"Mendix enables iterative, collaborative development. The developer and a business person can sit together, bounce ideas off each other, build workflows, design and easily hone applications on-screen – innovating without getting stalled by technical detail."
About the case
To improve customer service and internal operational efficiency, insurance firm Texas Life has chosen the Mendix rapid application development platform to help it pursue digital transformation. The company is building self-service portals, re-writing a key legacy application, and defining complex digital insurance workflows – all on Mendix.
Texas Life Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Wilton Re, is the oldest life insurance company domiciled in Texas. Providing voluntary permanent life insurance to employees, through their employers, with products that are easy to sell and buy, drives everything the firm does.
Operating across most of the United States and administering some 700,000 policies in 2016, Texas Life strives to deliver a second-to-none customer experience while ensuring its operations are optimized to provide fast, efficient service. Managing its operations on a legacy software application originally built in the early 2000’s, the company recently decided to undergo a significant digital transformation of operations and services, reducing its reliance on manual, paper-based processes. A strategy was set, which included redefining and digitizing workflows, re-writing legacy applications and creating self-service portals for customers and brokers.
“We are eager to embrace digital innovation for business and customer benefit and are now making good progress,” said Brad Kendrick, vice president of IT at Texas Life.
“Our big challenge has been how to deliver that transformation ‘right first time,’ cost-effectively and with minimal upheaval and risk.”
The Texas Life plan includes re-writing the legacy system to support digital processes and creating three self-service web portals. The project uses a small team of developers that are business analysts first, coders second. This dexterity reflects the sophistication of the business processes and regulatory requirements that need to be understood in order to design workflows and build applications to support them. But it means the company’s developers are not expert coders. Now combine this with the fact that digital innovation in insurance is inherently iterative, requiring close collaboration between developers and users. The result is that quite clearly, Texas Life needed to find an application development platform that was both intuitive for its business-oriented developers to use and supportive of an agile approach. Another key requirement was that the platform seamlessly support multiple devices and form factors.
Andy Wood, the CIO of Texas Life’s parent company, was familiar with the Mendix rapid application development platform and encouraged a proof of concept project. Following successful trials of the platform, Texas Life adopted Mendix and began building an internal center of excellence that leverages the platform, along with the Scrum methodology, to quickly deliver new applications.
“Our business-oriented developers quickly found that versus traditional coding techniques, the Mendix visual modeling approach allows them to stay focused on business process and on user and compliance requirements,” said Kendrick.
“We can build applications without caring about detailed technical nuances typical of coding platforms, since in Mendix it’s all taken care of.”
“Mendix enables iterative, collaborative development,” he continued. “The developer and a business person can sit together, bounce ideas off each other, build workflows, design and easily hone applications on-screen – innovating without getting stalled by technical detail.”
Mendix-based developments completed, underway or planned include:
- A customer portal allowing policy holders to handle many simple tasks themselves, without the hassle of phoning and waiting for, completing and returning paper forms. Live since mid-2015, customers have switched in good numbers from approaching the contact center to first using the portal. Not only are customers signaling a preference for that self-service channel, but with Texas Life’s policy business growing healthily, there’s been as yet, no need to expand the customer service team. Extending the portals to enable access via mobile devices is under development. Portals for employers, brokers and agents will follow.
- Replacing office-based desktop-only interfaces to the internal legacy policy administration application with web front ends. This move offers authorized staff improved ‘anytime, anywhere, any device’ access, and will also improve business continuity.
Another big initiative for Texas Life is re-writing its legacy policy administration application, to support digital workflows that improve operational efficiency. The company considered licensing a Business Process Management (BPM) tool and integrating this with Mendix. However, this significant cost was avoided – since workflow modeling comes built-in with the Mendix platform, in the form of ‘microflows.’
“While we initially thought we needed a BPM tool, we quickly realized that Mendix microflows would allow our development team to visually define sophisticated workflows and logic,” explained Kendrick. “For example, if a policy holder requests a policy-linked loan, then that would kick off a complex workflow, with many different possible logic routes before we can process the request. Going forward, we will use Mendix to digitize hundreds of such workflows across seven main business segments, including billing, claims and customer service.”
Discovering Mendix has also helped Texas Life rationalize its development environment.
“We have limited the number of technologies and coding platforms in the past and plan to continue that as we move forward,” said Kendrick. “We’ve now standardized on Python for our core enrollment platform and Mendix for internal workflows and external-facing portals. Any applications we write ourselves, we build using one of these two tools, allowing the team to become more deeply skilled and making our software delivery process easier and faster.”
Kendrick concluded by summing up the value the Mendix platform brings to Texas Life:
“Our business needs to embrace digital processes and we want to innovate quickly to ensure customer service and operational effectiveness,” he said. “Mendix provides that platform for innovation enabling us to develop applications easily that our customers and users eagerly adopt.”