A Direct Line to Insurance – Thanks to Java

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A Direct Line to Insurance –
Thanks to Java

Requirements of an uncomplicated, user-friendly software

By Ralf Loose

A direct insurer like Direct Line Versicherung AG has a particular need to offer its customers
and potential customers optimum advice on the telephone or online. On the one hand, this
requires competent call-center agents. On the other hand, however, it also requires a software
package which can transfer customer data into the inventory system for the customer agent on
the telephone reliably and easily. This project report gives you an overview of the requirements
and the resulting development of such a software system with modern Java technology.

Requirements                           ! Very good usability
                                       ! Good user interface
    The market for car insurance       ! Easy extensibility
is competitive. Fast reaction times    ! Modularity
when responding to damage claims
and uncomplicated further process-         The high degree of
ing are signiÞcant competitive fac-    scalability is needed be-
tors. A powerful software system is    cause Direct Line Ver-
an essential prerequisite. For these   sicherung AG primarily
reasons, Direct Line Versicherung      offers automobile insur-
decided on the modernization of        ance. Since most of the
their applications and contracted      business in that industry
Consist for the new development.       takes place about the end
After a thorough analysis of the       of the year, during that
needs and technical conditions,        time the number of cli-
these were the requirements deter-     ents increases, along with
mined for the new system:              the need for simple con-
                                       nection. The high avail-                                  Graphic: Consist Software Solutions
! High degree of scalability           ability is a result of the
! High availability                    24x7 business of the direct   Architecture of the application

22 CONSIST CONNECT - February 2008
insurer, while user friendliness is of   without any problems. Access must
primary importance for staff on the      simply be secured using VPN or              About Direct Line
telephone. Agents should only need       SSL.                                            Direct Line was founded
to worry about carrying out their                                                    in Great Britain in 1985. The
business tasks, not about learning       Architecture                                company is part of RBS In-
a complicated software package.                                                      surance, with about 18,000
Thus the new system will walk the            The application communicates            employees and 26 million
user through the process of con-         with a Java interface which is also         policies around the world,
cluding a policy in order to prevent     included in the business model,             making it England‘s largest
data from being entered which is         on which the client works directly.         car insurer. Besides England,
not allowed due to business rules.       This “ßat“ architecture, despite            RBS Insurance is also rep-
This corresponds to the desire for       the need for several server calls for       resented in Spain, Italy, and
a good user interface. Simple ex-        many client requests, ensures good          Germany under the Direct
tensibility is needed because Direct     performance, and as a side effect it        Line brand. With their at-
Line Versicherung AG is planning         speeds up development. The result           tention-getting logo, a red
several new products which need          is a modular service layer which            telephone, Direct Line Ver-
to be integrated easily into the sys-    encapsulates the calls to the Java in-      sicherung AG, headquar-
tem. Modularity ensures that all         terface and largely avoids business         tered in Teltow near Berlin,
products can use certain modules         logic. This layer was implemented           has been active on the Ger-
in common.                               using the Spring framework, allow-          man market since the start
                                         ing the integration of additional ser-      of March, 2002, and their
    Another basic condition was          vices using dependency injection.           roughly 300 employees in-
that the system should be devel-         Through this layer, other services          sure about 280,000 vehicles,
oped against a Java interface from       besides the interface to the inven-         with a premium volume of
a third-party provider, which han-       tory system can also be addressed,          115 million Euros yearly. Be-
dles the transfer of data into the in-   for instance a print service which          sides automobile and motor-
ventory system via a CICS system         generates PDF documents, or a               cycle insurance, the compa-
(Customer Information Control            service which calls up data from the        ny also offers private liability
System).                                 telephone system during incoming            and private legal protection
                                         customer calls.                             insurance. Direct Line be-
Technology                                                                           longs to the Royal Bank of
                                              Furthermore, Spring-AOP is             Scotland Group (RBS), one
    These requirements, in com-          used to implement error handling            of the world‘s largest bank-
bination with company-internal           in the business layer and the Java          ing group.
speciÞcations, led to the choice of      interface. Hard errors are caught
implementing a web application in        here, information collected about
the Java Server Faces implemen-          them, and they are forwarded to
tation of MyFaces. This ensures          an error page. At the same time, an      business methods, in order to iden-
the high scalability of the applica-     e-mail with an exact description of      tify critical points.
tion, which runs on Tomcat web           the error is sent to the administra-
containers. As a web application,        tor. Input errors are indicated to the       The view layer works with My-
the system is also easy to maintain      user so that they can be corrected.      Faces, and the use of Tiles guaran-
centrally, and the connection of ad-                                              tees simple page generation using
ditional clients is no problem. This         Spring-AOP was also used dur-        templates. MyFaces was extended
technology also allows the simple        ing the test phase of the application    with custom components, for in-
connection of cooperation partners       to monitor performance of calls to       stance to lead the user through the

                                                                                     February 2008 - CONSIST CONNECT 23

                                                                                 ered carefully in order to preserve
                                                                                 clarity. Parallel changes to the Java
                                                                                 interface were necessary in order to
                                                                                 be able to add new products, which
                                                                                 simultaneously led to optimization
                                                                                 of the design.

                                                                                     The technologies provided al-
                                                                                 lowed a variety of functionality and
                                                                                 load tests. Smaller problems in later
                                                                                 production operation, for instance
                                                                                 the fact that performance in one
                                                                                 external call center was insufÞcient
                                                                                 due to a weak connection, could be
                                                                                 improved by additional optimiza-
                                                                                 tion of the application.
Screenshot of a user mask
                                                                                      The acceptance among the us-
                                                                                 ers is quite positive, because the ap-
different input forms for a prod-         Experiences                            plication is clearer and stabler than
uct by means of a tab. A special list                                            its predecessor. A few particular
box is also used for entry of values          In retrospect, the technologies    goodies were integrated just for the
depending on the product and the          described above proved to be a good    staff: For instance, it is possible to
time of the offer (e.g. for speciÞc       choice, since it turned out that the   use different stylesheets to change
fee generation). During the course        use of Spring contributed a great      the look and feel of the application
of development, moreover, some            deal to the modularity of the appli-   to match individual taste.
tools were developed to simplify          cation. Similarly, thanks to the use
testing. Besides the Spring-AOP           of MyFaces, the user interface could       Due to this positive experience,
                                                                                 plans are now underway to inte-
                                                                                 grate additional applications of the
         Acceptance by users has high priority, and                              enterprise into this architecture.
          contributes to the success of the project

performance measurements for the          be developed rapidly, at which the
business layer already mentioned,         application of Tiles was especially
there were also Þlters developed for      found to be favorable. The two to-
the web container: First, a Jamon         gether simpliÞed the integration of
Þlter for measurement of perfor-          new products into the application
mance of individual page calls, and       tremendously. For the user inter-
secondly a Þlter which generates a        face, Alias components were used
list of allocations of labels to IDs of   in numerous places, so that the ap-    For further information:
input Þelds in the application. Us-       plication is easy to maintain, since
ing these Þlters, the development         changes need only be made in one       Dr. Ingo Büll
of Selenium tests for functional          place. However, the structure of       Phone: +49(0)431/3993-554
testing was nearly 100% automatic.        these components must be consid-       E-Mail:

24 CONSIST CONNECT - February 2008