Applied Industrial Logic
Applied Industrial Logic (AIL) was formed in 2002 by an established team to develop IT solutions for the insurance market. Specialists in the areas of eBusiness and component based development, the team has developed technology for a number of major insurance companies.
After successfully implementing an array of bespoke projects, the team decided to put their efforts into building a stable long-term business plan based upon the expertise gained and lessons learned. Our goal is simple:
Remove the barriers traditionally associated with insurance software adoption, including high cost of ownership and slow time-to-market.
OpenQuote is an open source system, created by Applied Industrial Logic to help reduce both the time-to-market and costs of web-enabling quotations for insurance products and schemes. The software allows insurers, brokers and agents to efficiently release and maintain their products by configuring risk capture, risk assessment and rating rules.
With OpenQuote risk assessment and rating rules can be easily configured in Excel spreadsheets.OpenQuote can be configured to work for any line of business, it uses business rules (risk evaluation and rates) that can be set up in Excel spreadsheets. Many different insurance products can be run and controlled from OpenQuote at any one time.
OpenQuote can be seamlessly integrated into websites to provide an online quote and buy service.The system can be made available to brokers or directly to proposers, quotes can be made and saved for the broker or proposer to return to at a later date. OpenQuote can also issue documentation to the broker or proposer, whilst keeping the Underwriter informed about all quotations and when they are accepted.
From a technical perspective OpenQuote is a Java EE based server side system (this means it needs to be hosted on a server running a Java application server), user access to the system is via any internet browser. Using web services and portal technology OpenQuote can be integrated into third party applications. For more technical information please visit the OpenQuote community site: openquote.appliedindustriallogic.com.
Why Open Source
Open source software has many benefits over commercial software to both the user and the developer, when AIL was investigating how to distribute OpenQuote, we quickly realised that open source offered the best route. To find out what open source is please visit our open source overview page.
Open Source Benefits
Access: The first benefit that open source delivers is ease of access for the user, because it is freely distributed anyone who is interested can download it, try it and use it. For the potential user this means no hard sales push, for AIL it means we only need to become involved when the user is ready to engage with us.
Licence: OSI (OpenSource.org) approved open source licences are not only free to use, but also common place in most organisations - even though some may not realise they are using open source software already! This not only means that legal work regarding the licence is kept to a minimum (from both AIL's perspective and the users), but it also means a precedence for using software at the company on such terms has probably been set already, so resistance to it is minimised.
Cost: To the user, cost of using the software is determined much more by the client than the developer, the user can choose if they pay the developer for support or not. In AIL's case we do offer commercial services around OpenQuote, these services are designed to help both users who do not have the infrastructure to host or configure OpenQuote themselves, and users that feel commercial support would be a practical safety net, however this is not compulsory. For AIL this means we can get a much clearer picture on what levels of support are required, and for who. If a company is comfortable supporting themselves, then AIL doesn't need to know anything about them and they don't need to worry about paying for unnecessary support licences.
Project Sponsorship: Whist Applied Industrial Logic owns, approves and quality controls the development of OpenQuote, if a company has the resources it can take part the development itself, contributing resources and helping to shape the product. This way specific areas of the system important to that user can be focused on without disrupting the existing development plan. Resources can take the form of developers, business analysts, product designers, user interface expertise and so on. Alternatively a company can engage AIL to provide these resources for them. This hands on involvement by users is actively encouraged by the OpenQuote project, the more involvement the user community has in development, the better OpenQuote becomes.
Availability: Open source means the code is freely available, this adds a level of security to the software that few commercial products can offer. Users can if they wish hold a copy of OpenQuote's program code themselves, so should anything happen to the project in the future, they can continue to maintain the software themselves.
Complementary Projects: There are many open source projects out there, covering many different areas. OpenQuote uses other open source software to complement and improve its own functionality. An example of this is OpenQuote's use of the Alfresco content management system; rather than reinventing the wheel and creating its own content management functionality (used to persist and edit products) OpenQuote integrates Alfresco, drastically reducing development effort. Another benefit is because both OpenQuote and Alfresco are open source, there are no licensing conflicts for us to deal with.
These are just a few of the reason why AIL chose to take OpenQuote down the open source path, for more information about open source and its implications please visit OpenSource.org.
Our Working Practices
Software development’s history is littered with high profile project failures. AIL’s starting point when defining the way it approaches development was to ask why this should be the case.
Before the development of structured methodologies software development was a chaotic activity without much of an underlying plan; based on short-term decisions. This approach can actually work, but only for small short-term developments. As projects grow in complexity, working this way rapidly becomes a recipe for disaster.
Early methodologies tried to address this by drawing on older engineering principals, putting a heavy emphasis on planning before building. Typically the construction industry is cited, where experience shows that the design stage is highly unpredictable, absorbs 10% of the cost, and relies on skilled creative professionals. This compares with the build phase, which is predictable, but absorbs the other 90% of cost. Requirements are gathered during the design stage, and once this stage is complete the cost of requirement change can be enormous.
The early methodologies consider requirement gathering, and system modelling to be the equivalent of the construction industry’s design stage, whilst coding is equivalent to the build stage. However, as Steve C. McConnell observes in his book “Taming Wild Software Schedules”: coding can be expected to absorb only 15% of a software project’s costs, while the highly unpredictable design stage takes the other 85%.
This mismatch is the major reason why these methodologies fail, and why AIL doesn’t use them.
So, is software development simply an unpredictable process? The answer is no; but the parts that are completely predictable, like compilation and linking, have been reduced to automated processes which are so cheap as to be considered free. What’s left is entirely design.
As in the construction industry, design in software development is unpredictable. This demands an adaptable approach; one that accepts, even encourages, change at any point. AIL uses just such an approach.
Our approach is evolutionary, based on small phases each delivering a working – and increasingly feature rich – system which clients can use and test to their satisfaction. This means that clients start to use the system very early on, making it much simpler for them to spot problems or issues with the requirements.
In an adaptive process, like AIL’s, the customer has very fine-grained control over the software development process. At each phase they can both check progress and, where required, alter the direction of the project.
This leads to much closer relationship between AIL and its clients, a true business partnership.