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Prudential puts its agents on the LaunchPad

A collaborative sales force keeps insurer connected

In 1998 Prudential Insurance rolled out a program called LaunchPad, through which every member of the Prudential field sales force was equipped with laptop computers and a collaborative networking system. The $100 million initiative has provided Prudential's 12,000 sales agents access to a variety of financial solutions over a Lotus Notes network.

Prudential has more than 67,000 Notes clients deployed between its home office and field associates. Besides its use as a messaging platform, several major applications are based in the Notes/Domino environment including "Inside the Rock," Prudential's intranet.

Mike Mandelbaum, VP of Internet and collaborative technology at Prudential, described the installations as the "classic illustration" of software to present financial models.

"A client database and contact management system and a suite of needs analysis software are included," he said.

The mobile sales force is equipped with a database of insurance forms, online reference materials and sales literature. Standard forms, ranging from new business applications and compliance forms to address change and asset allocation forms, are stored in the Notes database. Product information about all Prudential financial and insurance products is also stored in Notes, including such reference materials as underwriting guidelines.

Mandelbaum said that the LaunchPad system addresses the challenge of states requiring different forms in the heavily regulated insurance industry.

"One set of forms, for example, will be available via Notes replication to agents who have a certain type of license and who work in California," he said. "A different set of forms would be made available to agents who have another type of license or who work in another state. In addition, Notes gives us the design tools to customize each agent."

According to Dave Marden, Internet and collaborative systems specialist with Prudential, the Notes rollout was completed at the end of 1998.

"Prudential is a standards-based organization," he said. "Messaging and collaborative applications and tools are validated by teams of business unit representatives and are rolled out at an enterprise level."

In addition to extending intranet access to its sales staff, Prudential has been aggressive in making technology serve its customers as well.

"Prudential has provided online account access to its customers for some time through its Web site," Marden said. "We are looking at tools now that will help to integrate functionality into our Web site that will enable customers to initiate live conversations and shared browser sessions with call center agents, as well as initiate chat sessions with their financial advisers or Prudential agent when they are available online." Marden said that he hopes to integrate that functionality into Prudential's existing call center and Domino architectures.

While claiming that the LaunchPad pilot has shown "impressive productivity gains," both Marden and Mandelbaum declined to share actual metrics.

"There are numerous examples of how tools such as discussion databases and virtual meeting centers are being used in Prudential to build communities of practice around new products, new technology (such as Centers of Excellence) or new business processes (such as the Project Management Forums)," Marden said. "In these situations, associates are brought together through these tools who may have been previously separated by organizational or even geographical boundaries."

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