2 page Case Study - Posted 9/23/2012
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ACE Travel Insurance

Insurance Company Enjoys Significant Savings in Development Costs and Redraws the Online Travel Insurance Playing Field

As a leading provider of travel insurance products, ACE Travel Insurance knew that in order to accelerate growth, it needed a fast and easy way to enable its travel and insurance industry partners to sell its insurance policies online, through a system that is fully integrated with the partner’s sales processes and systems. Since implementing the ACE Central Reservation System, based on Microsoft BizTalk Server, ACE Travel Insurance has cut development time by more than half, shortened time-to-market, enabled faster and easier integration of new partners and reduced sales cycle. All these have helped to sharpen its competitive advantage and speed up entry into new markets.

Business Needs
ACE Travel Insurance helps thousands of travel industry partners to maximize their insurance-derived income while providing high quality coverage and service to millions of travelers globally. The diverse product suite includes coverage for a broad range of travel-related risks, including medical expenses, personal accident protection, and inconveniences such as trip cancellation, flight delay and baggage loss, among many others. ACE Travel Insurance is a division of the ACE Group.

The ACE Group is one of the world’s largest multi-line property and casualty insurers. With operations in 53 countries, ACE provides commercial and personal property and casualty insurance, personal accident and supplemental health insurance, reinsurance and life insurance to a diverse group of clients. ACE Limited, the parent company of the ACE Group, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: ACE) and is a component of the S&P 500 index.

The advent of the Internet and rapid globalization has seen savvy travellers increasingly booking their airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars online. To better serve today’s travellers, ACE Travel Insurance setup its new Global Travel business group in 2009. “To accelerate our business growth, we need to leverage technology to maximize the insurance-sourced income for our travel and insurance industry partners,” said Mr Glenn Crippa, Director of Global IT, ACE Travel Insurance.

As a forerunner in technology adoption in its arena, ACE Travel Insurance is uniquely structured with a dedicated Global Travel IT team, which supports the needs of the travel business in various countries by looking at ways to utilize technology to achieve business objectives. Recognizing that partnerships with industry partners such as airlines and credit card companies are critical in reaching millions of potential customers, ACE Travel Insurance knew that it needed to provide these partners with a quick and low-cost way of selling insurance policies, through a system that is fully integrated with the partner’s sales processes and systems.

“We decided to develop the ACE Central Reservations System (CRS) to help airlines, travel agents and insurance brokers sell ACE Travel Insurance’s policies paperlessly via their websites. To ensure effectiveness, we wanted to invest upfront and design a robust infrastructure with a scalable and reliable architecture, made up of modular, reusable components. This would help us integrate quickly and seamlessly with our industry partners and reduce time-to-market of new products,” explained Mr Crippa.

Solution
ACE Travel Insurance embarked on the search for a global Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) platform to enable the integration of systems and applications across the enterprise. After evaluating other available technologies, Microsoft BizTalk Server was selected as ACE Travel Insurance’s global EAI platform, to be implemented by Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS).

Mr Crippa said, “When selecting a Services partner, our top priority was to work with one who has subject matter experts to ensure a successful implementation. We were investing in the design of a platform from ground up and wanted to leverage all the best practices, experience and expertise we could tap on. Microsoft Consulting Services proved itself when it helped us solve pressing business issues by migrating from another database management system to Microsoft SQL Server. We were further assured by Microsoft’s comprehensive services infrastructure, which ranges from consulting, deployment to 24x7 support.”

For ACE Travel Insurance, MCS created a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), empowered by Microsoft BizTalk Server, to facilitate the exchange of data between ACE Travel Insurance and the global distribution systems used by its travel and insurance industry partners. With over 25 multi-platform adapters and a robust messaging infrastructure, Microsoft BizTalk Server facilitates the transformation of different types of messaging formats from different global distribution systems. This enables ACE Travel Insurance to easily connect and integrate with disparate systems, both inside and outside the organization.

In addition, MCS also automated the online sales of travel insurance across three business models, namely: business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C). To automatically assign commissions for both ACE Travel Insurance and its industry partners, MCS also established an end-to-end automated payment gateway to integrate back-end payment gateways and enable the easy billing of customers for credit card transactions. The solution was also designed to help ACE Travel Insurance achieve the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a critical compliance standard when dealing with corporate banks and credit card companies.

To achieve high availability, the Microsoft Services team employed database mirroring with Microsoft SQL Server 2008, instead of clustering, to enable immediate failover. With SQL Server mirroring, the company achieved 24x7 uptime -- a must for ACE Travel Insurance’s mission-critical, high-transaction-volume business.

Other Microsoft technologies used included Windows Active Directory for security authentication, a service provided by Microsoft Windows Server 2008. Additional security was provided by Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway, a secure web gateway that provides ACE Travel Insurance with comprehensive protection against web-based threats by integrating multiple layers of protections into a unified, easy-to-use solution. Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) for Windows Server, a secure Web server, served as the web platform for ACE Travel Insurance’s CRS.

Pleased with their implementation experience, Mr Crippa said, “We want to commend the Microsoft Services team for their support and dedication to our global travel project. Our BizTalk server implementation is a global benchmark within ACE and we are often asked for advice and assistance by other IT teams around the world. The initial development took three months and went live in Dec 2009. New functionalities, capabilities and integration, such as credit card integration, were added onto the application in the multi-phased implementation across two years.

Benefits
With the service-oriented architecture of the ACE Central Reservation System, developed with Microsoft BizTalk Server, ACE Travel Insurance has shortened time-to-market by reducing development time by more than half. This has sped up the integration of new partners, shortened sales cycle, streamlined fulfillment processes – all of which contributed to sharpening ACE Travel Insurance’s competitive advantage. By investing upfront to design a robust, scalable, reliable and reusable architecture, ACE Travel Insurance has become a game-changer in the travel insurance industry.

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* It has always been our philosophy to invest upfront to design solutions which we believe will add real value to the business. Microsoft BizTalk, together with the implementation by Microsoft Services, enables easy connections for the partners and gives ACE Travel Insurance our competitive advantage. The work by the Microsoft Services team has helped us maximize our investment and deliver real value to the ACE business owners. *

Mr Glenn Crippa
Director of Global IT
ACE Travel Insurance

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Shortened Time-to-Market with More than 50 Percent Reduction in Development
The biggest benefit ACE Travel Insurance has seen, is the ability to quickly integrate new partners into its distribution network with minimal development time. With the new ACE CRS system, to get a new partner onboard, ACE Travel Insurance simply formats the relevant Microsoft BizTalk messaging format template that has been developed by MCS, to quickly and cost-effectively convert and connect the messages from the partner to the format readable by ACE Travel Insurance’s servers. The system is designed to be flexible enough for ACE Travel Insurance’s partners to connect with it in real-time either directly or through standard Global Distribution Systems.

“Designing the messaging templates upfront has paid off, as it has helped to cut our development time by more than half, in just a few days. This has definitely shortened our time-to-market with new products,” beamed Mr Crippa.

Sharpened Competitive Advantage Speeds Integration of New Partners
One excellent example of the fast integration of new partners is the successful launch of ACE’s partnership with an airline in Australia. “This is the first major e-commerce integration using the ACE CRS platform, and the first real-time XML integration between the ACE Travel System and an airline system. This marks an important milestone and sharpens our competitive advantage. When we pitch to prospective airline partners, we can now demonstrate a ‘live’, real-time XML integrated airline solution,” said Mr Crippa. The airline has also seen encouraging results. With an online take-up rate of travel insurance with ACE at well over 40% of trips booked, it is one of the highest amongst all air carriers globally.

Microsoft Services helped to architect, design and connect ACE’s CRS with the airline’s system. “Ten weeks from green-light to go-live is a timeline that is far shorter than our competitors. Great job!” said Mr Alex Blake, Vice-President, Global Head of Travel Insurance.

Reduced Sales Cycle with Streamlined Sales and Fulfillment Processes
Even though travelers are becoming increasingly savvy with purchasing airline tickets and making hotel bookings online, the trend in purchasing travel insurance online is still in its infancy. While many travel insurance websites announce the availability of travel insurance online, many still require a faxed or mailed application to purchase.

With ACE CRS system, ACE Travel Insurance now counts itself amongst the industry’s pioneers to offer the online purchase of travel insurance. The service-oriented architecture of ACE CRS offers a loosely coupled and reusable design which enables the quick integration of its partners. This helps to extend ACE Travel Insurance’s partner network, while encouraging more cross-selling and bundling of the company’s travel insurance products.

“Thanks to Microsoft Services, our new ACE CRS system propels us ahead of the competition. Besides enhancing our online presence, the sales cycle has been reduced and we can now handle more transactions within a shorter period of time. This places us in good stead against the competition - especially when participating in trade shows,” said Mr Crippa.

Faster Entry into New Markets with New Growth Opportunities
Besides getting new partners onboard faster and easier than before, ACE Travel Insurance has also been empowered to enter new markets more aggressively. “With the ACE CRS system, we have successfully entered the Japanese market and distinguished ourselves as the first insurer to establish online integrated travel insurance in Japan. This is the game-changer in the insurance industry in Japan,” said Mr Blake.

In an industry where major deals, such as ones with credit card companies, can amount to hundreds of millions in annual revenue, ACE Travel Insurance is excited about the growth possibilities. “It has always been our philosophy to invest upfront to design solutions which we believe will add real value to the business. Microsoft BizTalk, together with the implementation by Microsoft Services, enables easy connections for the partners and gives ACE Travel Insurance our competitive advantage. The work by the Microsoft Services team has helped us maximize our investment and deliver real value to the ACE business owners,” said Mr Crippa.

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Solution Overview



Organization Size: 16000 employees

Organization Profile

ACE Travel Insurance helps thousands of travel industry partners to maximize their insurance-derived income while providing high quality coverage and service to millions of travellers globally. The diverse product suite includes coverage for a broad range of travel-related risks, including medical expenses, personal accident protection, and inconveniences such as trip cancellation, flight delay and baggage loss, among many others. ACE Travel Insurance is a division of the ACE Group.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Services Premier Support
  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Microsoft BizTalk Server
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Datacenter
  • Premier Support for Enterprise
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services
  • Microsoft Biztalk Server Technologies

Vertical Industries
Insurance

Country/Region
Singapore

Business Need
  • SOA and Business Process
  • Mission Critical

Languages
English

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