Acuity Insurance's (formerly Heritage Insurance, Sheboygan, WI, $681 million in assets) 25-year old, mainframe-based ABC general ledger system had outlived its usefulness, according to Wendy Schuler, director, financial operations, ACUITY.
"The way our ABC product was set up, we weren't able to report both internal and annual statements by line, by state," Schuler explains. The batch system wouldn't allow a number of people to work on it at the same time. "A lot of times we couldn't wait until the next day, but we needed answers now."
In December '98 it was decided the system needed changing. After the project was approved by accounting budgeters, a cross-department team composed of members of accounting, IT and the company's business systems department began the RFP process in February '99. After reviewing demos by several vendors, the team chose Lawson Software's (St. Paul) Insight II business management system. It was approved by ACUITY's board in the summer of '99.
The team chose the product because it met functionality needs and because Lawson had financial stability. "You don't always find that," says Schuler. "Financial stability was a big factor for us. We couldn't tell the board or executive management in good faith, 'We love this product but they may go bankrupt.'"
Training on modules-including general ledger, accounts payable, purchase order, receiving and asset management-for end-users of the product, as well as members of business systems and the IT departments, was provided on-site by Lawson in August '99. A month later Lawson consultants began work with IT to plan for implementation. It was determined that because operations such as account and budgeting structures would be changed with the new system, which would run on the company's newly purchased Unix operating system, feeders would have to be modified or redone.
The company went live with the system's general ledger, purchasing and accounts payable modules in July 2000. The receiving module was live in May 2001. Looking back, the only unexpected part of the implementation, according to Schuler, involved the systems allocation process. Around September/October '99, when it was time to set up Insight's allocation piece, it was realized that Insight's allocation process out of the box wasnt going to work for 100 percent of ACUITY's allocations, according to Schuler. According to Schuler, Lawson was accommodating and modified the piece at no extra charge. Lawson also will use the modified allocation piece in the future for other insurance companies
With the implementation of Lawson's technology, ACUITY's business needs are now being met, Schuler notes. "We have online access, so multiple people can work on the product at the same time," she explains. "We have enhanced reporting ability: We are able to do statutory and internal reports." Acuity has also met its goal of improved allocation processes. "We wanted dynamic functionality in our allocations, whether it be dollars or units, and we are able to do that," she says. "That is something that we couldn't do with the old system."
Although, ACUITY representatives were able to offer some minor suggestions to Lawson after implementation, "given the way its product works, we wouldn't change anything," Schuler says.
Currently, ACUITY is working on implementing the asset management part of the system, which is more complicated. IT is working on getting numerous internal asset management systems in communication with each other before proceeding. According to Schuler, the insurer also is getting ready to implement a new report writer that will enable the building of ad-hoc reports, as well as allow users to modify fonts and graphs.
Case Study Closeup
ACUITY Insurance (Sheboygan, WI, $681 million in assets).
LINES OF BUSINESS:
Personal property & casualty.
Lawson Software's (St. Paul) Insight II business management system.
Replace 25-year-old mainframe-based general ledger system.