With hybrid development teams, DDi was able to quickly implement AI technology

With hybrid development teams, DDi was able to quickly implement AI technology

By creating hybrid teams with NetRom, DDi could quickly scale up for its AI development 

Consolidation and ongoing automation are typical of the insurance market. Economies of scale mean increasing the use of integrated platforms. The suppliers of these platforms themselves also need to scale up. DDi turned to NetRom for reinforcement to accelerate the modernization of its platform.

Insurance has existed for several hundred years. The first insurance companies date back to the time of the Dutch East Indies Company. This involved sharing the financing of a ship, including its cargo, among several parties to distribute risk. In the same period, the first insurance company and the first insurance brokerage firm emerged in the Netherlands. The insurance market for private persons – which can be roughly split into capital insurance and non-life insurance – has also existed for quite some time. As a result, banking and insurance were the first industries to automate administrative processes on a large scale. Due to that lead, insurance firms have a significant IT legacy. Another key trend in the insurance market is consolidation: mergers and acquisitions occur almost daily.   

This market consolidation was also noticeable at DDi, a software company working in non-life insurance. “Our customers – especially so-called proxy companies that act as intermediaries between risk bearer and the consumer – have decreased in number and grown considerably in size. As a result, the demand for innovation is increasing, too: larger players are more interested in scaling up and boosting automation, but they also have more budget,” says Thom Menssink, managing director of DDi. ” If we want to maintain solid growth potential, we must grow with our customers.” 

“DDi was founded thirty years ago. As a result, we currently have legacy systems; some of our customers use on-premise software. We’ve been bringing functionality to cloud applications for a while now. This is very important because on-premise solutions can obstruct rapid innovation: ‘on prem’ CI/CD gets in the way and the management and maintenance of different software versions are costly. Shortening the time to market is essential for DDi.” 

Speeding up software renewal processes 

Two years ago, DDi decided to speed up its software renewal process. This included setting up Inpact, a joint venture between five software suppliers in the insurance market, Menssink explains. “DDi is relatively modest in size, which is why we joined forces with four similar players in this market.” Initially, the focus was on in-house development – which makes sense for a software developer. The company also opted for capacity expansion through outsourcing, but DDi wanted to increase the pace of innovation even further. While in discussions with another software company, DDi heard about NetRom. 

Reason enough for DDi to enter into discussions with NetRom, with a specific goal: the development of, a new, AI-based service based on existing knowledge and code, in nine months. is a document, e-mail, and data classification platform for insurance firms, which converts unstructured data into structured data in bulk – using AFD labeling and the international ACCORD format, among other things. This service can be deployed platform-independently, without the need for integrations with external systems. An employee at a proxy company may have to deal with as many as ten different applications. A platform such as is intended to put an end to that. 

Collaboration that fits

In the run-up to the collaboration with NetRom, discussions about project feasibility were held, explains Taseen Akhtar, product owner at Inpact and DDi. “In doing so, we presented in detail what our goal is and what we think we need: with regard to the number of people, and in terms of technology stack and domain knowledge. The NetRom team, in turn, provided insight into comparable solutions they had previously developed and provided insight into the architecture and the technologies they use.”

“We also compared our working methods with NetRom’s. This resulted in a great deal of mutual recognition. A year before we started working with NetRom, we began to improve our internal development processes. This was due to the successful growth of DDi, in particular the development team. As a result, under the guidance of professionals, we fully switched to working according to the Agile and DevOps principles. Looking back, I am very happy with this step. Partly for this reason, we could quickly start developing the new platform with NetRom, without having to pay extra attention to the development process,” Akhtar explains. Sticking closely to agile principles would increase the possibilities of a hybrid development team, also because NetRom focuses on ‘T-shaped’ professionals. “Working according to Agile and DevOps means that you are jointly responsible for the result. As a developer, you must therefore run tests now and then,” says Akhtar. 

Plans were finalized in the spring of 2022. Immediately after the summer holidays, a DDi team visited Romania to get to know the organization and hold a kick-off meeting. Akhtar: “That’s when you get to know the team and organization: how do they work, where are the employees, what’s their day like? They will soon be your colleagues in a virtual team. There’s an hour time difference, how do you work around that? After our visit, NetRom made all the necessary preparations for the start of the project.”

Akhtar explains the composition of the hybrid team: DDi’s in-house product owner, scrum master, architect, and developers work together with developers at NetRom.  

“NetRom takes care of end-to-end testing of new software components that have been added to the application. Developers are supported by a NetRom project manager, who arranges everything related to the availability of the NetRom developers and is also a Subject Matter Expert. In the unlikely event that someone drops out, the project manager arranges a seamless transfer within NetRom, so that the impact on the project is minimal. In the Netherlands, a situation like this would result in a gap in your schedule. The project manager also shares questions and issues with other NetRom teams, as best practices are actively exchanged.” 

Working according to Agile and DevOps means that you are jointly responsible for the result. As a developer, you must therefore run tests now and then.

Thom Menssink, managing director of DDi

The impact of a good fit

The aim was to lay the foundation for a new platform in nine months and supplement it with existing knowledge and code. This was successfully achieved, according to Menssink. During that time, the DDi team visited Craiova once more to jointly brainstorm on a critical new project phase. “That togetherness is vital to getting to know each other better, also on a personal level,” says Akhtar. “You spend the whole day in each other’s company and have lunch together. The rest of the time, you’re working together intensively for nine months, mostly seeing each other in frequent Teams sessions. Development team members now know what other members’ favorite games are.” 

Another advantage of working in a hybrid team is the fact that DDi has access to a huge amount of knowledge and experience. “At DDi, we rely on the knowledge of our team. At NetRom, however, developers rely on the knowledge of hundreds of colleagues. You see how well this works on a daily basis: if you run into an issue, NetRom’s developers will look for a solution within their community. In our company, we have therefore adopted working on specific challenges with communities: focusing more on knowledge sharing, coming together for as long as necessary with certain goals.” The product, delivered in nine months, is being launched to customers and developed to incorporate more features. “Our next step thinking about how we can use the experience gained with NetRom to better shape our roadmap for the coming year,” Akhtar said. “Knowing we can scale up with our partner offers us solid guidance. We speak the same language and whenever we have a new idea, we don’t need to invest time in all kinds of preparations. We just get started very quickly.” 

About DDi

DDi was founded in 1993. The company develops software for the non-life insurance market focusing on proxy companies. DDi is a developer and supplier of a comprehensive Robotic Process Automation platform, focused on the work processes, information processing, and IT infrastructure in the insurance industry. Created as a joint venture in 2022, Inpact provides software, data, and services within all core domains (advice, underwriting, administration, non-life and finance) of the insurance and intermediary business, which contribute to the faster and better settlement of insurance processes.

About automation in the insurance world

Thirty years ago, financial services automation was all about digitization. Scanning physical documents with unstructured information, such as policies or forms, and then storing these in front-office, back-office, or legacy systems. This was followed by converting the content of documents into ASCII data and structuring that data to turn it into usable information.  

Today, automation in the insurance world has entered a different phase. Documents are still vital – partly due to compliance – but data is the real driver of processes. Menssink explains: “This data is analyzed and used to fill systems with structured information in the standard JSON/XML format. In addition to data capture and document management, DDi’s Robotic Process Automation platform includes business logic to handle complex work processes automatically. Our platform also allows users to model administrative processes and use the platform to build applications for the execution of those processes. These could be policy applications, invoicing, claims handling, conversions, or small sub-processes like UBO checks.” 

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