HBOS-owned insurer esure has used its recently developed service oriented architecture (SOA) to speedily bring to market a new insurance brand aimed at female drivers.
Sheila's Wheels was launched last month after six months of development carried out by esure and IT consultancy Detica.
The tight timescale of the project - which delivered a quotations system, integrated call centre and website - was made possible by the SOA. The architecture was established by esure earlier this year after nine months of work across a range of related in-house IT assignments.
Mark Foulsham, IT director at esure, said, "The SOA represents a fundamental shift in architecture away from highly integrated systems and towards more componentised and discretely definable services."
The modular structure meant that when it came to developing the various systems for Sheila's Wheels, esure was able to work on each part of the system in turn, without engaging the rest of the architecture. The company estimates that it halved the number of hours spent in development by working in this way.
Foulsham said the SOA had also brought substantial business benefits - most notably by improving the agility of esure's quotations system, which is built on a BEA Weblogic platform.
The system, which is used not only by Sheila's Wheels but also to generate quotes for sister divisions esure and First Alternative, allows the various underwriting teams to provide insurance quotes based on a complex set of individual and market-driven variables.
Foulsham said re-architecting the engine into a single web service allowed underwriters to work with it directly. He said it was now able to bring up-to-date rates to market 10 times faster than had been possible using esure's previous infrastructure.
In practice, he said this means the system allows esure to react quickly enough to any market changes to alter rate sets overnight.
"That speed-to-market is crucial to maintaining accuracy of quote," said Foulsham. "We want to differentiate between ourselves and others in the space by knowing more about our customers in a more accurate way. If you take a long time to adapt rates you will lose out."
The core insurance system used by the esure partners is an Oracle-based technology called The Insurance Application. The company also uses the Oracle Financials datawarehouse system to handle its financial business processes.