How Co-op Insurance Society Makes Progress


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How Co-op Insurance Society Makes Progress

  1. 1. HOW CO-OPERATIVE INSURANCE SOCIETY MAKES PROGRESS THE DE-FACTO STANDARD FOR COMMUNICATION TO DB2 Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS) was formed in 1867 and is the only cooperative insurance company in the UK. It has around 5.4 million customers and currently manages more than £20 billion on behalf of its customers. CIS is one of two C H A LLE N G E businesses under the umbrella of one holding company, Co-operative Financial Services Improve customer service by (CFS), the other being the Co-operative Bank. CIS provides a number of insurance services enabling distributed information systems used by insurance agents including life assurance, home and motor insurances, pensions, mortgages, with-profits to synchronize their data with bonds, critical illness products, unit trusts and ISAs. mainframe DB2 S O LUTI O N UPDATING AND ACCESSING INFORMATION Progress DataDirect Shadow ® ® ® z/Direct CIS’ Information and Communications Technology (ICT) department is responsible for all areas of IT. Their data centre has an IBM zSeries mainframe and UNIX systems and B E N E F IT DB2 is the strategic database. Originally IBM mainframe applications were developed Accessing and updating information on the mainframe from distributed in COBOL and CICS, but in the mid 1990s there was pressure from the business to move applications in the field enables away from IBM 3270 green screens. In addition the insurance sales people wanted to insurance agents to close business record customer information in a way that it could be used as a basis for giving financial quickly and provide efficient customer service.
  2. 2. 2 advice, without generating reams of paper and the administration that goes with it. At that time regulatory changes were also beefed up for data capture and confidentiality of client information. Therefore, CIS needed to update their systems and find new ways of accessing and updating information on the mainframe. Initially laptops were introduced using a batch file process to provide insurance sales with immediate access to customer information, in a secure way. ENABLING APPLICATION TO MAINFRAME COMMUNICATION AND SYNCHRONIZATION OF AGENTS’ DATA WITH BUSINESS SYSTEMS As the applications grew, and as a result of their success, CIS required a connectivity tool to enable applications to communicate with the mainframe and to provide insurance sales agents with the ability to synchronize their data with business systems. There were only two main options available, Progress ® DataDirect Shadow z/Direct and an IBM DB2Connect solution. “Shadow was more ® ® mature than the IBM solution,” commented Steve Eccles, Data Services Manager, who is responsible for the database administration group and the mid-range server group at CIS,“ and it had the edge in performance and stability.” DATADIRECT SHADOW Z/DIRECT: THE STANDARD FOR COMMUNICATION DataDirect Shadow was selected and installed in the late 1990s and became the de-facto standard for communication between remote applications and mainframe DB2. It is now used by three types of users: > The service centre, which provides quotes and requires access to traditional business systems and quote applications > The 3500 distributed agents, who need to synchronise customer profile data and sell insurance directly from their laptops > The analytical users, who pull data via Shadow using Business Objects from DB2 to run queries onto their own PC’s software When an insurance sales agent dials in, a number of application programs run and connect via Shadow. These applications work in different ways, some perform two-way synchronization and others one-way uploads. All Shadow access is initiated from the client. The key applications used include: > Profile Build, which captures a customer’s financial profile to enable agents to provide correct and compliant financial advice. This is a two-way synchronization.
  3. 3. 3 > Laptop Accounting, which replaced a paper-based premium collection system. This is a two-way synchronization. > General Insurance Quotation and Sales, which enables agents to quote and sell motor and home insurance and to feed taken-up business into the business system. This is a one-way upload. > Home Connect Management Information, which collects and records statistics about the different stages of the connection process. There are also a number of PC applications using Shadow that run in various CIS offices and include: > Profile Authorisation, which reviews and approves or rejects business proposals based on the information collected by agents during the Profile Build process. > Premium Processing and Reconciliation, which raises premium demands, processes payments received and reconciles the agents’accounts. > General Insurance Quotation and Sales, is a central application used in the Sales and Service Centre to quote for and close new Motor and Home business. > ICT Help Desk Tool (Assyst), which is another central tool used to record and manage incidents, problems and changes. > End User Analysis and Reporting, which gives access to data warehouse and data marts via a number of tools, e.g., Business Objects, Microsoft Access, Crystal Reports. “We found that despite the good performance in retrieving data, the amount of CPU capacity used was excessive initially,” said Steve Eccles. This was due to applications using Dynamic SQL. To solve this, CIS introduced a Shadow tool called the Dynamic to Static Analyzer, which is a conversion utility. This utility allows dynamic SQL used during a sample run of an application to be captured and converted to static SQL and bound into a DB2 package. The process produces a file of static statements that is distributed with the application. This had the desired result of enabling CIS to remain within its capacity plan.
  4. 4. 4 CONTROLLABLE, SCALABLE ACCESS TO MAINFRAME “Shadow was more DB2 DATA FROM DISTRIBUTED APPLICATIONS mature than the IBM CIS has found Shadow more controllable and scalable than other methods solution, and it had the of connecting distributed applications to mainframe DB2 data. The monitoring and edge in performance and control facilities within Shadow are particularly useful, since they, for example, stability” ensure that applications are using the correct Shadow plan and obtain useful information for problem investigation, e.g. IP address, length of connection time, Steve Eccles DB2 CPU used, Shadow CPU, network time, etc. Vice President, Data Services Manager for CIS Another benefit of Shadow is its ability to compress data before sending it across the network. CIS typically achieves a compression ratio of approximately 50% on data to be sent over the network. IMPROVED DATA ACCESS PERFORMANCE FOR DISTRIBUTED APPLICATIONS At the time of the initial evaluation, CIS found Shadow to outperform the alternative solution and, following the introduction of the Dynamic to Static Analyzer for business applications, CIS has been able to achieve data access performance for distributed applications that it would expect from central applications. This is now built into the application development life cycle, which allows CIS to understand how the data is accessed. PROGRESS SOF T WARE Progress Software Corporation (NASDAQ: PRGS) is a global software company that enables enterprises to be operationally responsive to changing conditions and customer interactions as they occur. Our goal is to enable our customers to capitalize on new opportunities, drive greater efficiencies, and reduce risk. Progress offers a comprehensive portfolio of best-in-class infrastructure software spanning event-driven visibility and real-time response, open integration, data access and integration, and application development and management—all supporting on-premises and SaaS/cloud deployments. Progress maximizes the benefits of operational responsiveness while minimizing IT complexity and total cost of ownership. WORLDWIDE HEADQUARTERS Progress Software Corporation, 14 Oak Park, Bedford, MA 01730 USA Tel: +1 781 280-4000 Fax: +1 781 280-4095 On the Web at: For regional international office locations and contact information, please refer to the Web page below: Progress, DataDirect, Shadow and Business Making Progress are trademarks or registered trademarks of Progress Software Corporation or one of its affiliates or subsidiaries in the U.S. and other countries. Any other trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners. Specifications subject to change without notice. © 2008-2009 Progress Software Corporation and/or its subsidiaries or affiliates. All rights reserved. Rev. 11/09 | 6525-128157