Until recently, when White Mountains Insurance Group (Hamilton, Bermuda) subsidiary OneBeacon Insurance's ($3.5 billion in 2005 gross premium) help desk received calls from agents about a problem with the carrier's Web portal, IT staff had little information to help fix the problem. "We had no way of identifying where the problem occurred," relates Rich Ackermann, assistant vice president of e-business application services for Boston-based OneBeacon. "We didn't have very good information, and user experience and application performance were somewhat of a mystery to us."
Concerned that it might lose business, the insurer began searching for a solution in 2004 to monitor its Web-based systems proactively and quickly fix problems before too many users were affected. "We wanted to make sure we didn't create frustration for our agents because we certainly want them to bring their business to us," Ackermann says. The solution also needed to be able to measure performance trends to help the IT group determine future demand for equipment upgrades, he adds.
The carrier's Web systems include an external portal through which independent agents can process business, and an internal employee portal for policy-writing applications and claims processing. The IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) WebSphere-based portals utilize Vignette's (Austin, Texas) Enterprise Content Management solution suite, which is deployed on a server running IBM's AIX version of Unix.
After a year of searching, Ackermann identified four vendors, which he declines to name, whose products provided in-house Web monitoring and reporting capabilities. "We wanted a tool that was not intrusive and was able to monitor the end-to-end experience," says Ackermann, who adds that OneBeacon purchased Coradiant's (Poway, Calif.) TrueSight monitoring equipment in March 2005 because it was the only tool that could monitor both of OneBeacon's portals, as well as its network, without requiring additional software or hardware, or modifications to legacy applications.
A self-contained appliance, TrueSight monitors traffic and application performance. It allows IT staff to trace user problems so they can be resolved quickly. It also creates reports that are used to analyze performance trends. The appliance was installed in a single day, although it took six weeks to determine optimum placement. "In our case, we monitor both our internal and external traffic, and found that if we installed it on one of our internal network switches, we could monitor the traffic from both," explains Ackermann.
Not long after TrueSight was deployed, OneBeacon's IT department put it to the test. "Our users were experiencing slow response times, so we used TrueSight to monitor the problem," Ackermann notes. "We were able to fix it in a matter of hours." Cutting the time it takes IT to find and fix user problems is saving OneBeacon thousands of dollars, he adds.
OneBeacon has been able to use the real-time data generated by TrueSight to correct other problems, too. "We use it for monitoring individual applications, enabling us to improve problem resolution for users who are reporting problems and efficiently identify the root cause," Ackermann says. And based on the data TrueSight collects, OneBeacon will be able to plan for future equipment upgrades, he adds.
OneBeacon Insurance (Boston; $3.5 billion in 2005 gross premium); a subsidiary of the White Mountains Insurance Group (Hamilton, Bermuda).
lines of business
Personal and commercial insurance.
Coradiant (Poway, Calif.) TrueSight monitoring equipment.
Monitor performance of Web applications on agent and employee portals.