HED moves towards SOA with LANSA CRM solution
We have never before revamped our system to this degree – with LANSA we achieved all this within a year.
Editors Note: Hayhurst Elias Dudek Inc. (“HED”) is part of the Western Financial Group ("WES") since 2009 and continues to use LANSA to develop and enhance the IT systems described below.
Hayhurst Elias Dudek Inc. (HED), one of the largest independently owned insurance brokers in Canada, has specialized in providing unique and cost-effective insurance and risk management solutions for independent businesses since 1982. HED has a mixture of LANSA and .NET systems and web sites, as well as legacy RPG applications, running on multiple Windows and System i servers. HED uses LANSA web services and a Visual LANSA Framework CRM system to integrate these heterogeneous solutions and move towards an SOA environment.
Brian Hynes, vice-president, information technology and business systems at HED, says, "We have reduced application complexity and improved the efficiency of business procedures. Our biggest challenge is the multitude of legacy files and code. Moving towards a relational database structure, using modular design techniques with reusable components and an SOA approach are the top priorities. SOA is a journey rather than a destination, and we are only at the start of that journey, but significant improvements in developer and user productivity are already obvious."
SOA is a journey rather than a destination, but significant improvements in developer and user productivity are already obvious.
- Modernizing Legacy Systems
- Tying Account Activities Together
- Integrating .NET, Office and System i
- Getting the Priorities Right
- Company and System Information
Modernizing Legacy Systems
"One of the strengths and weaknesses of the iSeries is that it allows you to hang onto legacy code," says Hynes, who inherited RPG insurance and billing systems that still had an IBM S/36 file structure. "The mindset before I joined the company was "If it isn't broken, don't fix it." Although everything "worked," there were many shortcomings. Our business procedures required a great deal of manual intervention and we spent a lot of work on maintaining the legacy applications. The main challenge was to modernize and replace the legacy systems to support a more productive and integrated business environment."
Today, Hynes and his team are well on their way on this path.
Using Visual LANSA since 2001, HED redeveloped and implemented its Pet Plan insurance solution in 2002 and its Life & Health Insurance system in 2003. The new Visual LANSA based systems boosted user productivity enormously, allowing for natural flow of communication with the client. Claim processing came down from 10 minutes to just two and phone calls became shorter, saving customers' time and call center resources. The biggest gain was reduced training time, a major benefit for HED with over 30 staff in its combined call centers, plus 116 support staff and a fairly high turnover. Read Pet Plan slashes training time with LANSA
After having successfully re-developed the front-end processing for the Pet Plan and Life & Health Insurance systems with LANSA between 2001 and 2004, Hynes wanted to improve the old CRM system and isolate common functions that could be shared as a service, rather than duplicated as code in HED's heterogeneous systems.
HED likes to maintain a close and personal relationship with its prospects and customers and needs to keep detailed information to do so. HED had been using the Goldmine CRM system for just over three years in a SQL Server Windows environment. "Goldmine is a good tool, but we maxed-out its capability," explains Hynes. "We had problems with its captured information, especially when we wanted to convert a prospect into a customer. Goldmine has a closed architecture and we had to create a lot of bridges. We ran into issues regarding data replication and synchronization."
"Outlook is our primary communication tool, but Goldmine couldn't integrate with Outlook, so we had to manually re-key information and maintain calendars and email boxes in both systems."
"In short, the old CRM solution was very restrictive and did not allow the integration needed to run our business as efficiently as possible."
In addition, Hynes' team wanted to take the opportunity, while developing a new CRM system that would integrate with virtually all other applications, to look at their systems architecture from a holistic perspective.
As HED had already successfully developed several systems with Visual LANSA, Hynes decided to use the Visual LANSA Framework to build the CRM system and LANSA Integrator to create web services for SOA.
One of the strengths and weaknesses of the iSeries is that it allows you to hang onto legacy code.
Tying Account Activities Together
HED's new LANSA-based IMS-CRM (Insurance Management System and Customer Relationship Management) system keeps track of all prospect and customer activity. The solution helps to better manage HED's accounts and provides easy communication within departments. All communications, either written or verbal, can be saved as an activity for an account and the IMS-CRM tightly ties together all of HED's business solutions.
HED uses LANSA Integrator-developed SOAP web services to interface between its System i based CRM and insurance systems, its .NET/SQL Server-based website and with the TotalGuard quoting engine.
Clarin Wong, project manager/lead developer of the CRM project, says, "For example, we use a web service to push account data into the TotalGuard quoting engine from new and updated accounts, so it is easy for our customer service reps to initiate a quote without having to re-key information."
The solution integrates with MS Outlook using Active X controls to automatically create email and calendar entries and trigger fax messages via HED's RightFax server. The system also links a copy of sent email and faxes to the relevant account.
Users can create, change and format letters using MS Word templates and LANSA functions that pull in DB2/400 data and calculated fields themselves, without any technical support and link them to an IMS-CRM account. A mass document generator lets users print, email or fax documents to a group of accounts.
"One of the advantages of the Visual LANSA Framework is the ability to integrate with third-party websites and solutions," says Wong. "For example, as addresses and postal codes are vital information for an insurer, IMS-CRM integrates with address validation software. We also provide links to commonly used websites such as other insurance companies, MapQuest, Canada 411 and Marshall & Swift/BOECKH's property valuation. Our users just click on the link and go directly to the relevant page, without having to open Internet Explorer or retyping the URL. That alone saves several minutes labor on each prospect."
"We also integrated Sequel Viewpoint from Help Systems to create custom searches from the Visual LANSA Framework's filter panel. Users can define and search on any criteria, not just pre-defined filters.”
LANSA-developed web services interface between our System i applications, with our .NET/SQL Server website and the TotalGuard quoting engine.
Integrating .NET, Office and System i
"By providing a flexible CRM solution to our users and real-time system integration, we have reduced application complexity and improved the efficiency of business procedures," says Hynes.
"Tight integration between our System i systems, MS Office and our .Net based website helped to eliminate many redundant tasks, increase productivity and improve system performance. Users save time not having to maintain two calendars and two email systems and not having to retype or copy any information."
"We can build more personal one-to-one relationships with our prospects and customers because of the wealth of captured information," says Hynes. "At first contact, the workflow module automatically creates activities to ensure proper follow up all the way through the sales cycle. It also triggers tasks 120 days prior to an existing policy's expiry, which is crucial for prospecting and increasing customer loyalty."
The IMS-CRM workflow module gives managers and supervisors an overview of each employee's activities for the day. Tasks can be color coded according to priority, which helps users efficiently tackle their workload.
By capturing information centrally, HED maintains data integrity and accuracy is further improved by using web services to share the information in real time. HED also eliminated slow response times caused by poor integration and data duplication, especially when creating a new customer.
"Another benefit of moving the CRM system to the System i is that my team doesn't have to worry anymore about maintaining two platforms, patch management, backups, viruses and so on, freeing up team resources," says Hynes.
"User training costs have decreased dramatically as we no longer need to train users in multiple, poorly integrated tools. The GUI interface produced by Visual LANSA Framework is based on Windows industry standards, which is easy to use for new and existing employees alike. We are moving towards a self-administration model. Users can find their own way through the systems and access the data without the constant requests for help to my development team.”
"For this project we actively worked with the user community to ensure that we understood the business. We carried out a great deal of process re-engineering to improve on business procedures and make them as lean and efficient as possible."
"We have never before revamped our system to this degree – with LANSA we achieved all this within a year," says Hynes.
We have never before revamped our system to this degree – with LANSA we achieved all this within a year.
Getting the Priorities Right
"During the CRM exercise we had the opportunity to start with architectural design improvements," says Hynes. "We used modular design techniques and a SOA approach, trying to maximize on the reusable components of the Visual LANSA Framework environment. We are now really looking at our systems from a holistic perspective. Our RPG developers and .NET developers are now integrated with my LANSA team and we are all moving towards an object-oriented mindset."
"The new CRM system is already used by 170 users and will become the launch pad for all our business lines going forward. It gives us a 360-degrees look at an account, knowing which policies they hold and what other products they might be interested in. Eventually, the CRM will contain all our contacts, including banks and suppliers."
"The biggest challenge is the multitude of RPG3, RPG4 and OCL programs, plus DB2 and S/36 data files in our legacy systems. The corporate data model we are moving to is relational structured with all rules and attributes defined in the LANSA Repository. It is a massive undertaking that requires data conversion at multiple departments and levels. But using a phased implementation, we can now truly get a handle on our corporate data model and SOA architecture."
"To ensure that our technologies align with our core business initiatives, we have a steering committee that meets quarterly, at a minimum, to review all current initiatives and communicate business priorities directly to the Information Technology and Business Systems Department who then looks at our resources and architectural design. Systematically over the last few years we have set priorities in place," concludes Hynes.
We try to maximize on the reusable components of the Visual LANSA Framework environment.
Company and System Information
- Hayhurst Elias Dudek Inc. (HED) specialized in providing unique and cost-effective insurance and risk management solutions for independent businesses. HED was formed on July 1, 1982 by the merger of Hayhurst Insurance Brokers, Lynch Elias Dudek and Associates Inc. and Harriott & Associates of Canada Ltd. HED is one of the largest independently owned insurance brokers in Canada, with over 220 employees nationwide. HED's head office is located in Winnipeg, with offices of local representatives in Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax. In Quebec HED operates under HED Courtier en Assurance Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of HED.
- Petplan is a subsidiary of HED that shares IT, HR and Accounting departments, but is otherwise self-sufficient. The Petplan name and logo is licensed from a UK based insurance company.
- For more information visit: www.westernfinancialgroup.ca
- HED's Information Technology & Business Systems team consists of eight LANSA and RPG developers, three .NET web developers as well as two NT and one System i support staff.
- Hayhurst Elias Dudek Inc. (“HED”) is part of the Western Financial Group ("WES") since 2009 and continues to use LANSA to develop and enhance the IT systems described above.