With all the time it spent fetching budget information for analysis by other departments, GEICO's (Chevy Chase, MD, $11.3 billion in assets) planning and budgeting departmentwhich manages the P&C insurer's distributed budgeting modelwas left with little time for its own budget analyses.
But if the information housed in its mainframe database repository could be made accessible to the other departments, planning and budgeting personnel wouldn't be inundated with information requests and they'd gain the time to focus on more important tasks. As this problem became increasingly acute in the late '90s, the department had to act quickly because Y2K was approaching and management did not want to have to make its soon-to-be retired mainframe system Y2K-compliant. Also, it had to have a new system up and running before the start of the next budgeting cycle in late 2000.
This challenge spurred a GEICO team to conduct an RFI process with budget system vendors in 1999. In the second quarter of '99, the team was introduced to version Service 6 of Applix (Westborough, MA) iTM1, a business intelligence analytical engine. Impressed, the teamwhich also had reviewed products from PeopleSoft (Pleasanton, CA) and IBM (Armonk, NY)compiled a list of requirements and purchased iTM1 from Reston, VA-based Beacon Business Solutions (now called Adonix), a value-added reseller.
Among the group's requirements were the ability to customize the application, and have it be accessible by GEICO employees in all departments. Also, according to Liz Crider, manager of corporate planning and budgeting, GEICO, it was very important that GEICO's new budgeting system could be changed easily, without the help of IT personnel.
In the first quarter of 2000, Beacon and VectorSpace (New York)a consulting service that was subcontracted by Beaconcollected GEICO's requirements for what would eventually be the back-end of the budgeting system. During iTM1's six-month implementation process, representatives from both VectorSpace and what was then Beacon trained members of GEICO's budgeting and planning team. Members of the group "wanted help learning the system, but after that we wanted to be self-sufficient," Crider explains. "We didn't want to have to call consultants every time something broke down."
Although it had originally planned to implement version Service 6, the GEI-CO team decided that it had no choice but to install Service 7 instead. "We bit the bullet and went live right off the bat with a brand new version," explains Crider. "Service 7 was a big change from Service 6, but GEICO had no choice since Service 6 couldn't synchronize the servers in disparate regional areas from our headquarters." GEICO didn't have time to wait for the new version to be proven since its Q3 deadline was approaching.
By the end of January 2000 the budgeting system was installed on two new Compaq (Houston) Proliant 1600 servers. By the end of Q1 2000, six additional servers were installed.
Numerous benefits have been realized since the system went live in August 2000. There have been time savings of 60 to 70 percent, Crider reports, although the department still receives some information requests from employees who won't use the system. Also, although IT maintains the system's hardware, "we don't require IT support that we used to require, because the application software is easy to use and program."
Case Study Closeup
GEICO, Chevy Chase, MD, $11.3 billion in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
Auto, motorcycle insurance.
Applix (Westborough, MA) iTM1; Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Excel; Compaq (Houston) Proliant 1600 dual processors.
Implement an accessible Web-based budgeting system.