AS Salem, Ore.-based workers' compensation carrier SAIF ($3.4 billion in assets) began migrating its IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) mainframe to an Oracle (Redwood Shores, Calif.) and .NET distributed environment, maintaining efficiency depended on tightly sequencing batch jobs on the existing mainframe with the firm's Price Waterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) Workers' Compensation Information System (WCIS), Lawson (St. Paul, Minn.) financial applications and ADP (Roseland, N.J.) payroll software. "We looked at switching to another package for job scheduling in our distributed environment because it integrated more tightly with the Zeke mainframe scheduler (from Naples, Fla.-based ASG)," says Tim Medinger, technology architect, SAIF. "But the next version of our existing scheduler, AppWorx, offered a broader range of capabilities."
SAIF originally acquired AppWorx (Bellevue, Wash.) with its WCIS bundle in 1997. Upgrading to version 6.1 of the business process automation software in September 2005 has saved 10 percent annually on IT operations staff costs alone, according to Medinger.
SAIF leverages AppWorx to do the work normally performed by a half-dozen separate pieces of scheduling software, Medinger explains. "Due to its flexibility in creating user-defined program types, we've been able to automate processes across multiple platforms and applications," including DB2 on SAIF's IBM mainframe, as well as Oracle, .NET and SQLServer on its LAN, he says. The carrier also has 50 to 60 Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Windows 2000/2003 servers for file/print, Web, media and applications, and runs Windows XP on roughly 850 desktops.
Medinger stresses AppWorx's flexibility. "AppWorx performs secure FTP between our Lawson application and our bank," he says. "It also runs jobs that load our decision-support database. And in our development department, AppWorx modules run final builds of our application code for QA testing." AppWorx even is streamlining the transition from a mainframe to a distributed platform. "AppWorx executes real-time replication between DB2 on our mainframe, where much of our claims data resides, and Oracle on our LAN, where our policy data resides," adds Medinger.
Using a single scheduling system also saves time. "AppWorx provides a single view into our whole world," Medinger explains. "This creates significant efficiencies." And of course, upgrading the existing scheduler minimized implementation costs. "Deployment was incredibly smooth," Medinger says. "We dropped AppWorx onto the same machines we already had."
Staff familiarity with AppWorx produced additional savings. "Upgrading required about half the training time as switching to a new scheduler," says Medinger. "It took AppWorx representatives just over two days to train our users."
Despite the successful deployment, Medinger says, some improvements are possible. "We'd like to see more-sophisticated integration with the Zeke mainframe scheduler, which AppWorx is addressing," he relates. "A search feature, by object name and description, would be helpful. And we'd like to rename objects within AppWorx -- currently, objects can only be copied and deleted, which forces manually updating all locations where a particular object is referenced."
Yet Medinger is quick to praise his little engine that could. "Automating our 24/7 batch queues with AppWorx not only streamlines processes but also eliminates human error," he says. "The upgrade has paid for itself manifold, and we're continually evaluating new ways to apply AppWorx capabilities."
Business Process Automation
SAIF Corp. (Salem, Ore; $3.4 billion in assets).
lines of business
AppWorx Corp.'s (Bellevue, Wash.) AppWorx 6.1 business process automation software.
Automate 24/7 batch processes across mainframe and LAN.
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio