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Up until three years ago, The Warranty Group Inc. conducted business the old-fashioned way -- without SaaS financial software or anything else running in the cloud.
The Chicago-based firm, which provides extended warranty policies on everything from electronics to automobiles, still relied on a legacy, on-premises PeopleSoft system to feed its IBM AS/400 server, and the largely inflexible nature of that technology hindered the company's progress.
"Time to market and economies of scale were challenges. Providing rich customer experience was a problem," said Chakra Danda, director of cloud technologies at The Warranty Group. "How customers were talking to us was changing and their expectations were changing."
That meant it was time to undergo an overdue transformation by shedding the legacy approach and moving the company's business to the cloud. Ultimately, the search led to the Salesforce universe, where a large array of partners and a ready-to-use development platform would allow it to modernize its IT systems while reducing the maintenance and oversight burden.
The Warranty Group essentially went about building its own warranty insurance cloud with the help of multiple Salesforce partners, and with Salesforce providing the CRM, sales and administration applications.
Chakra Dandadirector of cloud technologies, The Warranty Group
It wasn't until 2016 -- nearly two years later -- that The Warranty Group addressed the transactional part of its business, choosing Salesforce partner FinancialForce's cloud-based ERP software to handle accounts receivable, accounts payable, invoice preparation and automated checking, credit card and clearinghouse payments.
Danda said the company's focus was on establishing an agile process, so rather than overwhelming its users with a big-bang approach, it opted to deploy the SaaS financial software in manageable chunks. More recently, it's rolled out FinancialForce's contract management and project management modules, and has been introducing its biggest, highest-impact clients to the platform.
The way Danda sees it, the biggest customers are the ones who test the new environment most fully.
"You have to have confidence in what you're building to do that," he said.
SaaS financial software key to keeping transactions moving
Although The Warranty Group, which employs 1,700 people in 35 countries, doesn't manufacture any actual hard goods, it specializes in providing underwriting, claims administration and marketing expertise to automakers, manufacturers and electronics retailers. As such, it plays a critical role in the movement of goods, because if its clients and their customers can't get answers on warranty coverage quick enough, it could amount to a lost sale -- for either The Warranty Group or its clients, or both.
That means the company needs to match the right warranty with the right product, and provide all the pertinent information, as quickly as possible.
"That's huge," Danda said. "If you don't close it, you might lose it."
What's more, as an important enabler of transactions, The Warranty Group needs a strong and agile ERP system to keep its customers' and its own transaction engines churning, even if things like logistics are of little concern to the company.
"Whatever you sell, you still need to generate a quote," Danda said. "Actual selling is the same. You still need to be able to do account management. You still need a single view of customer. You still need to do customer service, reduce average handling times, and manage call deflections. And you still have to get payments and account for them."
Along those lines, the company still has some work to do, as its SaaS financial software continues to feed data into PeopleSoft, which is merely serving as a general ledger now. Danda said The Warranty Group plans to retire PeopleSoft completely and replace it with a cloud-based alternative, with the leading candidates being FinancialForce, NetSuite and Workday.
In the meantime, the change in The Warranty Group's agility from using SaaS financial software is like night and day. In an industry (insurance) not noted for its technological innovation, the company's ability to provide information, process transactions and claims quickly, and to enable client self-service, sets it apart.
"The day we went from the AS/400 platform to a cloud platform, we definitely positioned ourselves at the far end of the bleeding edge," Danda said.
One of the most important benefits the company has seen is an improved ability to reduce the frequency with which clients have to switch to competing warranty providers. The Warranty Group has been able to onboard customers faster, speed up and improve the accuracy of quotes, streamline claims processing and shorten time-to-market for new products.
It's also been experimenting with predictive analytics using Salesforce's Einstein artificial intelligence (AI) models. Danda said the company is looking into how it can use those capabilities to make better decisions, increase sales through better cross-selling and upselling, and avoid unnecessary costs.
For instance, Danda said it would be very useful if The Warranty Group could receive data about an imminent mechanical failure in an auto, enabling it to alert the customer of the needed repair and potentially avoid having to start a claims process.
AI for talent and project management on tap
Looking further down the line, Danda was at FinancialForce's inaugural customer conference in Las Vegas in June to hear more about what's coming. He's looking forward to applying AI to project management by looking past historical data and using real-time intelligence to determine where it should be focusing resources, thus improving its ability to make deadlines.
He's also interested in applying AI to talent optimization to ensure that the company's workforce has the latest skills. When the company moved off the AS/400, it had to recruit a whole new wave of talent because of the change in skill sets. Danda said it's better for everyone if the next transformation doesn't require so many staff changes.
"If my team members don't continue to learn, they're going to become obsolete pretty soon," he said. "You have to continuously update and reinvent."
From managing transactions and providing customer service, to optimizing its employees' skills, The Warranty Group's cloud transformation has paid off in spades by priming the company to weather any upcoming changes.
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