Wesfarmers insurance firm Lumley will boost investment in new technology platforms for its core business applications as part of a wider program to upgrade those systems and offer more online products. Despite a number of Australian insurance companies distancing themselves from expensive overhauls of their core business systems, Lumley Insurance chief information officer Rolle Walraven said his company had decided to upgrade.
He said it had found itself using technology platforms written in programming languages no longer supported by their creators and unable to match rival firms' flexibility in developing new internet services.
Mr Walraven would not put a figure on future spending but said the company would continue to invest strongly in IT improvements in the year ahead.
"We have committed significant investment in IT systems reform. Our overall IT investment increased through the financial downturn, rather than decreasing. Following the foundation platform work we have just completed using IBM technology, we are now planning on delivering twice as many projects over the coming year as we were looking to deliver at the same point 18 months ago," he said.
Lumley has recently signed with IBM to use its WebSphere Application Server platform as the basis for its core business applications.
Mr Walraven said it would be a foundation for developing and delivering services internally, as well as to insurance brokers and corporate partners.
He said the first publicly visible result of the program was Lumley's joint venture with Coles to launch a retail insurance pilot in Tasmania.
He said other insurance companies could manage with older systems and save money on technology upgrades but Lumley had reached a point where an upgrade was unavoidable.
"The new approach to product delivery has only been enabled by the updated technology.
"The old technology we went to market with on earlier products had been extremely problematic, both from an IT management point of view and in the acceptance of the products in the market," he said.
"Continuing our electronic distribution of products is going to be key, as they will be the most visible things to the marketplace. But we are also focusing internally at the same time to reform our internal business processes."
Mr Walraven said the different Wesfarmers companies had a fair amount of independence in technology and business decisions.
However, increased efforts were being made to gain efficiency through a technology leadership team that sat across all the individual insurance companies to see where systems could be shared or reused.
"It makes good business sense for us to look at what each other is doing and take lessons learned and then capitalise on each other's investments," Mr Walraven said.
• The Wesfarmers insurance firm has platforms written in languages no longer supported by their creators.
• A new contract has been signed with IBM to anchor the project.
• No cost figure has been divulged.
©Fairfax Business Media
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