A large proportion of insurers cling on to every aspect of their IT systems, which are often made up of incumbent systems that only serve to weigh them down. Willis Towers Watson’s Stephen Hollands explains to Microsoft’s The Record magazine, how letting go can be liberating.

Most IT departments take pride in their data centres. However, this love of the nuts and bolts of IT service delivery absorbs a lot of IT focus, as well as significant amounts of funding.

This misguided love of hardware and associated services leaves little room for innovation. The adoption of new cloud-based technologies is seen as unnecessary and misaligned to current technology direction and a potential threat to services.

Those companies that make the bold step to embrace cloud-based technologies are able to operate in a more agile and effective way

However, those companies that make the bold step to embrace cloud-based technologies are able to operate in a more agile and effective way. Willis Towers Watson was able to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach to life and pensions consolidator Chesnara, for whom it helped deliver an outsourced actuarial consulting project.

The work required Willis Towers Watson’s team to run multiple models (via their financial modelling software, RiskAgility FM) to calculate the capital requirement under Solvency II. This meant demand for compute resource increased rapidly during valuation periods, followed by a sharp decline once the season was over. It was at this point that the team saw an opportunity to streamline the modelling process and build in greater efficiency through the use of cloud-based technology.

Combined with RiskAgility FM, Willis Towers Watson’s software as a service offering, vGrid, provides fully scalable, on-demand access to compute resource via the cloud. Based on required timelines and budget, the Willis Towers Watson team used the on-demand capability of vGrid to scale resource as necessary to run models in half the time. This not only allowed the team to meet the existing required time-lines while balancing cost, but also assure that further resource would be easily available via vGrid, should the client’s requirements increase in the future. Further efficiencies were realised through the addition of Unify, Willis Towers Watson’s systems integration tool, to integrate vGrid, RiskAgility FM and other supporting software together into user-defined, automated workflows.

By replacing a traditional IT nuts and bolts approach, the team were more empowered to manage their grid scale to match business demand

By replacing a traditional IT nuts and bolts approach, the team were more empowered to manage their grid scale to match business demand, sufficiently speeding up model run times. This coupled with automated workflows, resulted in a 69% improvement in the overall reporting timetable.

When we look at legacy services we tend to think that they must flow forward and remain part of the future and so analyse in great detail how we might get from A in present data centres to B in the cloud. When you multiply this many times for the enormous legacy of applications/services managed today, then the task becomes scarily large, with decisions being made to hold back.

Little regard is taken for the creation of a brand new service to replace the legacy, but as the example from Willis Towers Watson’s Chesnara project suggests, such an approach can be enlightening.

Stephen Hollands is Global Product Leader for Software as a Service at Willis Towers Watson

Read more from The Record magazine.