ACORD's '2020' Initiative and Today's Integration Headaches
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 25, 2011
“The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.”
That line has a ring of truth to it, but fortunately, the insurance industry for some time has had a common set of standards it can build around. And that is XML.
No other standard has done more to bring disparate, siloed systems and data together within any industry than XML, or eXtensible Markup Language. And the insurance industry's own flavor of XML – assembled and supported by ACORD, the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development – now covers a range of the most commonly seen scenarios: Life & Annuity Standards (XML, Forms) for those business lines as well as for life reinsurance covering both individual and group lines; P&C Standards (XML, AL3, Forms) for the personal, commercial, specialty and surety lines of business; and Reinsurance, designed for those companies currently engaged in property & casualty, surety, or life reinsurance business.
Of course, every insurer has different needs and specialty lines that aren't covered, but ACORD effectively addresses the most common forms of insurance products. In addition, delivering standards across changing technologies and platforms is a fast-moving target. Two years ago, no one could imagine insurance agents and employees using something like the iPad. The problem with standards bodies is that it often takes years for them to complete their work, or at least reach milestones.
ACORD is well aware of the changes shaking up the insurance technology world. As Lloyd Chumbley, vice president of standards for ACORD—who is leading ACORD's “2020” initiative to expand adoption of the standards—observes: “Our standards today are very good, but they can be a lot better. Its about making those standards better, so we see real plug and play happening in the industry today. Because that plug and play will enable the notepads, the e-signatures, the things of the future.”
While the “2020” moniker suggests future concerns, Chumbley emphasizes that the effort is intended to promote the benefits of ACORD XML adoption today.
For those seeking more in-depth details about ACORD XML, Jamie Mazur just published a helpful primer on a popular standards choice: the ACORD TXLife XML standard. As Mazur observes, “in the life, annuities and health insurance world, the ACORD Transactional/Business Wrapper (TXLife) Specification schema is the dialect of choice.” However, he adds, “getting started with this complex standard can be a daunting task,” and the article provides some guidelines for implementation.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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