Companies that grow through acquisition often have to absorb a number of legacy systems from the firms they acquire. Vienna Insurance Group, an Austrian P&C and life insurance company, has been pursuing this type of aggressive growth strategy for nearly 20 years.
To standardize the implementation of SAP (Walldorf, Germany) business management software across all 50 of its companies in 23 countries, Vienna (US$3.2 billion in Q1 2010 premiums) specifically founded a subsidiary, Business Insurance Application Consulting (BIAC), in 2005. The goal of the project is to improve efficiency by changing enterprisewide processes to SAP, replacing over the next five years the existing island platforms and individually developed systems that have been collected over the years, relates Klaus Lutterschmidt, chief architect for BIAC, who explains that the change includes the planned implementation of a standardized insurance management system for contract administration, commissioning and services, as well as invoicing.
However, Lutterschmidt notes, as the project grew, the needs of an ever-diversifying development team changed. "This is a very ambitious plan, and we are working together on the implementation with a lot of different partners," he says. "We had substantial growth in numbers of developers. What worked for 50 developers five years ago is not good for 200 now. We had to do a lot in terms of organizing the processes and stating the guidelines."
Facing cost overruns and the realization that developers at the various target companies had different workflows and experience levels, BIAC turned to CAST Software, which provides automated analysis and measurement software for SAP's platform. According to the Meudon, France-based vendor, its application intelligence product, among other functions, measures the quantity and quality of custom code produced by internal or outsourced teams - a specific concern for BIAC.
CAST was first deployed at Vienna Insurance Group over three months in summer 2008. After Lutterschmidt assumed control of BIAC, in 2009 the carrier integrated CAST into the source code systems and build management process that it uses for all of its SAP customizations, but it has not integrated the CAST output into any other reporting systems, he relates. Technical module owners - who head the individual development teams - received two to three hours of training.
"When we take a look at the numerous rollouts we are heading to, it's clear that we must be as cheap as possible with maintenance costs for existing rollouts and those that are in production," Lutterschmidt comments. "Partially, the code is developed offsite, and some of it is on our systems. We're using CAST to make sure the code that developers produce fits with our development guidelines."
CAST's system also facilitates compliance by generating lists of non-compliant objects and technical documentation. The software detects changes between two versions of a customized application, produces detailed technical documentation of the customization, estimates costs associated with impact mitigation work, and speeds adoption of new software modules by identifying which part of existing custom applications should be modified, the company says.
"The idea is to get early insight into possible problems with performance issues that can be identified from code analysis," Lutterschmidt explains. "At certain steps of the process, developers must conform to quality checks and collect the code according to the findings of the checks."
CAST's suite of key performance indicators helps the quality control team get an accurate, holistic view of the state of the implementation, Lutterschmidt adds. "CAST reports can be structured by applications, and you can drill down to the development guidelines," he says. "There are people who regularly want to get findings on the code and correct issues that are found."
For BIAC and Vienna, the value of CAST goes beyond the implementation process, according to Lutterschmidt. As Vienna continues to grow, he says, CAST will facilitate communications among maintenance teams. "There's a lot of maintenance coming from external sectors," Lutterschmidt reports. "So there will be increasing code that we produce and work for us to do."
CASE STUDY SNAPSHOT
- Company: Vienna Insurance Co. (Vienna, Austria; US$3.2 billion in Q1 2010 premiums)
- Lines of Business: P&C, life.
- Vendor/Technology: Meudon, France-based CAST Software's Application Intelligence Platform.
- Challenge: Manage the risks involved in a long-term implementation of SAP by ensuring quality code development.
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio