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How to approach updates on Guidewire Cloud
Apr 08, 2024 Guidewire Cloud , Article , Cloud

In December 2023, Guidewire released the latest version of its cloud-based insurance core system. Guidewire names their updates after ski resorts. The December version was named “Innsbruck” and was the third update in 2023. I would like to share some thoughts about how insurance companies should deal with such an update.


The impact of Guidewire Cloud updates

Updates in Guidewire Cloud can provide a lot of value to insurance companies, as they grant the company brand new features. The latest Innsbruck version of Guidewire Cloud offers enhancements for Underwriting Rules and APIs for policy administration and billing and allows for many more analytics functionalities in areas such as claims management and pricing. Earlier releases included various improvements in data management and data visualisations (Hakuba, summer 2023) as well as APIs for claims management and policy administration (Garmisch, Spring 2023).


How often should you update Guidewire Cloud

In general, insurance companies using Guidewire are recommended to update regularly. The more frequently an insurer updates, the less risky each update will be, simply because there are less changes to do. But overall, there is a question of efficiency to consider. Insurers should be prepared for Guidewire’s three-release roadmap but should not get attached to it. It is not set in stone.

A company that updates with every new release of Guidewire’s Cloud version will need more time from its team. As there are a lot of opportunities and changes in insurance IT this has become an important point to consider. So why should a company update to the newest Innsbruck version now? There are three simple answers to this:

  1. If an insurer is more than two versions behind, it seems that it shouldn’t hesitate and catch-up with fixes and improvements
  2. The newest release contains features that the insurer requires
  3. Insurer’s team has capacity for it

As with many other software solutions, it is advisable to explore before following an update. There should be a dedicated team in your company that investigates and plays with each release before you decide on whether you will update to Innsbruck or the versions that will follow. If this is a lucky moment and your team has the capacity, this could be the right time to invest in learning how to update without difficulty.


How to explore new features of Guidewire Cloud

If the answer to all these three points is no, I would recommend skipping this update and to prepare for the next. Guidewire Cloud Platform makes it a lot easier for insurance companies to innovate than the self-managed version. Updates do not require a full set of environments, production environment downtime during an update is significantly shorter than during an upgrade and development changes to external systems are not needed. But in case your company is completing a major initiative, which could be delayed by the update, it might be better to wait.

Time is an important factor, and it makes sense to follow the update soon after it is released. If the next release is expected in one or two months, it might be better to wait. It is advisable to avoid a situation where a company completes an update just before or only after the next release comes out.

Guidewire offers interesting features with each new release, and it might be the case that a new release has features an insurer has built as part of a customization in the past. I recommend testing it first and comparing it to the existing solution. If what’s being released is mature enough and covers all that your company needs (and maybe even more), then go with the update. It cannot be repeated often enough: Think twice before you customize and deviate from the Out-of-the-Box version of the system. Every customization complicates your maintenance and future updates.

Update independently if your company is prepared

Updates should be planned ambitiously, but realistically. From our experience, there can be huge differences in complexity, effort, and time of an update. It depends on:

  • How close to out-of-the-box (OOTB) a company is with its system
  • How much it was configured and how much it was customized
  • How many versions the current version is behind
  • How stable the current version runs
  • How much testing is automated

Insurers should rely on Guidewire for “heavy lifting”. They will merge the new release to your production code and prepare an environment for testing. If you have enough capacity in your team and you are prepared well, you should update independently. If done properly, the company will be able to repeat this process faster with the next update.

But what does properly mean? The team should prepare the internal update procedure with a split of responsibilities to reuse with every next update. It also should have an automated regression test pack in place and keep test coverage matrix and test cases updated, including an execution plan and test data.


photo of article author

Tomasz Turowski – Leader North America