When a critical agent-facing application began misbehaving in 2005, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, a division of Nationwide ($160 billion in total assets), turned to its human knowledge base for help. "Since I'd resolved similar issues at another company using tools by HyPerformix, I suggested giving that vendor a call," explains Robert Trapani, systems officer for performance engineering at Nationwide.
HyPerformix's ensuing performance-optimization-based resolution proved so impressive that the Columbus, Ohio-based carrier directed Trapani to develop a proof of concept for permanently deploying performance-optimization tools. "It was early in 2006," Trapani recalls. "At that time we were integrating another insurance company and decided the proof of concept [POC] project could help us determine whether -- and how -- the number of new agents that we'd inherit would significantly impact our existing systems."
The three-month POC began in April 2006. "We wanted to know whether a key agent-support application would suffer any capacity or performance issues," notes Trapani. "Previously, such a process was still all manual -- we'd develop the necessary metrics by hand, create spreadsheets and then manually run all the scenarios in the spreadsheets. Obviously, the prospect of end-to-end automation was extremely attractive."
Given the previous success with HyPerformix, the POC focused solely on the vendor's HyPerformix's Performance Optimizer. "Since our in-house talent had already witnessed the tool's ability to save thousands of dollars, focusing on HyPerformix was the most efficient strategy," explains Ryan Felchlin, the director of enterprise capacity management for Nationwide. Indeed, the POC showed that the application required no additional capital expenditures to assimilate the acquired company's agents. "Proving such a dramatic savings for a single application made the adoption of Performance Optimizer a wise choice," adds Felchlin.
A deal was struck in September 2006 for enterprisewide use of the Performance Optimizer tool. "Initially, we installed it on laptops for specific engineers," Trapani relates. "But this proved inefficient. Instead, we purchased a conditional-use permit and loaded Performance Optimizer on an existing Wintel server, allowing authorized users to access the tool from anywhere."
While the Nationwide implementation was smooth, Trapani says he was not surprised by the subsequent resistance to adopting the tool. "Some IT engineers struggle with accepting that the tool is faster and more accurate than running the numbers themselves," he comments. "Even after they become comfortable and successful with the tool, their deep-seated skepticism can remain."
As a result, Trapani is advancing cultural adoption via day-to-day use. "For example, HyPerformix is helping us drive down latency and other computing inefficiencies as we redesign our agent Web portal," he relates. "In many cases, we've cut [application] response times by nearly half -- from five seconds to three."
Yet even Performance Optimizer is imperfect. "At this time, you have to enter all information about your infrastructure into the tool manually," notes Trapani. "We hope it will eventually perform an automatic survey and harvest the necessary details itself."
Still, the tool's importance at Nationwide continues to rise, Trapani adds. "As we complete the projects surrounding the assimilation of the acquired company, we're totally confident the tool's capabilities and benefits will result in it selling itself," he says.
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., a division of Nationwide (Columbus, Ohio; $160 billion in total assets).
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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