Patience pays off at CUNA Mutual

Insurance provider's Claims Express project benefits from a break to reassess

When it comes to optimizing IT systems, sometimes it pays to have the suits there to slow things down.

Headfirst into its Claims Express project plan to revamp the company's claims-filing application, CUNA Mutual Group's IT department ran into questions from the insurance provider's business side as to the advantages that would result.

The subsequent halting of development, undertaken in the summer of 2004, allowed CUNA Mutual to open fruitful dialogue regarding the project's direction. As a result, IT was able to clarify the proposed design of Claims Express, turning hiatus into advantage, delivering a rapid, high-return system that integrates 16 applications to the increased satisfaction of CUNA Mutual's customers and company brass.

"There were three big outcomes we achieved as a result," says Craig Everson, vice president of the customer operations program management office at CUNA Mutual, noting that, first, from a customer perspective, Claims Express cut claims backlogs from 20 days to five.

But turnaround speed isn’t the only benefit of the new system; it is also more accurate than the previous claims-filing application, providing 15 percent higher accuracy rate for payments. Accuracy propels better financial performance, "over the top compared to anything I've ever seen before," Everson says, comparing it against an IT career that spans financial firms and big consulting.

The third outcome Everson mentions is that the front-loaded planning, which delayed coding by a year, in fact accelerated the pace of delivery. In the end, Claims Express came in at what CUNA Mutual -- very experienced with internal development -- considered both more quickly and at a lower cost than initially expected.

Claims Express integrates an intranet front end with a document management, workflow, and data warehouse back end, using Microsoft's .Net Framework as connective tissue. And while the organization has plenty of experience with internal development, both the scale of the initiative and the desire to deliver it quickly begged for outside help. CUNA Mutual brought in MajescoMastek, a development firm that specializes in insurance solutions, to help navigate the density of object-oriented code required to complete the project.

When the company first initiated Claims Express, it was using Document Sciences' xPression for document management and home-brewed workflow. This year, the company shifted to a Documentum infrastructure for smoother integration.

"Claims Express has been our most successful big project," Everson states, and he sees the success rubbing off on new initiatives such as a big policy administration effort. "The project management rigor and tracking we modeled from [Claims Express], and we are again using the sourcing model we first tested on it."

According to Tom Gosnell, CUNA Mutual's CIO, "Claims Express is a great example of innovation, driving business value, and business and IT working together to deliver the right product for our customers.”

And the brass that originally asked the tough questions is tickled, too.

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