ORLANDO, Fla., March 18, 1997 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that two leading life insurance companies, Prudential Insurance Co. of America and Lincoln National Life, are among the first to roll out OLifE-compliant products – just one year after the data-integration specification made its official debut.
Microsoft made its announcement at the Life Office Management Association (LOMA) conference in Orlando, Fla.
OLifE is an object-based technical software specification that lets life insurance computer applications share information. In so doing, it eliminates one of the thorniest issues in the insurance industry: data integration. No longer do agents have to re-enter critical customer information when switching among applications; any application written to the OLifE specification can communicate with any other. OLifE lets these applications use existing files, so companies do not have to create new data models or change existing databases to implement the specification.
Microsoft originally developed the OLifE standard in concert with the former Solutions for Life Insurance Enterprise Computing (SLIEC) alliance, an industry consortium that included Andersen Consulting, E-Z Data Inc., FDP, Lincoln National and Sterling Wentworth. The Agency Company Organization for Research and Development (ACORD), a nonprofit industry standards group, assumed management of the specification in 1995.
“Just a year after its debut, OLifE is making good on its promise to make life easier for its users,” said Bill Hartnett, worldwide insurance industry manager for Microsoft. “To see our relationship with the life insurance industry begin to realize its vision so rapidly is truly gratifying.”
Leading Life Insurance Firms Roll Out OLifE Applications
Prudential Insurance Co. of America, which has more than $219 billion in consolidated assets (1995), is using OLifE to integrate data among seven third-party and in-house systems, including contact management, customer information, needs analysis and electronic marketing resources catalog applications for its Individual Insurance Group. The company rolled out OLifE-compliant applications to more than 2,000 agents and field marketing associates last year, and plans to put the applications on more than 5,000 desktops by the end of 1998.
“We were seeking a standard that would let us integrate all the different tools agents use during the sales process, thereby improving data consistency and saving agent time,” said Craig Badger, director of information systems at Prudential. “OLifE addressed the right problems on the right technologies at the right time for us to help our field force better serve its customers. OLifE is helping to move us in a very positive direction, making technology easier for our field staff to use and manage.”
Lincoln National Life, which has combined assets of more than $71 billion (1996), is using OLifE to integrate data among six applications that support more than 2,000 sales agents. These in-house and third-party programs include contact-management software, financial-planning tools, illustration applications, and issue and underwriting systems.
“OLifE is our best hope to integrate third-party and in-house applications, all of which conform to different architectures,” said Mike Shelby, assistant vice president and director of field systems development at Lincoln National. The company will roll out its OLifE-compliant applications to some 2,000 sales agents by the end of the year.
Shelby, who chairs the ACORD OLifE standards committee, also had high praise for the flexibility of the year-old standard. A variety of tools were used to develop Lincoln National’s OLifE-compliant applications, he said, including the Microsoft® Visual Basic® programming system, C++, Microfocus COBOL and Delphi. The programs will run in both standalone and networked environments.
“This specification is going to make us and our users very happy,” Shelby said. “It eliminates redundant data entry on the part of our users, and it lets us manage one standards-based interface for all our applications.”
Software Vendors Embrace OLifE, Create Applications
In addition to insurance companies, leading independent software vendors are embracing OLifE, according to Tana Sabatino, a group manager at ACORD. “We have more than 20 software companies working on OLifE-compliant products and anticipate that at least six will be available by 1998,” she said.
One of those vendors – and one of the earliest adopters of OLifE technology – is the Sterling Wentworth Corp., whose clients include Metropolitan Life, New York Life and Prudential Insurance Co. of America. Since last year, the company has released 15 OLifE-enabled programs, including client-profiling, product-profiling, product-selection and financial-needs-analysis applications, according to Brad Peterson, assistant vice president of technology at Sterling Wentworth.
“Before the introduction of OLifE, it was a nightmare trying to integrate our software with other applications,” Peterson said. “But with OLifE’s standard data model, we don’t have to worry about the particulars of the database where the information is stored. We can write to the OLifE standard and be assured that proper communication and storage is taking place behind the scenes. This has greatly enhanced our ability to market and support our products across a variety of environments.”
Another leading software vendor and early OLifE adopter is FDP Corp, which is using OLifE to integrate its contact-management software with the internally developed agent applications of leading life insurance companies. According to Scott Price, vice president at FDP, agents simply enter client contact information into their company’s software; the data appear in agents’ financial, estate planning and sales illustration applications without re-entry. “It’s similar to linking a word processing document with a spreadsheet that you update regularly – opening one automatically provides you with the latest information from the other,” Price said. “This is the benefit of OLifE: the ability to seamlessly integrate data among many applications, even though their vendors may be different.”
Price predicts that data integration using OLifE will become only more common – especially as the life insurance industry continues to adopt 32-bit operating systems such as Windows® 95. “The insurance companies want OLifE to succeed,” he said. “And they are making the commitments to ensure its success.”
OLifE is currently supported on the Microsoft Windows operating systems and the Apple Macintosh platform. Future software components based on OLifE will also be able to interoperate across all major versions of UNIX, VMS and the MVS operating system.
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