Occasionally we highlight services and solutions from outside our Optimization Practice.
A regional business insurance broker’s risk control division sought a new-generation software application and automated process to audit businesses for risk and provide mitigation recommendations. Traditionally, inspectors traveled to sites and filled out paper checklists, took many photos on digital cameras and uploaded them to a local computer, transcribed information into a web browser, exported to Word document reports which required additional manual modification and layout changes, and finally emailed the final report to clients. This process was supported by an internal software application that had become outdated, unstable, had frequent downtime, and was inadequately supported.
The company leaders envisioned a modern process. On a field tablet device, inspectors would capture and enter information and photos all electronically, attaching them to relevant fields. The system would have to work offline because many visited sites are rural, without Internet.
Business and Technical Discovery
The insurance company had previously engaged a software vendor that failed to deliver an application. The company’s leaders searched for a trusted partner to both successfully develop and implement an application, and they retained Princeton Consultants.
The team conducted initial discovery, consisting of employee interviews and documentation and code review, to summarize the legacy system’s main defects and to list desired improvements. The company’s leadership and staff had ideas to improve the application and streamline workflow but no way to realize them. There was significant accumulated data which was no longer used, and it was not clear how deleting it would impact stored reports. The system lacked good user security. There was no edit protection in the Word reports, which could lead to differences between online versions and final reports, with no way to tell who had edited them. The company’s clients declined to use their portal to the system, which was slow and cumbersome. Two of the company’s divisions used different versions of the system, leading to additional confusion.
Setting the Goal
The company’s leaders and the Princeton Consultants team set the goal of issuing a field device with camera to allow inspectors to create field reports during the actual inspections, which would greatly accelerate the availability of reports to customers, and improve inspector productivity. The new system would enable the updating of standards and templates. A modern user interface was envisioned to simplify the inspection workflow and ease data entry by providing suggestions to users.
Design, Development and Deployment
The Princeton Consultants team’s project plan entailed four steps:
- Solution design. The team interviewed employees, built user personas, and extracted user stories to gather full requirements for the new system. Through interactive design sessions, the team explored in-depth system pain points and opportunities. The Princeton Consultants application designer presented wireframe-level design of user interface, followed by high-level system architecture design. For the field device, the team selected the Microsoft Surface Go 2 tablet running Windows 10, to best integrate with the client’s existing Microsoft Surface infrastructure. The project plan incorporated revisions and was finalized.
- Software Development on Microsoft UWP. The team leveraged its existing systems code and methodologies to develop a complete turnkey system in three tiers: front-end user interface to run on local device or via browser; business logic tier to run on the cloud; and persistent data storage. Data management entailed conversion from MS SQL Server to NoSQL / MongoDB. The team created a new cloud infrastructure on AWS with DocumentDB, S3, and Elastic Container Service / Docker. For the code platform, the team selected Microsoft UWP, the modern platform for Windows 10 applications, providing a rich and customizable user experience with WinUI. The deciding factors were MS Azure AD authentication, offline cache and local storage access, and camera access for photos.
- Data loading and testing. The team spent significant time with the client user experts reviewing the existing data, cleaning out old data which was not relevant any longer, and rearchitecting some data to better conform to the new workflow processes. The user acceptance testing system was loaded with this set of cleaned codes and inspection report text, and with initial report components, themes, and templates, which were then tested.
- Deployment. The company delivered the Microsoft Surface Go 2 tablets, with suggested configuration and policies, and loaded with the new-gen software application. The Princeton Consultants team trained the company’s system administrators and assisted company leaders in training their staff.
Delivered on time and within budget, the new-gen application is used by the insurance company’s managers and inspectors, who have resumed pre-Covid levels of onsite activity. Encouraged by the positive software rollout and early reports of service and productivity gains, the company’s leaders have authorized a new level of enhancements, with the possibility of eventually marketing the application to the industry nationwide.
To learn more about this application and Princeton Consultants' custom software development, email us to set up a call.