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Lockton Companies

Full-stack product development in collaboration with Typefi

Prototyping & Testing

Full-stack Development

Digital Transformation

1+ year

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How Custom Software Boiled a 12-Hour Process Down to 15 Minutes


Lockton Companies is the world’s largest, privately-held insurance brokerage firm. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, Lockton provides insurance, risk management, employee benefits and retirement services to their clients around the globe.

Across the organization, Lockton ships tens of thousands of unique documents every year. This requires a team of 40+ designers, each working with individual account managers and their respective clients, to create standard and bespoke documents to accompany those proposals using Adobe InDesign. Manual workflows underpin this process, which adds high-touch customization to each document, but drives down the efficiency and collective impact of the teams.

Creating and editing tens of thousands of documents per year under the existing model was not sustainable for the organization, so a search began to identify alternative solutions. In 2018, Lockton set out to identify a way to unlock the business efficiency and creative potential of their team. Custom software would allow designers, account managers, and other roles on the team to focus on more meaningful contributions to the sales and client retention process. More time leads to more creativity, which brings more value to clients.

Opportunities for custom software development

Lockton first contacted Typefi, a global leader in single-source automated publishing software that enables teams to publish richly-formatted, brand-compliant documents fast.

Initially, the Typefi Writer add-in for Microsoft Word was identified as a potential solution for authors to prepare content for automation. This revealed constraints and validated the need for an all-in-one document and design software solution. A strategic direction was then set to build a custom web-based application that would deliver a more suitable frontend UI to Typefi’s automated composition platform.

As a result of this decision, Typefi then began creating InDesign templates needed to run jobs on the server, and Lockton went on the hunt for a front-end technology partner to build the custom interface that their employees would interact with. Enter: Crema.

Approaching the challenge

Once introduced to the opportunities in motion with Lockton and Typefi, Crema identified a cross-disciplined product team and approach to create the user-facing product. It was our primary business objective to decrease the need and cost of the design team to create and edit documents manually.

Initially, our goals were to:

  1. Audit and document the process Lockton used to deliver documents to clients, including the workflows for edits and approvals.
  2. Build a proof of concept to validate the interaction and usability with Typefi’s backend, by creating a single template that could produce a document.
  3. Develop a minimum viable product (MVP) that will allow users to build a variety of different documents, each customized for the users’ business type and document layout needs.
  4. Deploy the first MVP of the product to an internal group of Lockton users to garner feedback and inform future iterations.
  5. Measure the time and cost savings to Lockton as a result of this process efficiency software.
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Our process

There were several key elements to this engagement that led to meaningful outcomes together with the Lockton and Typefi teams.

Strategy & alignment

Nearly every engagement kicks off with a Strategy & Alignment session that sets the tone for our working agreement. During this time, our teams aligned on the product definition, opportunities for efficiency gains, understanding of the technical landscape, and an initial set of user stories to guide development.

It was during this session that Phase 1 functionality was defined as a group, with the understanding that our agile sprints would allow for adjustments to be made along the course of development.

Proof of concept prototyping

Once the Strategy & Alignment session was completed, our product team quickly got to work converting abstract ideas, inspiration, and objectives into a functional prototype of the product. The purpose of this was to validate the custom integration between Typefi and Crema’s frontend solution. At the same time, designs were created based on the initial set of user stories, which provided another avenue for testing and validation.

It’s during these initial weeks of the engagement where Lockton could see, interact with, and react to an actual digital product. It gave our teams the ability to validate the core technology capabilities and experiment in building something truly revolutionary for the business.

MVP development

Knowing speed was critical, our teams utilized Node.js, React, and Material-UI in order to expose internal users to the product as early as possible. Once the proof of concept’s functionality was validated, the teams expanded that to an MVP – a web app where a single template could produce dozens of different documents for multiple business units.

Dedicated product team working in agile sprints

Crema’s team was comprised of a Product Manager, Product Designer, two Application Developers, and a Test Engineer. Using an agile sprint schedule, this team dedication model allows the priorities to shift along the way – a level of flexibility that is often required but ignored by traditional vendor relationships.

Before and during each sprint, our three teams identified the most important things to work on next. This constant pruning of the backlog and priorities ultimately allowed for our teams to create meaningful outcomes during the engagement, instead of being locked into a set of features or user stories.

Duration & price model

No one can predict the future. When it came to the engagement with Lockton, we were able to pivot throughout the course of our project because of the way we set up our contracts. As we learned, we had to pivot and adjust course a few times. Lockton’s commitment to the vision and Crema’s inherently flexible contracts enabled the team to focus on delivering value throughout the course of the engagement.

“Strong, open communication, creativity, and genuineness are their most impressive traits. The Crema team is full of real people trying to get real stuff done. They’re sincere, and I’m very impressed with the individuals and overall company.”

Carly Thompson, Technology, Digital Marketing, and Branding Consultant, Lockton

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Working together to create frictionless collaboration

With the Typefi, Crema, and Lockton teams all working toward the same goal, close collaboration was necessary. Beyond a common backlog, we also set up a shared Slack channel to ensure that communication was frequent and questions could be answered quickly and asynchronously, allowing for more time to focus on the work at hand.

“We communicated via Slack so questions are answered almost instantly. It feels like one team working toward a successful solution rather than three separate companies.” — Eric Damitz, Senior Solutions Consultant, Typefi

As development proceeded, Typefi and Crema worked very closely to make sure the code being generated by the frontend authoring tool was what Typefi needed in order to create the final documents, as well as met the requirements of the Lockton team. This was done easily and effectively, especially during a time where all teams had to be distributed.


Ultimately, our teams created a custom presentation template solution for Lockton that converts CXML to InDesign files for a subset of document types. Crema created a frontend interface that draws on Typefi’s platform and allows Lockton users to go through and choose a base template to then customize with their own data. The user can then go back in and rerun all the presentation on their own without having to engage with the design team for edits. Once the data is pulled in, the user can download their final document as a PDF created in InDesign. The download comes with all of the style and branding details that’s consistent with Lockton’s brand guidelines.

Perhaps most compelling of all is the time and cost savings as a result of this workflow solution. It’s projected that a process that once took 12 hours will be reduced down to 15 minutes. The cost savings from this initial product will open up Lockton’s design and account management teams to be more creative and drive more impact for the business.

Currently in beta, the product is being introduced to more users within the organization, and iterations are being made to support additional needs.

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