Zurich Financial Services boasts an impressive Risk Engineering operation spanning 35 countries and employing nearly 1,000 risk specialists in various disciplines. However, the company relied on disparate regional systems to collect customer data, making it difficult to derive insights across geographies and industries. To help ensure consistent data collection and analysis, Zurich built a Global Risk Engineering Workstation (GREW) based on the xRM application development framework in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The Risk Engineering team at Zurich used xRM to simplify the development process and complete a significant portion of the application without the help of outside developers. The Risk Engineering team now adds greater value to the overall organization, especially by helping the policy-underwriting group and customers better understand risk exposure and identify potential solutions.
|In essence, what we have now is a knowledge base of risk data across industries and geographies where we can derive insights from relationships and patterns that previously were not available.|
Business Technology Manager, Zurich Services Corporation
Zurich Financial Services fields nearly 1,000 Risk Engineers and safety specialists in 35 countries around the world, helping organizations identify, assess, and minimize risks to property, liability, employee safety, and other areas. The Risk Engineering group combines local knowledge with global breadth to produce thousands of reports each year for customers and policy underwriters.
As a corporation made up of national and regional entities, Risk Engineering used several custom-developed systems to run its risk assessment activities, including applications based on interconnected Lotus Notes databases and a more progressive application used in North America that was based on the Microsoft .NET Framework. These disparate solutions met local needs but made it difficult for Zurich to derive aggregate risk insights across geographies or industries.
“One of our overall strategic goals was to create a common data collection and analysis tool,” says John Wall, Business Technology Manager at Zurich Services Corporation. “This would help us implement a more uniform risk-grading methodology and view new types of relationships and patterns. As a result, we could offer customers a higher degree of accuracy and consistency.”
In addition, Zurich wanted to simplify its application development process so that the company could respond more quickly to changing business needs. “The nature of our business is that conditions and needs constantly change,” says Wall. “Our previous systems could not be adjusted fast enough or economically enough.”
As the Risk Engineering team considered how to achieve these goals, the group decided it would not be feasible to modify any of its existing local solutions to meet the needs of the entire global group. Instead, Zurich examined several customer relationship management solutions that would provide a single store of structured customer data and make it easier to respond to new business requirements.Solution
The Risk Engineering team at Zurich
because of the xRM application development framework, easy-to-modify workflow capabilities, ease of support by business technical users, alignment with Microsoft Office, and cost-effective licensing that accommodated the needs of Zurich’s global operations.
Zurich asked a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner to build a proof-of-concept solution demonstrating how Microsoft Dynamics CRM could accommodate 15 scenarios for the Risk Engineering process. Satisfied with the demonstration, Zurich began work on the project with development assistance from the technology partner and put the first version of the system into production after nine months.
Developing the Application
|Figure 1. Business users can create sophisticated forms without needing development expertise.|
Developing the new Global Risk Engineering Workstation (GREW) application proved much simpler than custom development processes that Zurich traditionally used. Typically, the business users document how the application should look and function, and then a developer implements those ideas in software code.
“Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables technically inclined business users like me to create functionality and modify the user interface,” says Wall. “In fact, the business group was able to build a significant portion of the application and only depended on the technology implementation partner’s expert developers to help in special cases.”
Figure 1 shows a portion of the Risk Engineering form that Zurich created, displaying a variety of attribute styles including text areas, pick lists, and checkboxes.
The workflow capabilities built into Microsoft Dynamics CRM set the product apart from competitors, which lets business users in the Risk Engineering team create and modify workflows themselves. These workflows help to streamline the process of finalizing reports.
Wall says that empowering the business group to build the application themselves freed them from having to write lengthy documentation on business requirements. “We spent much more time actually solving business needs, as opposed to addressing the technical details of how to implement a user interface, for example,” he says.
Meeting Local and Global Requirements
|We spent much more time actually solving real business needs, as opposed to addressing the technical details of how to implement a user interface, for example.|
Business Technology Manager, Zurich Services Corporation
The GREW application is hosted on a central server in Zurich, Switzerland. Risk engineers throughout the world access the application through a virtual private network and use it to enter in details from their visits to customer sites.
GREW accounts for different disciplines and variations in local safety codes and regulations. Most importantly for Zurich, the application ensures that risk engineers enter data consistently, which enables benchmarking against other assessments.
To account for all the nuances of its Risk Engineering practice, Zurich pushed the boundaries of what is possible with the xRM application development framework. The company created numerous custom entities to account for different aspects of Risk Engineering assessment and analysis. The technology partner was instrumental in assisting Zurich with the development of the custom entities, providing best-practice guidance and creating custom ASPX pages.
“Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultants that we’ve spoken to tell us that our solution is one of the most sophisticated Extended CRM applications they’ve seen,” says Wall. “We’ve created over 200 custom entities to accommodate the complexities and diversity of our Risk Engineering operations.”Producing Data, Not Just Documents
The GREW system introduces a shift from traditional “report” documents to Work Products, which could be a collection of information including a document, several spreadsheets, and even photos. Zurich uses data gathered in GREW to analyze and then populate Work Products for the company’s customers and insurance policy underwriters. “The new application changes the process of producing reports significantly,” says Wall. “We now produce data, not just static documents. Previously, we spent a lot of time writing and formatting reports that people had to wade through. Now, we can more easily create detailed and nice-looking reports in local languages by using built-in features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft SQL Server.”
Zurich uses SQL Server Reporting Services and functionality created by the technology provider to build customized reports, shown in Figure 2 , for customers and underwriters based on the data gathered from the field and entered into GREW. Risk Engineers creating the reports can choose which modules to display, which currency to use for values, and one of eight languages included as part of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
The Risk Engineering team at Zurich also exposes their data as a web service for other groups in Zurich to consume. For example, one policy underwriting group within Zurich pulls data from GREW into its pricing tools, which helps the underwriter provide customers with competitive insurance quotes. Zurich also sees targeted marketing opportunities in the new trove of customer information. “We will be able to send relevant Risk Engineering information to customers, such as that related to the natural catastrophes, industry findings and alerts, or information about customer education seminars led by Zurich staff,” says Wall.
Next year, Zurich plans to create a portal where customers can log on to view their risk assessment Work Products and Risk Improvement Actions (recommendations). “By storing information from GREW in SQL Server, we can use Reporting Services and Microsoft SharePoint Server to dynamically display that information. Our goal is to let customers browse and interact with their risk assessment information much like consumers use online banking today.”
|Figure 2. Risk Engineers can easily generate customized reports.|
By using the xRM application development framework, Zurich replaced regional Risk Engineering systems with a single, global Risk Engineering application that provides greater insight, business agility, and improved productivity. “Having one global grading methodology gives Risk Engineering the ability to be more efficient in the way we grade risks and provides enhanced capability in benchmarking and Book of Business management,” says Armand Fernandez, Chief Risk Engineering Officer for North America at Zurich Services Corporation. “In addition, it promotes consistent global service delivery and technical excellence and enables development of risk insights for our customers.”
Reduced and Managed Risk
Equipped with a single data resource populated with consistent Risk Engineering data, Zurich and its customers can help identify opportunities to reduce risks that can have a direct impact on bottom-line profitability. In addition, the analysis of a large set of consistent Risk Engineering data will help Zurich develop new solutions for specific high-risk areas of business.Reduced and Managed Risk
Equipped with a single data resource populated with consistent Risk Engineering data, Zurich and its customers can help identify opportunities to reduce risks that can have a direct impact on bottom-line profitability. In addition, the analysis of a large set of consistent Risk Engineering data will help Zurich develop new solutions for specific high-risk areas of business.
“In essence, what we have now is a knowledge base of risk data across industries and geographies where we can derive insights from relationships and patterns that previously were not available,” says Wall. “These capabilities will enhance our predictive-modeling programs and help us achieve a higher degree of accuracy. We are early in our deployment, but we anticipate being able to measure fewer losses for customers that use Risk Engineering services compared to those who don’t.”Greater Business Agility
Zurich’s Risk Engineering business can now adapt to new business changes on a frequent and predictable schedule. “GREW has qualities, like a powerful metadata structure and configurable workflows, that enable us to accommodate design changes quickly—sometimes in just hours,” says Wall. “We used to have to go through a long, formal design and development process that was measured in weeks or months, but now that burden is significantly reduced.”
With data stored in SQL Server, Zurich can easily make it available through web services so that other groups can more easily take advantage of that information. Says Wall, “The shift from publishing static reports to producing flexible data is tremendous and enables us to add even greater value to the organization.”
Streamlined Reporting Process
|We used to have to go through a long formal design and development process that was measured in weeks or months, but now that burden is significantly reduced.|
Business Technology Manager, Zurich Services Corporation
Before developing GREW, the Risk Engineering operation at Zurich spent a significant amount of effort preparing reports for publication and distribution. Now, with Risk Engineering assessment data available through SQL Server Reporting Services, the company can shift employees’ responsibilities from traditional word-processing functions to more sophisticated data analysis and customer support activities. In addition, Zurich laid the foundation needed to offer its customers greater value through online reporting with drill-down functionality.
“The value of what we do lies in the data, not a formatted Microsoft Word document,” explains Wall. “What we’ve done with GREW is unlock that value.”Faster and Less-Expensive Development
Application development is a much-less-daunting proposition for Zurich with the xRM application development framework. “The highly configurable design of our solution lets technically inclined business users make adjustments to nearly every aspect of the system without needing the help of expert developers and the related requirements specification and funding,” enthuses Wall.
Wall also points out that working with Microsoft products and technologies makes his organization much-less reliant on specialized skills and knowledge. “There are an abundance of people who are proficient in working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM and others who can acquire the necessary skills very quickly, especially considering how it works with the rest of the Microsoft stack,” says Wall. “In addition, the community surrounding Microsoft Dynamics CRM is terrific and we can find answers to a number of our questions simply by going online and reading about what others have done.”
The accessibility of Microsoft products and technologies is more than convenience—without the xRM application development framework in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Wall believes the GREW project likely would not have gotten off the ground. “What we have done was very ambitious,” he explains. “Without xRM, this project likely wouldn’t have been funded and we would have pursued modifying our existing systems. I’m glad we chose this route because it has yielded significant benefits.”Additional ResourcesMicrosoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.
For more information about Microsoft Dynamics, go to:www.microsoft.com/dynamics
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