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Procuro Modernizes Its Systems From Back to Front


Wire cars, like the one pictured below, helped inspire Procuro Systems’ recent modernization effort, according to Managing Director Heinrich Smit — Photo by Albie Bredenhann

Lower Prices

Procuro’s legacy of core insurance-industry offerings reaches back more than 10 years. In that time, the company has invested heavily in development and doesn't want that legacy to languish, especially given the competitive nature of its industry.

That’s in large part why the company was established. Instead of organizations in the short-term insurance market in South Africa developing their own applications, they can turn to Procuro for customized solutions at prices that are lower than market averages, according to Smit.

“By modernizing everything—and taking a holistic approach to it—our programmers can be much more productive and proactive.”
—Heinrich Smit, managing director with Procuro Systems

This short-term market doesn’t cover products such as life or medical insurance. Rather, it focuses on more tangible items, such as homes, home contents and motor vehicles. Within this space, Procuro’s clients include insurance suppliers; underwriting outsource managers; financial advisory service providers, such as insurance brokers; credit assist insurance suppliers; and niche insurance providers, including those that offer, for example, only motorcycle coverage.

Procuro’s business model is somewhat unique. Rather than sell a shrink-wrapped package, the company offers what Smit says closely resembles a hiring agreement. “We offer the system and take a percentage of the gross premium,” he explains. “This is on a month-by-month basis, and our customers get access to our customized applications and IBM Power Systems* hardware hosting, including system and data maintenance—all of which is included in our fee.”

Because it has to customize its applications, the company is always looking for ways to innovate and maintain client satisfaction. To that end, it’s leveraging its core legacy application components to continue offering what its users expect and then pushing the boundaries to offer additional functionality to fit with changing business models. This also applies to its marketing efforts as it actively pursues new customers. Therein lies the motivation behind Procuro’s database modernization effort, dubbed Project Draadkar or “wire car.”

“Some of the local boys in South Africa make money selling these cars, creating, for example, a Land Rover or a Jeep out of wire,” Smit explains. “We thought about that and said, ‘We can apply this to what we’re doing and turn our systems into Ferraris or Lamborghinis.’ It’s not a perfect metaphor for what we’re doing, but it kind of stuck, and now everyone in the company is talking about it.”

 

The Starting Point

Before building Draadkar’s back-end database, the company decided to work on the front end. This came in the form of a GUI developed using several tools, including newlook and lookserver from looksoftware. The goal behind this was to begin modernizing the look and feel of its solutions, which would appeal to both current and, perhaps more important, potential clients.

“Green screens are great for high-volume transactional environments. You don’t have to take your hands off the keyboard, find your mouse and then click on what you want to do,” Smit says. “But from a marketing point of view, new prospects expect a graphical interface, associating green screens with systems that are old and out of date. So that’s why we started with the front end.”

 

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.


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