Legacy transformation in InsurTech: dealing with legacy without losing business

July 7, 2016

Many insurance companies still run their core administration applications on legacy systems. Everything that could easily be replaced, has been replaced. What’s left are business-critical processes running on expensive, inflexible legacy systems, which negatively affect the ability to innovate, differentiate and integrate. And with the current market trends and higher customer demands, the need to deal with outdated systems is growing. We’ll look at the background, the predictions for 2016 for InsurTech, and the ways to transform your legacy applications without losing your competitive edge.

These systems are hardcoded, usually, in COBOL, custom made and run the core business. They contain all the valuable customer data that powers your company. Changing your legacy system is comparable with an open heart surgery for a runner while running a marathon. You can’t go offline for even an hour. So how pressing is the need to deal with legacy?

So, how serious is it?
When you are tied into legacy systems that are older than most employees, you need to have some serious reasons to even consider changing it. The most important reason is expiration: both the hardware and support are end-of-life and the skills are vanishing. There is a serious demand for COBOL programmers and many are nearing retirement age. And there is little documentation as most of these systems are custom made.

On top of that, the legacy software on the mainframe doesn’t allow you to innovate and add new services to maximize customer experience. Its inflexibility results in the loss of innovative power which will seriously impact your company’s long term survival. Especially since legacy systems represent an eternal vendor lock-in that prevents looking for better support or strategy elsewhere. In short: the mainframe is a ticking time bomb.

The market demands innovation
Traditional insurance companies that have been doing well so far are very innovative with their products but often their time to market is held back by their legacy mainframes. Analyst and consultant Rick Huckstep actually foresee the emergence of InsurTech from the shadow of Fintech. His predictions for 2016 show the importance of agile IT: continuous consumer engagement, personalized rating, convenience and widespread deployment of new digital solutions. These are exciting developments in the insurance markets that require flexibility and the power to innovate.

With a legacy mainframe at the core, you won’t be able to make that leap. Industry averages for mainframe infrastructure cost range between $2000 and $6000 per MIPS/year. Compared to your competitors running on open system based equivalents, ranging around the $250 per MIPS/year, you will be able to muster less innovative muscle. Every dollar spent on your legacy mainframe, cannot be spent on innovation. And new entries like InShared and Esurance are on the rise: digital brokers without the cumbersome legacy systems and with “all in one platform” that will replace traditional intermediaries.

Where is the love?
But still. Legacy applications have helped companies to get where they are now. There is no reason to hate them or make it a mission to destroy them. The investments that have gone into these systems, the IP, and all the efforts to create the best in class processes are good reasons to keep them. And there is a very strong sentiment for legacy applications among managers: they’re secure, they’re safe and they’re mine. When you have something in house that has served you so well, it is difficult to part with it. These applications are running on a platform that is linked to monolithic processes. jobs and traditions. However, when you fall in love with a system that holds you hostage it’s like the Stockholm Syndrome.

We’re all into the world of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple which are completely web-enabled. We trust these cloud service software providers with our private lives while in a business context there seems to be some doubt about it. There’s nothing you can’t do with the cloud today. If you are considering Big Data, you need to process and analyze petabytes of data. When you want to do this on your mainframe, your MIPS costs will go through the roof. One option is to consider a cloud computing environment.

Putting lipstick on a pig
Legacy systems ported to UNIX or Windows are still running on old code under the hood. Middleware gives access but doesn’t allow you to deal with your data outside those systems. And outsourcing the required skills because you can’t replace your retired COBOL programmer, still means you are held hostage. It’s just a different captor.

A good metaphor is putting lipstick on a pig. You can try whatever you want with your legacy system and put on any kind of lipstick, but it will always be legacy. The pig stays. It won’t get any cheaper, more flexible, or agile. And it prevents you from innovating in the way your business needs to. Instead of putting your money into new technologies, you are pouring it into old technologies. So how can you deal with this in a way that really transforms your business? Without losing the data, processes and true business value that is locked within your legacy applications?

Transforming your business
A simple change in perspective will have a major impact: legacy is not an inhibitor but an asset waiting to be leveraged for business success. You‘ll want to convert all your code, data, operating instructions, workflow, security, batch scheduling to a system that gives you full control again. A system that’s readable, maintainable and without any vendor lock-in: C#/.NET. If you choose, this allows you to take full advantage of cloud-based computing so you can embrace all new technologies and get ahead of the competition.

At Asysco we do this conversion in a fully automated manner. Our projects are fixed price and fixed time, typically ranging from 6 to 12 months. In our 35 years of experience, we’ve had a 100 percent success rate with over 70 projects worldwide, enabling our customers to drastically lower their TCO and increase their innovative power. Asysco has helped many insurance companies to transform their legacy systems while retaining the wealth of business processes developed over the years.