With disaster recovery in mind, Montgomery, Ala.-based Alfa Insurance took steps toward replacing its paper-based filing system with an electronic imaging system in 1998. But soon after the system went live in 2000, mamagement realized, much to its dismay, that the system just wasn't going to work.
"There were too many customizations made by an outsourced resource so [Alfa] was left in the dark," relates Vicky Downing, project manager, Alfa Insurance. "Our users experienced slow response times, and the implementation took so long that by the time the project was complete, its hardware was outdated."
By this time, Alfa had already moved paper documents from its smaller lines of business onto the new system. So the carrier decided to let paper documents from its larger lines remain on the shelf for the time being and find a replacement for the system in order to most effectively achieve its disaster recovery objective and free up office space occupied by stacks of paper. So in 2002, a wiser Alfa Insurance started over.
New Due Dilligence
As part of a risk-reduction measure, Alfa decided to research software products used by insurers underwriting similar volumes and lines of business. "We visited carriers onsite so that we could ask questions about the software [they were using] and [the steps taken during their] implementation," explains Downing.
This time around, the insurer sought a robust system that could provide scalability. Since this was the carrier's second attempt to find a successful solution, a formal RFP process was not established. Instead, Downing says, requirements for the previous system were used as a guide that eventually led to Mountain View, Calif.-based Legato. Alfa decided to award its contract to the vendor for use of its ApplicationXtender suite of products. As part of the deal, Legato would also provide training for the system's eventual end users and Alfa's IT staff.
The carrier's decision was based on Legato's ability to meet its performance, security and scalability needs. The insurer was especially impressed with the vendor's ability to meet the requirement it deemed most difficult. "Many vendors offer a foldering concept where users need to open a certain folder" and search through it for documents, Downing explains. "Only a few products enable users to view down to the document level so that you can see documents in a certain order right away."
The implementation commenced in August 2002. In order to help the project's chances for success, Alfa was sure to define and set clear boundaries for its project.
The carrier's first step was to order and install "all new hardware and [scanning and imaging] software," required for the project, Downing relates. That included 19 Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.) servers for production and testing, an EMC (Hopkinton, Mass.) storage array, six Bell & Howell (Ann Arbor, Mich.) scanners and two microfilm scanners.
Next, the carrier had to convert its old templates so they would work with the new system. "We created several hundred templates," explains Downing. "Also, we had to set templates [to produce extracts] for computer-generated reports" that the system would eventually create. Alfa conducted a conversion of scanned and computer-generated documents that resided on the previous system that it was scrapping. During the three-month process, 350 gigabytes of data were converted and tested, according to Downing. Alfa then concentrated on the conversion of microfilm. The implementation was completed in March 2003.
After six months of use, Alfa has deemed its latest implementation a success. "With the old system, [Alfa] was processing 16,000 documents a day," reports Downing. "Now we are able to process 65,000 documents a day. And ease-of-use is making our end users very happy." Alfa plans to recover thousands of square feet of office space.
Case Study Closeup
Alfa Insurance, Montgomery, Ala., $3.8 billion in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
Life, property & casualty.
Legato (Mountain View, Calif.) ApplicationXtender, Intel (Santa Clara, Calif.) servers, an EMC (Hopkinton, Mass.) storage array, Bell & Howell (Ann Arbor, Mich.) scanners.
Replace inefficient document imaging system.