The problems that NTUC Income faced were that insurance processes were very tedious and paper-based. In Year 2002, their HP 3000 mainframe that hosted the core insurance applications as well as the accounting and management information systems still frequently broke down. Not only that, the HP 3000 backup system allowed restoration to only up to the previous day’s backup data. With experiencing a total of three major hardware failures, it resulted in a total of six days of complete downtime.
The COBOL programs developed in the early 1980s also broke down multiple times, halted the systems and caused temporary interruptions. The IT team found that developing new products in COBOL to be quite cumbersome and time taken to launch new products ranged from a few weeks to months. Transaction processing for policy underwriting was still a batch process and information was not available to agents and advisors in real time.
The problems that NTUC Income was resolved by the new digital system was that all applications resided on two or more servers, each connected by two or more communication lines, all of which were “load balanced.” A real time hot backup disaster recovery centre was also implemented where the machines were always running and fully operational. Under the new system, all documents were scanned and stored on “trusted” storage devices, secured, reliable digital vaults that enabled strict compliance with stringent statutory requirements.
Q2:What types of information systems and business processes were used by NTUC Income before migrating to the fully digital system?
Before migrating to the new digital system, the entire insurance process was operating manually. All filled up forms by the customers will be submitted by the agent through courier services to the Office Services Department and the collection schedule could delay up to two to three days. Office Services would then log documents, sort, and send to departments for underwriting while proposals were allocated to underwriting staff randomly.
For storage, all original documents were packed and sent to warehouses where over two to three days, seven staff would log and store the documents. Whenever a document needed to be retrieved, it would take about two days to locate and ship it by courier and refilling would take another two days. The use of the HP 3000 mainframe was not reliable due to the frequent breakdown, decreasing productivity of the staff and wasted a lot of manpower hours. The COBOL program also encountered technical failures like not having up-to-date information which led to a loss of opportunities of cross product sales.
Q3:Describe the information systems and IT infrastructure at NTUC Income after migrating to the fully digital system?
After migrating to the fully digital system in June 2003 when Income switch to the Java based eBao LifeSystem from eBao Technology, The software comprised three subsystems which is Policy Administration, sales Management and Supplementary Resources. It has everything they are looking for, a customer-cendric design, seamless integration imaging and barcode technology, a product definition module that supports new products, new channels and changes in business processes.
By May 2003, all customization, data migration of Income’s individual and group life insurance businesses and training were implemented and completed. New system was immediately operational on high-availability platform with multiple servers and communication lines.
Further to it, its business continuity and disaster-recovery plans were revamped with a real-time hot backup disaster-recovery centre implemented as well. Data was transmitted immediately on the fly from the primary datacentre to the backup machines’ data storage so in the event of the datacentre site becoming unavailable, the operations could be switched quickly to the disaster-recovery site without the need to rely on restoration of previous day data. Lastly, they moved from a manual paper recording system to a totally paperless environment for easy access.
Q4:What benefits did NTUC Income reap from the new system?
NTUC Income reaped from the new system that the robust architecture had minimized downtime occurrence with all application resided on two or more servers and communication lines. With paperless environment, all documents were scanned and stored in digital vaults and as a result, about 500 office staff and 3,400 insurance advisors could access the system anytime, anywhere and staff members who would telecommute enjoy faster access to information.
Because of the straight through processing workflow capabilities and flexibility, there is a 50 percent savings on both the time and cost needed to process policies. Time needed to design and launch new products was cut and reduced from weeks to just days using the table-driven rule based product-definition module. It has also allows Income’s to support agents, brokers and customers to do online services easily.
Q5:Moving forward, how could NTUC Income leverage on social networks to acquire service and retain their customers?