IBM Bolsters ACORD Standards Effort

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Donation of insurance business-process code will savedevelopment time and money

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In a move that should save ACORD years of standards processdevelopment time, as well as help IBM market insurance-specificmiddleware solutions, the two organizations have announced that IBMis contributing business-process models and other content toACORD.

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The donated computer code for more than 100 business-processmodels, model definitions and other content is part of IBM'sInsurance Application Architecture (IAA)--the company'sinsurance-specific business and IT architecture framework.

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"The donation will accelerate the development and adoption ofbusiness process standards that in turn will help address some ofthe global insurance industry's greatest challenges," according toan announcement from ACORD and IBM.

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The overall contribution represents nearly 20 years of researchand development by IBM, the announcement said.

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IBM's contribution "will save us time and money, because there'sbeen involvement from the industry in developing IAA over theyears," said Denise Garth, vice president of membership anddevelopment for the Pearl River, N.Y.-based ACORD.

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She added that ACORD will integrate the new processes into itsstandards, "plug holes, and build out areas where there hasn't beena priority by our members... There's a value back to the industryand the membership."

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The announcement noted that the contributed code from Armonk,N.Y.-based IBM includes:

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o A hierarchy of about 100 processes with business definitionsin English.

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o A data dictionary, referred to as the IAA Business Terms, anda subset needed for defining the process services.

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o "State machines"--code that enables awareness of the status ofa process as it goes forth.

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"The donation is the process models themselves and the diagramsthat go along with them--a set of business terms used across all ofthe models," said Cindy Maike, market segment manager for insuranceat IBM's Software Group. "We're letting go of control in certainareas."

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Most of the content is being given to ACORD in HTML (hypertextmarkup language, the format commonly used on the World Wide Web) toallow for easier use and development, noted Ms. Maike.

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"There's no money or other form of compensation involved in thedonation," she added. "We've been involved in horizontal standardsin the past, but industry standards are also important."

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She noted that having the expanded standards in its middlewarewould make those products from IBM more appealing to the insurancemarket, adding that "it provides a technology platform that[customers] can innovate on top of."

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The new standards will evolve over time with ACORD committees,noted Ms. Maike. "Right now, we're saying, 'Here's a starter set,and let's evolve it to what makes sense,'" she said. "We'recommitting additional resources, including people, to get involvedin the ACORD standards process. We can offer our expertise andexperience."

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In the joint announcement, ACORD also noted that it "could havedone, and has discussed, developing these enhancements fromscratch. However, as is normal with our process, members contributecontent to jump-start the development and propel us further andfaster for the benefit of all. Such donations are commonplace, butwhat it notable here is the size of the donation."

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ACORD said it will channel IBM's donated elements into itsstandards-setting process. IBM and ACORD committees will worktogether on integrating the IBM content into existing ACORDstandards. In addition, implementation guides and other tools willbe provided by ACORD to help the industry adopt the expandedframework.

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Ms. Garth said IBM and ACORD have no definitive timetable forintegrating the information and implementing expanded standards."We're doing some immediate work for a draft specification for thestandards committee," she noted. "All I can say is that we want itsooner rather than later."

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