Until recently, distribution of Harleysville Insurance Co.'s ($571.7 million in net written premium, Harleysville, PA) management information reports was inefficient because the home office had to print reports from its mainframe environment for distribution throughout the far-reaching organization. To make matters worse, employees, including marketers, underwriters and claims personnel, had to stall their decision-making processes while they waited for snail mail to deliver the reports. Harleysville decided in early 2000 that granting employees Web access to 10 years' worth of financial information was the best solution.
Since Harleysville had worked since 1986 with New York-based Information Buildersa provider of business intelligence solutionsit was the natural partner choice, according to the insurer's Bob Friend, application development manager. At the time it made the decision to Web-enable, Harleysville was utilizing Information Builders' FOCUS, an application development and reporting tool that creates reports from a legacy environment. FOCUS was running on the company's IBM (Armonk, NY) MVS batch processing-oriented operating system. Harleysville decided that Information Builders' product, WebFOCUS, would be an ideal solution for its problem because it would enable the Web accessibility it was seeking.
Beginning in early 2000, with the goal of granting Web access as quickly as possible, Harleysville began its WebFOCUS implementation, reports Friend. Installation of the product took only a couple of days. After that was completed, WebFOCUS was run in a managed report environment. Certain employees and managers were granted role-based access to standard reports and had ad-hoc reporting capabilities with the Web-based information.
In preparation for WebFOCUS' self-service roll-out, Friend spent about a month converting the FOCUS data entry applications from the FOCUS modify language to Maintain, part of the WebFOCUS suite that updates data for transaction processing. Since FOCUS code was transferable to WebFOCUS, conversion of code for the reporting aspect of the product's implementation was not necessary. However, the creation of HTML launch pages for the reports needed to be completed. Harleysville's IT took on that responsibility.
At the end of the second quarter of 2000, the WebFOCUS environment was ready for use by a wider range of employees. WebFOCUS runs on the company's existing Web servers, running Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Windows NT, to draw reports from SQL and DB2 databases. Additionally, WebFOCUS resides on IBM WebSphere on the mainframe where IBM VSAM (virtual storage access method) files, FOCUS databases, flat files, Software AG's (Reston, VA) Adabas and DB2 also are run.
Minimal Training Required
Because the reports are easy to access, the training necessary for use is minimal. "The self-service application is basically an HTML page that you access through your browser," explains Friend. Harleysville does, however,offer training on an as-needed basis. Currently, 1,500 Harleysville employees are accessing data through the company's intranet. And the carrier's IT organization is working on converting new information as it is obtained. "The goal is to have all corporate reports that are written in COBOL converted over to the Web," he says.
According to Friend, Harleysville is realizing a number of benefits since WebFOCUS' implementation. "A lot of efficiencies are hard to put in dollars, like the availability of data," he explains. "Harleysville is saving on programming because it doesn't take as long to get reports up and running."
Harleysville Insurance Co., Harleysville, PA, $571.7 billion in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
Information Builders' (New York) WebFOCUS, FOCUS; IBM (Armonk) MVS, WebSphere; Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Windows NT-based Web servers.
Make 10 years of financial information accessible to employees.