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Thread: Building an intranet insurance software IT system

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008

    Building an intranet insurance software IT system

    Hi, looking for a bit of advice/guidance..

    The small insurance company i work for has recently implemented a new IT system, which basically has fallen flat on its ar5e! It's intended function is to quote for and incept policies, do mid-term changes, process renewals etc, as well as include an accounting module. Part of the system is web based so that customers can get quotes online.

    Since it has failed, i am struggling to see why i couldn't just build such a system from scratch and make it exclusively online/web based. It's not a particularly complicated system, and doesn't even need to include an online payment feature (customers are agents and they pay on account). Additional features/functions will be available to in-house staff (decided by their login credentials) and reports/statements can be easily created with database queries. The only thing i would have problem with (i think) is the accounting package - which i was hoping i could just use a third party package and 'plug' it into the system via API.

    Am i being naive? Are there other legal matters to consider such as strength of the security (data protection of client information) or how often the databases are backed up etc? Would this be far too great a project for one person to develop on their own?

    Any comments appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Am i being naive?

    Are there other legal matters to consider such as strength of the security (data protection of client information) or how often the databases are backed up etc?

    Would this be far too great a project for one person to develop on their own?
    No. But unless you can dedicate a fulltime job to it (e.g. 8 hours a day) then chances are it's going to take you quite a long time, notwithstanding the fact that this project will take you quite a long time anyway doing it on your own (I estimate a couple of months).

    I think the biggest thing missing that you might not be thinking about is how to make the system dynamic. I recently built a fairly large database system for storing, accessing, and manipulating contact information, among many other things and I would hate to have to go back and delve deep into the code just because the company I built this for would like to be able to gather additional information about their contacts other than the fields that were put in the database initially (e.g. first name, last name, phone number, etc). So I came up with a method to make the system as dynamic as possible so I, hopefully, would never need to touch that code again aside from fixing bugs and adding additional features.

    As a minor example, what if the formula you use to quote customers changes? Do you want to go back to the code and rewrite the formula, or do you want an administrator module where you can log in and specify how to weight certain information in order to come up with a correct quote? Might not be too difficult to build such a module, but it's definitely trivial.

    It's not impossible to build it yourself, but extensive extensive planning is needed before you type a single semicolon.

    Good luck!
    I've switched careers...
    I'm NO LONGER a scientist,
    but now a web developer...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Thanks aj_nsc, appreciate ur honesty.

    Was actually planning on spreading this over 12 months so time is not so much an issue.

    With regards to making it dynamic, yes i see how that would be the greatest challenge. I expect that things would change and new products be released and so would have to plan accordingly. Also rates change all the time so a separate 'rating' or 'rules' file would probably be in order which can easily be updated. OOP would be an absolute necessity which would facilitate future amendments or additions to the system.

    Might give it a go in my spare time anyway, even if it doesn't work out, i'm sure the learning experience would make it more than worthwhile.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by pavsid View Post
    i'm sure the learning experience would make it more than worthwhile.
    That's what I say about every project I do and underquote on. I'm still poor, but quite knowledgeable.
    I've switched careers...
    I'm NO LONGER a scientist,
    but now a web developer...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    You didn't specify what type of insurance you were talking about, but I'm sure each industry has it's own security and confidentiality standards. Health insurance would likely be the most complex, but any time you're dealing with personal information you have to ensure data security.

    Another thing to consider is that when you're developing this type of software, you need consider what the company will do if you leave. At minimum, you'll need strong developer notes so someone with the right skill set can come in and take over if necessary. That's one of the benefits of commercial packages.

  6. #6
    Actually the insurance software should have the flexibility of customizations to match the specific needs of clients for achieving their business goal of good service and revenue generation. It is impossible to do on your own.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Denver, Colorado
    That's what they told the Wright Brothers...well they probably didn't tell them that exactly.

    I would say go for it. The worst that can happen is it doesn't work and you learn a few things.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    I would advise seeking information in relation to the DPA for your country.

    use of normalized databases in this instance is an essential MUST have. This helps obfuscate the stored data, the program you write should be able to reconstruct the dataset from the available tables.

    Some of the data I deal with is or rather falls in to what is referred to as 'sensitive material' and this type of data can be anything from medial records, personnel data, phone calls (recorded), internal faxes, emails and other elements. So you should be aware that the DPA also encompasses elements within the real world like documents.

    Some types of documents have to be stored (on average) for Seven Years, in the other department I work in, most of the documentation I handle has to be stored for 15 years for legal reasons.

    So you SHOULD get acquainted with (at the very least) the basics of what your legal requirements are in relation to data, storage, reproduction and use within the real and virtual realms.

    DPA is not just about storage of data in databases on computers / servers.

    I forgot to add that the data backups we do on electronic documents and databases have to be stored in a safe...
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Some fair points guys, thanks, i havent as yet gone ahead with the project, as to do so would mean putting everything else aside for at least 6 months, but that's not to say I won't revisit it at a later date.

    On a side note, can a system like this be developed using the Zend Framework, or should it really be built from scratch? I'm just learning Zend at the moment and am still unsure of it's benefits/restrictions...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    I use Zend at work. It can help you construct a faster more complete project....but it still requires a good amount of analysis and design or you can muck about just like you can without using a framework (same thing with Javascript frameworks as well).

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    I see, so using jQuery as a Javascript example of a framework - you'd stil create your own classes etc but core functionality is helped along by the framework itself?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Yep. That is what a framework does.

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