INFORMATION SYSTEM CASE STUDY
Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of The Great-West Life Assurance Company the largest stockholder-owned insurance company in Canada, and a member of the Power Financial group of companies.
We are searching for a new enterprise system. We are looking for a structured approach that eliminates the guesswork and makes the job faster and easier. In fact, we are in demand of a proven method that includes the use of an expert system assistant to automate significant portions of the process, getting us to the short list quickly, saving us time and money, maintaining team momentum, and facilitating buy-in.
Few executives can keep pace with all the changes in today’s fast-moving marketplace with new competitors, new business models, new technologies and innovative methods. Over the past decade, many companies have thinned the ranks of management, becoming “lean and mean.” As a result, executive attention is spread thin. The problem is to have enough time to plan, to reflect and to take the long view in business. Our company’s executive management needs consulting services that are designed to address these needs, and to provide focused assistance to busy executives who need to lead their organizations in this world of change.
A strategic service is needed to define our current business model, our core competencies, and the key trends and issues affecting our industry. Then, we will need to formulate a strategic framework, providing structure for the new ideas and initiatives that will form our plan for the future. Finally, we need an IS service that can effectively communicate our strategy to our entire organization. In short, we need to do things better strategically and technically.
Our executive attention is put into a rapid company-wide operational assessment to determine where the major opportunities lie. Or, we can focus on either specific processes such as material planning, engineering change management, and order fulfillment; or, on specific business functions, such as manufacturing, sales, or accounting. The company’s business goal of process improvement is growth, with improved quality, efficiency, flexibility, and customer service.
Finally, we have a great demand of information technology. New technology is driving many of the changes in the marketplace today. We begin to look for an expert in technology, the Internet, Data Warehousing, supply chain management, advanced planning, and enterprise resource planning. But more importantly, our executive manager Jean O’Neil, is looking for an IS service that can apply technology to meet our business objectives, enable new business models, improve business processes, and to better serve our customers. On the whole, O’Neil is seeking IS group management consultants that have years of experience in a variety of industries from some of the world’s major corporations to many small and mid-sized firms.
A recent survey revealed that over half of enterprise system implementations do not meet their objectives. Yet companies continue to implement new systems, imagining that new software will automatically bring benefits. For our IS consulting services, O’Neil thinks that we need managers who are successful to first identify the opportunities and then leverage information systems to exploit those opportunities. Our IS group also needs to focus on business process improvement and not just information technology.
A business process assessment is designed for companies that want benefits from information systems. It quickly zeroes in on those specific areas that hold the best opportunities for improving business processes. The problem with our company is that we need strategic business improvment through technology. Firstly, an assessment is needed because this service is essential for companies like us for planning to select or implement a new enterprise system. It focuses the selection and implementation on those areas that hold the greatest pay-back. Secondly, this service is valuable for us because we want to get more from our existing system. In fact, O’Neil points out that this is indeed a small investment to help the company to get all the benefits from the system that has been already installed.
For our three year business plan, O’Neil states that the business process assessment plan is necessary for a four step methodology:
1. Preliminary Survey
First we will need a short survey to determine basic site information, including major business functions performed and which functions are supported by our existing system. This helps us determine the time required for the assessment and the functional areas we will need to explore. Then based on the results of the site survey, we also need to give a fixed price proposal for the assessment itself. Depending on our needs, and we do need a well developed plan, and therefore, the entire assessment will be completed in about one month.
2. Structured Interviews
Using our structured interview, O’Neil points out that our company needs to conduct a series of interviews with representative managers and users. This structured approach keeps the interviews focused and efficient, enabling us to gather information without taking more time than necessary from our staff.
3. Business Process Assessment Report
Based on the data that we gather, we will then prepare our final report of recommendations for the IS group, which will be our chosen IS consultant.
There are problems that we have to do immediately to improve our business processes. These include procedural changes or use of features and functions that we might not realize are already available in our existing system. In other cases, our users may simply need more training on effective use of our existing system. Moreover, more significant opportunities for us to improve our business processes includes the use of industry-standard best practices, redesign of business processes, recommendations for organizational development, or strategic application of information technology for competitive advantage. These recommendations will be focused, practical, and specific. In our case, we will consider an upgrade or might as well consider a replacement for our existing system if replacement expense is the same with the upgrade.
Strategic Action Plan
Once our business and industry have been analyzed, the next step is to develop a strategic plan. The essence of a strategic plan is a series of linked actions to meet an objective. O’Neil points out our IS consultant will need to work with us to envision the future, with the IS as an integral part of our business. Major actions of an IS strategy fall into several categories. Some are quick hits, actions that put a stake in the ground and establish our presence on the IS. Our IS consultants are to develop our infrastructure. Still our chosen IS consultant can generate a major lift for our business and have the potential to radically transform our business. These major actions then will be linked into a plan, a strategy that will serve as the map for moving forward, step by step.
On the one hand, O’Neil is looking for IS consultants:
Systems Consulting Services, Inc.(SCSI) was incorporated in Maryland in December, 1986 by Kenneth L. Wayman and Anne D. Ostrom. The company is currently headquartered in Ellicott City, Maryland. They proposed to our company that all systems should be converted to their database product, i.e., SCSI database. This conversion would be written in COBOL and CICS, using DB2 and/or VSAM structured files. SCSI can allow us to use their Business Information Analysis System (BIAS), which is a very powerful tool and database. They said that this would have the following advantages:
SCSI was originally established as a consulting firm and, from its inception and throughout most of 1988, continued to operate solely as a consulting business (adding such clients as Coca-Cola Enterprises, Martin Marietta, and Dun & Bradstreet.) In late 1988 however, the principals recognized that consulting revenues tend to fluctuate and began to shift the company’s strategy to focus on software development, offering unique software products in niche markets. Thus, to begin with SCSI already offers an unique software that has been used by brand clients like Coca-Cola.
The company developed its flagship software product: Business Information Analysis System (BIAS). BIAS was originally produced to allow mainframe and minicomputer access to the client like our company’ information sources. For the first time, subscribers to the client’s services SCSI has the advantage that could electronically access our data from their office workstations. BIAS has since been modified to incorporate access to Experian (formerly TRW) Commercial and Consumer, TransUnion, Equifax, ChoicePoint, and ISO as well as other information sources. Moreover, BIAS has evolved into a complete automated solution. BIAS users can now file retrieved bureau reports in a BIAS database, add outside financial information to the database, and analyze information employing user defined parameters. BIAS has become SCSI’s main source of revenue and is currently being simplified to provide an “off the shelf” model to market to smaller businesses.
In 1996 SCSI entered into a strategic relationship with ChoicePoint in an effort to expand marketing and awareness of SCSI and BIAS. The relationship positions BIAS as the recommended on-line, customer resident software solution for access and management of data provided by ChoicePoint to insurance companies. In this activity, ChoicePoint controls approximately 80% of the market and is recognized as the premier source of underwriting data.
SCSI is committed to providing both software products and professional services to corporations like us that need access to various information sources for risk evaluation. The company is led by the uniqueness of its products and its understanding of how to integrate information into the customer’s back office functions. SCSI has installed BIAS at more than 20 locations with over 11,000 licensed users. Hence, it has a well developed recognition and trust.
BIAS: Business Information Analysis System
BIAS is a structured modular software system which enables applications processing and renewals in whatever business you’re in. Let us take for examples, Credit, Insurance, Leasing, Commercial Factoring, Telecommunications. Because our company is dealing with insurance, credit, and commercial factoring and as well as telecommunications, they system surely will gives us advatages. Moreover, BIAS lets us also take advantage of state-of-the-art technology to improve productivity in what is still a predominantly tedious and manual operation.
BIAS provides a user-friendly, menu-driven environment that can automate even the most complex business decision: perform risk analysis and scoring functions; check historical data; create flags for further review; and generate acceptance or declination letters – with ease, speed, and accuracy.
BIAS offers immediate on-line access to major information sources as well as batch file import/export capabilities. Moreover, BIAS helps manage information expense by allowing us to request only the specific data elements required by your decision makers.
BIAS works with a variety of computer environments, including IBM Mainframe, UNIX, OS/2, PC, PC/LAN or Windows NT. The BIAS database can be installed on-site, or maintained off-site and accessed through IBM’s Advantis Network.
The BIAS system can be customized to fit your orgainization’s operations, to interface with your systems and to utilize multiple decision-making criteria for automated evaluation of risk.
BIAS Modules: Information Request/Retrieval: Electronically retrieves account information from multiple on-line information providers. Electronic Folder: Provides the ability to enter information from additional sources, and combines with retrieved information in a common database. Portfolio Management: Uses data to analyze and develop a score for any case. Workload Management: Allocates work assignments and routes alerts between system users. Application Processing: Accepts entry of an application for risk or credit evaluation, automatically retrieves and scores needed decision making data, and provides for a decision as the end product. Monitoring: Automatically replaces specified client’s data and provides alerts when significant updates are received. Point-of-Sale System: Provides agents with controlled, remote access to BIAS functionality via either an Internet or an Intranet connection. Technologies: SCSI foundation product BIAS is written in COBOL and CICS, using DB2 and/or VSAM structured files.
On the other hand, O’Neil is looking for another IS consultant:
Information Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. (ISPA) is a rapidly growing information technology services firm specializing in advanced information technology and management services. The company was founded in Atlanta, Georgia, and maintains offices in Atlanta and Warner Robins, Georgia. ISPA has received the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Pacesetters Award” in recognition of its selection as one of Atlanta’s Top Fifty Small Businesses.
ISPA propsed a data warehouse approah offering a comprehensive Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) solution. This technology is so powerful it will give the advantage to our company and helping us with all facets of data warehousing and EPM systems.
EPM technology pulls and integrates information from across all platforms, applications, databases (internal and external), data warehouses, web sites, sales and customer service centers. Then, as with a good data warehouse, you can clean up, organize, analyze and display the information. EPM technology allows you to accomplish all this in a much easier, intuitive way, without the need for heavy IS staff involvement.
Companies find that EPM systems are simpler to deploy, operate and maintain. Plus, authorized users are able to get the information they need at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional data warehouses. ROI for EPM systems can be as great as six months.
EPM delivers focused, timely information and analysis to people throughout the organization. Best of all, they can generate this information themselves, and can even have the software deliver regular updates, or notify them when new patterns and opportunities emerge.
Historically, only the biggest companies had the resources, including large and expensive IS departments, to fully benefit from data warehousing. Yet even for them, there were problems. To analyze data within the data warehouse, someone in the IS department had to design a query. This approach quickly led to a backlog of unwritten queries and a dearth of timely information for decision-makers. IS departments simply could not keep up with demand, and important business decisions were being pushed back or made without the benefit of the insights that would have been found deep within the data warehouse.
Companies were sitting on top of a wealth of information that they had spent a fortune bringing together, and realized they could not really do much with it. For them, data warehousing had not lived up to its promise.
Today, these corporate giants are turning to EPM systems to get the most out of their data, thus gaining a better, more comprehensive understanding of their operations. Though many have chosen not to abandon their traditional data warehouses, they have come to understand that it is far more productive and cost effective to apply the powerful analytical applications of a good EPM system to their data warehouse, then to have their IS department try to construct those tools on an ad hoc basis. To them, it s a case of, “Why reinvent the wheel?” The best analytical tools are already available right out of the box.
To conclude O’Neil choses ISPA instead of Systems Consulting Services, Inc.(SCSI) that provides Business Information Analysis System (BIAS). The reason is because ISPA has the access to various information sources for risk evaluation and to customized to fit our orgainization’s operations, and as well as to interface with our systems and to utilize multiple decision-making criteria for automated evaluation of risk. However, the most important reason is because our insurance company already have a data warehouse installed, and therefore, ISPA (Information Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc) uses EPM to help us get the most out of it. In other words, our company saves up a lot of expenses. On the other hand, if our insurance company, Great-West Life does not have a data warehouse, ISPA will provide us with a powerful, integrated turn-key EPM package that will enable us to bring together, clean up, organize, analyze and display all your company s information in a myriad of ways. In both cases, this cutting-edge EPM technology works because it puts power directly into the hands of authorized users through easy, intuitive controls. With the tools we will have at our command, we will be able to see sides of our business that we never imagined possible. The results will be that new connections will be made, new ideas will flow forth and new opportunities will appear.