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Facing merger and Year 2000 deadlines, Royal & SunAlliance Insurance Group needed to migrate vast amounts of vital customer information from three legacy systems to its new strategic platform. A technical evaluation however, indicated that with traditional programming techniques the task looked impossible given the time available. With the use of data integration tools from ETI, the company accomplished the task accurately in less than half the time and to deadline – saving 30 years of programming effort in the process.

Created in 1996 from the merger of two of Britains’ biggest insurance companies, Royal & SunAlliance is one of the world’s top ten international general insurers, employing over 42,000 people in 55 countries world-wide.

The group serves customers around the globe in three time zones, and its vision is to become the dominant force in its chosen markets through offering customers a personalised local service and the widest array of products.

By utilising data integration tools from ETI, Royal & SunAlliance has achieved an integrated, millennium compliant central customer information system. In addition, the company believes its new skills in the use of ETI applications have given it a strategic advantage when it comes to accommodating competitive mergers and acquisitions.

The new millennium looms large
In 1995, before its merger with Sun Alliance, already being prompted by concerns about millennial compliance, Royal Insurance began a study into the feasibility of moving insurance portfolio information from a legacy IBM IMS mainframe system to a new Oracle/Unisys platform.

The new system, known as Unisure, offered the company the benefit of a single view of customers regardless of the products they use. This meant that rather than maintaining separate systems for all products, with each product focused system separately holding customer details, the company could reap savings and the business benefits of a single set of customer service processes for all clients.

However, the company’s internal technical evaluation indicated that the task of extracting, translating, migrating and moving the portfolio information across the platforms would be impossible to achieve in the time available if a conventional hand-coding approach was taken to the creation of the necessary interfaces between the databases.

The traditional method of creating interfaces between disparate IT systems is for teams of software developers to write them manually. Despite growth in the market for migration tools, Forrester Research estimates $82.5 billion was spent worldwide hand coding data interfaces in 1998; a figure it forecast would increase by 30% in 19991. For large and complex migrations involving multiple data sources however, hand-coding is a risky, lengthy and potentially expensive option and one inflexible to accommodating rapid change or to extensive re-use of code.

After identifying these barriers, Royal Insurance undertook a comparative study of data migration tools, new to the UK market at that time, which pointed to the clear superiority of ETI•EXTRACT.

ETI•EXTRACT speeds data migration and integration by automatically generating the data interface programs necessary to extract, transform, move and load data, from any source to any target system.

“A three month trial with ETI•EXTRACT indicated that this tool could help us achieve between a two and five-fold productivity saving over traditional programming methods,” said Frank Todd, Area Systems Manager Life and Unit Trust Operations at Royal & SunAlliance.

Merger brings new data sources
In April 1996, Royal Insurance began the first migration of term assurance portfolio information from an IMS flat file system to the target Oracle system. However, this project was interrupted in May by the announcement of the massive merger of Royal Insurance and SunAlliance.

For the Life and Unit Trust division, the merger brought three additional applications, running on Adabas and IMS platforms, into the picture. These also needed to be migrated to Unisure.

Mergers and acquisitions can present major systems integration problems, because the integration of company data sets from disparate systems can be an expensive and risky prospect. Data mismatches caused by delays and mistakes in a migration can cause customers to become disillusioned and move to competitors – a customer relationship management (CRM) nightmare that can potentially jeopardise the success of an entire merger or acquisition.

A business critical migration
With both the success of the merger and the new company’s continued survival after Year 2000 being at stake, this data migration was a business critical move for Royal & SunAlliance. At its peak the project employed a team of 150 people.

From May 1996 to the present date, the company has used ETI•EXTRACT on four major data migration projects involving the movement of vital customer information from three IMS flat file databases and an Adabas system onto the new Oracle platform.

For each migration, the company was able to utilise ETI•EXTRACT to speed the programming portion of the project by automatically generating the necessary data interface programs for extracting, transforming and migrating the data to the new system. By the end of September 1999, Royal & SunAlliance will have moved 1.2 million customer records into Unisure from the Royal Insurance project starting point in 1996 of only 4000 policies.

ETI•EXTRACT saves 30 years of programming
With just a small team of developers using ETI•EXTRACT, Royal & SunAlliance has achieved a task that would have been impossible in the time available by using traditional methods.

“Working with ETI•EXTRACT has enabled a team at Royal & SunAlliance to achieve in under three calendar years and with 20 man years of effort, a data migration task that would have taken around 50-man years using manual coding of migration routines” said Todd.

Through the migration, Royal & SunAlliance has ensured its Y2K compliance and brought vital customer information to its new strategic platform, in support of its CRM vision of a single view of customers regardless of the products they use, or from which company those products were originally purchased.

It has also reaped savings from the retirement of three legacy computer platforms and four applications with their associated licensing, operation and support costs.

New core competency gives strategic edge
Royal & SunAlliance has also gained a strategic advantage over its competitors through its use of ETI(EXTRACT. “For so many years a critical barrier to an acquisition or merger has been the degree of differentiation between company IT systems and the scope of this integration task. But for Royal & SunAlliance this is no longer the case. With our skills in data migration using ETI(EXTRACT, we can quickly migrate the business portfolios off merged or acquired company systems, thereby avoiding the need to integrate any business systems at all. This ensures good customer relationship management and effectively removes systems integration as a barrier to merger or acquisition,” said Todd.

The effective data migration projects involving ETI(EXTRACT at the Life and Unit Trusts division has attracted considerable interest from other divisions within the group. Todd explained; “After seeing what we have achieved another division, Commercial and Personal Financial services has acquired licences for using ETI(EXTRACT to populate its DB2 datawarehouse and to develop ETI(EXTRACT applications for their application infrastructure.”

And the company’s leading edge data migration projects have also attracted interest from many other companies. “Not only have many UK companies come to see what we’ve achieve with ETI•EXTRACT but we’ve also had visitors from Italy, The Netherlands and South Africa. All of them have decided to go down the same route; a strong reference for the tool indeed,” said Todd.

1 Source: Tim Klasell and Scot Dudgeon, “Enterprise Application Integration: Enhancing the Communication, Efficiency and Value of Software Assets,” Dain Rauscher Inc. 23rd October 1998.


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