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How Liberty Mutual Built Their First Mobile App With Mendix

on October 4, 2012

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One of the largest insurers in the US was looking to roll out a new mobile app for its group insurance customers. Chris Woodman, an IT manager at the firm, described at Mendix World the process they went through and how Mendix was a key element to their success.

“In 2011, we wanted to develop a mobile app, but we didn’t know what we were getting into, and we had no previous mobile development experience,” he said. “Two months later we had our app deployed.” Mendix awarded the project as the outstanding effort of the year at the conference.

Woodman wanted an app that would be simple and intuitive to use, since it was intended for the actual end-user to specify when they were taking leave time from their employers. “It had to be appealing to them personally,” he said. Before they developed their app, Liberty used a complex combination of faxes and manual processing for handling leave time. “A mobile app could help us out a lot,” he said.

So they create a request for proposal and sent it to various vendors. “The Mendix response was so far ahead of all the others,” said Woodman. “Even my five year old son could see that they were cheaper and had half the time to market compared to the other responses.”

As they were going through this process, Liberty also realized that none of their competitors had a mobile app for this particular circumstance and they could become the first insurer to do so. “Firsts are pretty rare for us. First to market cutting edge tech is not in our wheelhouse, and it was enticing to our senior management, so we needed to execute quickly.”

Woodman had a lot of good things to say about his experience. They used the Mendix platform to support all their project documentation, and “it was a breath of fresh air to work in this way.  It demonstrated how we could quickly change items within the platform, too. We were able to integrate an app that we built for an integrated voice response system seamlessly. Halfway through, we needed to change the flow of the app for particular usability concerns. Mendix took 48 hours to redesign this.”

Six weeks into the project, they wanted to show it off. They also realized that they needed something for their Web portal with the same functionality and interfaces. Mendix took a week to consolidate with the current Web app, easily handling the existing interfaces. Woodman was also pleasantly shocked with the high level of system administrative functionality and analytics. “We got all these features so our sales partners can monitor the usage of the app once we rolled it out,” he said.

The resulting app is called MyLibertyMobile and is already on its third revision. Liberty is actively building other mobile apps and is looking to automate a legacy claims processing mainframe app using Mendix too. “It has been everyone’s worst IT nightmare. We started little and then we just have gone nuts with more Mendix apps,” he said.

“We told Mendix what we wanted our app to look like and they turned it around, the first time in my 13 years here that something like this happened,” Woodman said. “You can bring in real apps for a fraction of what you would pay for other IT solutions. It doesn’t have to cost a million dollars and take a year to develop.”

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About David Strom

David Strom was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine and also ran the editorial operations at DigitalLanding.com and Tom's Hardware.com. He is the author of two computer-networking books and over a 25-year career has written thousands of articles on a variety of subjects for the enthusiast, gaming, IT, network computing, channel, and electronics industries. Since September 1995, he has self-published a weekly series of essays called Web Informant, sent via email to several thousand subscribers. Over the course of his editorial career, he has helped launch dozens of editorial-rich websites and other publications. He can be reached at strominator.com, @dstrom on Twitter, and david@strom.com for the old schoolers that still use email.