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Inc. 500 Interview: Duck Creek

Web applications help businesses provide services for clients from the company website.
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Duck Creek makes software for insurance companies and has had tremendous growth recently by offering Web applications to customers eager to streamline their operations. The company's Web applications allow insurance companies to provide underwriting, quote management and other services on their websites. The company, based in Bolivar, Mo, is on track to double 2004 sales to $21 million this year. Duck Creek ranked #63 on the Inc 500 in 2005. CEO and co-founder Doug Roller has some advice for entrepreneurs about Web application software.

Inc. Technology: What do fast-growing companies need to know about software?

Doug Roller: Software is -- for the most part -- ineffective for automating a process unless the process has been well defined to start with. In my opinion, fast growing companies have more problems because of undefined processes than they have because of lack of automation. I certainly know that's true for us.

Inc. Technology: How important are Web applications for small or medium-sized businesses?

Roller: Web applications can greatly simplify the distribution and support of software to the organization, resulting in far less demand on the internal IT team. The trade-off for Web applications is sometimes a less coherent and forgiving user interface than the equivalent application written for a local computer.

Inc. Technology: You've made software that helps insurance companies streamline their operations. How can other types of companies use software to cut costs or more efficiently serve customers?

Roller: The simplest approach for applying software is to focus on automating the business processes that are most time-consuming, costly, or profit-generating. At times, the choice will also depend upon the cost and complexity of the proposed software and services. Once again, I would emphasize that it's important that the manual process be well defined before automating.

Inc: When did Duck Creek begin its growth?

ROLLER: It was around the Y2K problem in 2000. We had some timing working for us, and Y2K helped create a gap. Our biggest competitor PMSC was acquired by CSC, and they stopped focusing on insurance applications as a result. It also took a bit of lucky timing, technology and team effort, the 3 T's as we call them, we had an XML based platform ready to go when XML suddenly became the industry standard. Since we'd already developed the software which helped insurance companies rate, underwrite, and issue policies, we had a head start on a lot of people.

Inc. Technology: How did you get started in the software business?

Roller: I bought a small insurance company when I was 25, and I got involved in writing insurance related software for his film. I was writing these programs and giving them away to people when I realized - hey, this actually might be a business. I sold the insurance firm to a larger insurance entity, Agency Management Services (AMS), and then got out of the business altogether. I wanted to write a novel. But my younger brother John remained at AMS, and with the help of some old associates, convinced me to return in 2000 to form Duck Creek Technologies.

Inc. Technology: Did the company's growth coincide with the development of Web applications?

Roller: It was around the Y2K problem in 2000. We had some timing working for us, and Y2K helped create a gap. Our biggest competitor PMSC was acquired by CSC, and they stopped focusing on insurance applications as a result. It also took a bit of lucky timing, technology and team effort -- the 3 T's as we call them. We had an XML based platform ready to go when XML suddenly became the industry standard. Since we'd already developed the software which helped insurance companies rate, underwrite, and issue policies, we had a head start on a lot of people.




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