Comprehending the mainframe

By David Spark  |  Posted 2006-08-21 Print this article Print

To develop the look of the Web interface, Pitcher and his team first manually mapped out the mainframe process. The team considered what the navigation path was and how it played out in terms of the design of the Web pages, said Pitcher. After manually mapping out the mainframe, Pitcher said he felt he had an accurate view of the processes.

Given WRGs small size, mapping out its mainframe application wasnt very difficult, said Pitcher. But he noted that if a larger organization had to do this, it wouldnt be as easy. Thats when OpenConnect saw an opportunity to expand its business.

OpenConnect developed a mainframe process discovery application called Comprehend. The program sits outside the mainframe and listens to every users interaction with the mainframe, cataloging the behavior, Houck said.

Given the success of the prototype—which went unused—WRG and OpenConnect spent three months in 2003 to Web-enable WRGs first line of business, homeowners insurance. Pitcher said he was stunned at the speed of implementation, which, from there, quickly rolled out all but one line of WRGs business in just three years.

Once the Web connection to the mainframe was established and independent agents started using it, a dominolike effect of benefits began that Pitcher refers to as "straight through processing."

Now that agents receive quotes and write policies directly from the Web, 97 percent of all WRGs auto and homeowner policies are created by the agents themselves instead of by WRG employees, Pitcher said. Before the OpenConnect implementation, WRG employees were typing all their policies into the mainframe.

The new system also allowed for gains such as an end to data-transcription errors as well as the production and mailing of data diskettes.

In addition, the processing is "straight through" because the agent can submit the policy on their own with all the supporting documents via e-mail, Pitcher explained.

"The more of these Web applications you put out to the agent, you get pull-through with other functionality that you already had out there," noted Pitcher.

Pitcher said WRG spent a total of $1.2 million to make all but one of the companys lines of businesses Web-accessible. "If we didnt find this product, we couldnt have afforded to stay competitive," Pitcher said.

David Spark is a freelance writer in San Francisco. Contact him at

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