From the November 2010 issue of Tech Decisions • Subscribe!

Insurers Aim to Stand Out

Business people love to use the word "unique" to make them stand out in the crowd. In insurance, carriers often speak of their unique codes to communicate with others, but an ACORD working group feels the uniqueness of these codes is overstated.

Since January, an ACORD working group has been investigating the issue and discovered that in most cases codes aren't unique and standards can be implemented to improve data communication.

"It's not unusual for companies to develop unique codes to meet a need they feel only they have," says Marcia Berner, ACORD program director for PCS. "The problem is: How do you work with business partners when they use a standard and you don't? Today, we're working to eliminate these unique codes that aren't really unique."

The group started by examining watercraft coverage and its related codes. Through this initial exercise, they found they were able to replace unique codes by:

  • Using an existing ACORD code
  • Submitting a maintenance request to add some codes to the standard
  • Using different implementation methods such as alternative data elements

Leaving It Unique

"This first effort took some time since we were in uncharted waters and needed to find ways to do this efficiently and easily," says Berner.

For watercraft, the group was able to collapse approximately 170 unique codes to only 10. The bulk of these unique codes were eliminated by the methods mentioned.

The Way Forward

With their first success, the working group is committed to moving forward more rapidly. They are working on ways to improve the process so they can go through the code groupings faster and more efficiently.

"We've developed a methodology that should help us really pick up speed in the process," says Ed Voyvek, technical architect for ACORD. "First, ACORD will be assigning the codes to high level categories. That will help us work in manageable chunks. Then, the working group's members, individually, will be doing the in-depth, detailed analysis of each category."

Once the analysis is complete, they will regroup, discuss the findings, and develop recommendations for going forward.

"Where it's needed, the group will submit maintenance requests to have codes added to the standard. It may result in some off-cycle voting as well so that we don't slow down the progress," Voyek adds.

The next group of codes is already selected--personal umbrella. Also, the group will be working to develop a methodology for handling unique codes into the future.

Communicate, Implement

As categories of codes go through this process, it will be essential to communicate the results to the membership and the industry, according to Berner.

"Once a code group is completed, we'll be taking several steps to make sure that everyone is aware of the research, recommendations, and resolutions," she says. "We'll also be working closely with AUGIE to help promote these recommendations."

Another way the group will be spreading the word is through documentation. At the end of the analysis for each group, a document will made available outlining the recommendations and providing implementation suggestions.

"This will be a step forward and a way to eliminate these unique codes so we can all work together," Berner says. "At the same time, we're well aware there are going to be some things that truly are unique and will stay that way. But now, we'll know them and be able to account for them."

There are several sessions at the ACORD Implementation Forum focusing on Commercial Lines:

  • AUGIE Meeting
  • Path to Commercial Lines Download Success
  • Commercial Lines Download Minimum Data Set
  • What's So Special About Specialty Lines?
  • Company Unique Extensions
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