Progressive takes first step to the cloud to improve data analysis and mobility

Today’s post was written by Scott McPherson, manager of enterprise architecture organization and software and security group and Matt Lynn, domain architect of unified communications and collaboration group at Progressive.

ProgressiveAt Progressive, staying ahead of our competition with innovative and affordable insurance solutions is in our corporate DNA. A few of our company “firsts” include Service Centers, one-stop facilities where Progressive handles claims and coordinates repairs for customers; Snapshot, the first usage-based insurance program that personalizes your insurance rate based on your actual driving, Comparison Rates, which lets you compare rates from top insurers on our website; and Name Your Price, where we offer you a range of coverage options to fit the budget you give us.

We are looking to expand our use of cloud computing to help us improve our offerings and keep them up-to-date. Cloud computing will help us realize greater organizational efficiencies, investing less time on infrastructure and more on providing high-value services to the business. Moving forward, Microsoft Office 365 will be an important part of our cloud approach and we are now taking the first steps by setting up identity management and deploying Office 365 ProPlus, the user-based subscription version of Microsoft Office, to our more than 26,000 employees.

We have been heavy users of the Office suite for many years, and we expect to continue to grow that value with Office 365 ProPlus. Innovation requires extensive data analysis and collaboration and we rely on Microsoft software and services for these capabilities. The company depends on business intelligence for day-to-day decisions and also for those breakthrough insights that we turn into transformative products. We are successful because our business analysts are able to communicate their insights to our product teams and turn them into products and services for our customers. We’ll now be able analyze more data and variables in much less time, and present the results in ways that are easy to share and consume by using Office 365 ProPlus in combination with the big data analysis capabilities of the Microsoft Analytics Platform System and the visualization power of Excel.

Another major benefit we foresee will come from improving our mobility capabilities. Office 365 ProPlus licensing lets employees install Office on multiple devices, including personal ones, which is an important productivity gain. The licensing also offers flexibility as we seek to safely manage the increasing demand for tablets. As we begin to offer tablet-based computing options for some employees over the next year, the Office suite will be well positioned to work in a touch-based mode. One of the current use cases for offering tablets is our Agency sales force. Agency sales concentrates on building Progressive’s population of independent agents, and the Agency sales team will benefit from the tablets as they conduct in-person visits with agents in the field, using these devices to share information, examine reports, and show how Progressive’s systems function in a mobile context.

We also want to expand our work-from-home options for employees. Our customer service team has been a leader within Progressive in this respect and we want to better support their needs for flexible workplace options and potentially offer the option to a wider group of employees. We anticipate benefits in improved employee satisfaction and the ability to hire from a wider pool of talent beyond the geographic areas near our office locations. Licensing for multiple devices and improvements to videoconferencing will help to make this a reality at Progressive.

We take the security and privacy of our business data and intellectual assets very seriously, so we are doing a thorough investigation of our cloud providers before moving forward. In the meantime, Office 365 ProPlus helps us ensure that we are quickly delivering the latest capabilities of the productivity applications that our employees use every day, and lets our IT team control the release of new updates if necessary. The recent release of Azure Active Directory Sync Services also gives us the ability to restrict the amount of data sent to Office 365 to essential attributes by user. Office 365 ProPlus is a great way for us to get experience with the cloud because it is low risk and begins to build the foundation for other cloud services.

— Scott McPherson and Matt Lynn