Soon after adding the web as a distribution channel in mid-2008, SafeAuto Insurance experienced a serious slowdown with a new IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) DB2 release. "The nearly three weeks it took to locate and fix the issue taught us that our existing application management tools were insufficient," reports Jeff Fields, the Columbus, Ohio-based insurer's CIO. "Adopting a solution was particularly important considering our increasing use of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and recent expansion from a call center model to multichannel distribution."
As the search for an application performance management (APM) solution began in late 2008, SafeAuto ($350 million in premium income) also was in the process of relocating. "At our new corporate headquarters we were centralizing monitoring for all systems -- call centers, individual CSRs, phone switches, IT applications, ecommerce, etc.," Fields says. "So we needed an APM solution that was not only robust enough for IT developers and administrators, but also user-friendly enough for our monitoring room technicians to use."
By mid-2009 SafeAuto had narrowed prospective vendors to two and asked each to perform the same proof of concept. "We set up each solution in a testing environment that included the DB2 issue we'd already fixed," recalls Fields. "Of the two prospects, Compuware's [Detroit] Vantage came the closest to locating the issue. And it monitored the broadest range of applications, making it a good fit with our diverse Microsoft-enabled environment, which includes [Microsoft] SQL and .NET, ... Citrix and others."
Serendipitously, Detroit-based Compuware announced in late 2009 that it was purchasing Gomez, which provided the web performance monitoring solution that SafeAuto had previously deployed. "The resulting integration of Vantage and Gomez created a real end-to-end solution for us," Fields says. "We're able to measure performance starting from the external customer experience all the way through our internal systems and deep into each underlying application."
Deploying Vantage, and integrating it with Gomez, was completed in late 2009 uneventfully. However, interpreting the output initially was challenging, Fields acknowledges. "We'd never had a solution like Vantage, with such comprehensive analytics," he admits. "After our Compuware representatives assisted us with understanding the underlying meanings of the measurements, we conducted some intensive internal training sessions to bring everyone up to speed."
Still, the implementation proved immediately beneficial, Fields notes. "Previously, our call centers would routinely detect a slowdown or outage first and call us," he relates. "Now an alert flashes red in our monitoring room, allowing the techs to visualize the issue and notify the appropriate individuals before our customers detect a problem. Or, if it's a significant challenge and customers do call, we're already working on a resolution and can communicate exactly how long it will take."
Consequently, average resolution times have dropped from 20 minutes to about five, Fields reports. "With four call centers employing 500 people and the Web handling thousands of inquires, any downtime is a big hit for us," he asserts. "Even 10 minutes impacts our revenue. So, for us, the value of these new solutions is literally priceless."
As a result, SafeAuto is leveraging the Compuware tools systemically, according to Fields. "For example, we created a staging environment for our newly implemented claims system and closed performance gaps before going into production," he explains. "And we're tuning-up existing systems enterprisewide to meet industry best practices."
SafeAuto plans to continue to build out the solution. "As we add new technologies, such as Java, we'll expand the tools to tune those applications," Fields comments. "So for our development community, it becomes an infinite feedback loop and allows them to continuously improve the experience for our internal users and web customers alike."
Case Study Snapshot
Company: SafeAuto Insurance Co. (Columbus, Ohio; $350 million in premium income).
Lines of Business: Automobile.
Vendor/Technology: Compuware's (Detroit) Vantage application performance management and Gomez web performance management solutions.
Challenge: Streamline application performance to reduce downtime.
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