systems that enabled automation, efficiency and effectiveness. Initially this started with systems internal to the company and expanded to external systems, including agency management systems, reinsurers, cat modelling, and more.

In today’s digital age there is explosive growth of new data sources, InsurTech solutions, emerging technologies and more. The demand and need for integration is exponentially growing, creating further complexity and often added costs because point-to-point integrations require significant resources to create and maintain.

An open API (application-programming interface) can change this dynamic. An API is a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing web-based solutions.  Many software companies publish their API to encourage use of their solution. Amazon’s API is used by other businesses to link to Amazon products with updated prices from their website, making it easy for customers to buy. (Also, see last week’s blog, where we discuss Nest home products and Nest API offerings.)

AI and Machine Learning Streamline and Improve Upon Insurance Complexity

AI is the tool of choice for many insurers and InsurTechs for streamlining and simplifying complex insurance processes.  Its power to solve traditional insurance problems is being driven by advances in AI research, the explosion of new data sources and, importantly, the massive, scalable computing capacity in the cloud.

A useful way to think about these concepts is in terms of some of the beneficial capabilities and outcomes they can produce. Deloitte and the World Economic Forum identified 5 key capabilities in a 2018 joint research project:[ii]

  • Customization: Generate rules from specific profiles and apply general data to optimize outcomes
  • Decision making: Generate rules from general data and apply specific profiles against those rules
  • Foresight: Determine the probability of future events
  • Interaction: Communicate with humans through digital or analog mediums
  • Pattern detection: Recognize regularities in data

These capabilities promise significant potential for both top-line and bottom-line benefits for insurers, with applications for optimizing nearly every part of the value chain, including product design, distribution, underwriting, pricing, customer service and claims. We have already seen impressive examples of AI-powered underwriting and claims processing with startups like Lemonade, as well as growing ranks of incumbent insurers investing in and implementing AI-powered chatbots for distribution and customer service.[iii]

Employing the Secrets of Platform-Based Architectures

By looking under the hood of platform-based architectures we now understand the strategic importance and ingenuity of platforms in how they can answer so many of insurance’s complex issues, meeting the need for digital transformation. With so many clear benefits to be found throughout every aspect of a platform-based approach, it is not surprising that insurers are quickly shifting away from monolithic development toward Digital Insurance 2.0 models that include agile platform design.

Majesco is a valuable partner in this process. Our platform solutions including our core suite platforms for P&C and L&A, our Digital1st Insurance TM platform and our EcoSystem Exchange TM are designed to help insurers make crucial business model and next gen technology solution shifts during this period of digital disruption. Be sure to take advantage of Majesco thought-leadership reports as you build your strategies for transformation, and as always, feel free to request a demo or begin a conversation by contacting us for more information.

[i] Insurers Agree Innovation Is Critical for Future Success, A.M. Best Company, Inc., September 24, 2018

[ii] The new physics of financial services: How artificial intelligence is transforming the financial ecosystem, Deloitte, 2018

[iii] Down, Kelsey, “Why insurance companies are betting big on AI-powered chatbots,” VentureBeat, June 19, 2018

Photo by Thana Gu on Unsplash

About the author

Author Denise Garth

Denise Garth is Chief Strategy Officer responsible for leading marketing, industry relations and innovation in support of Majesco’s client centric strategy, working closely with Majesco customers, partners and the industry.

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