A US-based insurance major with a pedigree of almost 100 years had ridden its consistent business performance to become the largest Property and Casualty insurance provider and the largest Auto insurance provider in the United States. Ranked #36 in the 2020 Fortune 500 rankings, this organization has also expanded financial services segments like banking and mutual funds. The operations had grown in complexity with over 19000 agents, 59000 employees and 30 operations centers spread all over the US. With the increasingly complex and uncertain business environment adapting to digital disruptions, a robust reporting system became a must-have.
The company leadership decided after a review that its strategy to be present as neighbors of their customers and maximize customer satisfaction needed renewed focus on transforming their reporting system with dashboards and visualizations. On the other hand, complex reporting on the legacy SAP crystal reports environment to support rapid decision-making became increasingly expensive. The company leadership decided to convert to IBM Cognos to create a scalable reporting system that is economical and ready for the future challenges of its business.
DataTerrain was chosen by the customer to lead this transition based on its established track record of successfully delivering such large-scale transitions with zero business disruption. The customer also wanted best practices to be implemented along with standard operating procedures and a robust Cognos reports deployment.
DataTerrain’s automation led transition methodology
DataTerrain’s automated transition methodology is based on a consultative approach to ensure alignment with the strategic priorities of customers using the following principles –
1.) Using automation to minimize transition effort and assure the quality of outputs
2.) Optimizing and reusing reports with similar functions to simplify the deployment
3.) Retaining the look and feel of reports and ensuring years of efforts and knowledge are carried forward. This minimizes user training needs and accelerates user adoption
4.) Establishing robust and industrialized best practices in Cognos reporting
The DataTerrain SME team used its experience to create a phased execution plan with major activities as described below –
1.) AS-IS discovery, analysis, and planning – A tool-based analysis of the AS-IS landscape was performed on the SAP webi/deski/crystal reports environment to gather information as below –
a. Component inventory – with a count of universes, reports, users, types/versions of reports, number of reports per model
b. Pattern of usage – Report owners, users, data volumes, file sizes, frequency of execution and last run date, report run times
c. Report design and implementation – Contents of reports and models, expressions, filters, prompts, SQL, graphics, cross tabs, tables, variables
d. Duplicates and redundant reports – Report groupings, compression, similar reports, and targets for scope reduction
Using the above analysis and discussions with stakeholders on pressing requirements and changes required by the business, DataTerrain SMEs helped to create a prioritized list of activities for transition. Potential risks and issues were identified in advance and flagged for attention during the automated transition process. Some of the points considered include merged dimensions, calculation contexts, and complex queries. This information was used to create a detailed project plan for sign-off by key stakeholders with adequate lead time to plan the availability of key users and customer stakeholders.
2.) Automated-based transition and validation – DataTerrain’s automated transition tool was used to perform the transition with limited manual intervention to accelerate the process. The tool used the meta-data information of crystal reports and translated each part to the corresponding component in Cognos. This includes sub-reports, hyperlinks, graphs, tables, and styles. The tool also ensures one-to-one translation of native functions, complex formulas-based logic embedded in BO reports, calendars/events, security privileges, and similar elements. Alerts were generated for potential transition issues and these were manually addressed by DataTerrain SMEs. The automated tool created the new metadata ( framework manager ) in line with Cognos best practices to enable simplified support for ad-hoc reports and integration with third-party tools. The DataTerrain tool performed automated validation of each converted component including validation of outputs, formats, and data for the highest levels of quality assurance with minimal manual effort.
3.) User acceptance, training, and rollout – DataTerrain’s methodology maximized user involvement at every major step during the project. This ensured there were no surprises along the way, minimized user training effort, and accelerated adoption. A continuous flow was maintained to ensure individual business units and department stakeholders regularly received converted reports in a phased manner for their validation and feedback. This also helped with the early detection of issues and quick turnaround.
The DataTerrain advantage
After the successful on-time and on-budget completion of this project, the customer noted the following as key differentiators brought by DataTerrain –
1.) Deep technical knowledge – DataTerrain SMEs brought in-depth knowledge of both the source and target systems which helped accelerate the resolution of technical issues and helped address tool limitations. For example, for a unique multi-tab report formatting need, DataTerrain provided a solution that ensured the look and feel in Cognos matched what the users had in Crystal reports. Besides, DataTerrain SMEs also resolved a few performance issues to reduce report run times.
2.) Value-adds and customizations – The DataTerrain team used the time saved through automation to address a few long-pending changes that helped improve the productivity of users and accelerated adoption of the new system
3.) Global delivery model – DataTerrain resources from the global delivery centers allowed project tasks to be executed 24X7 using a follow the sun model. This accelerated the pace of the project and helped complete it on time.
DataTerrain helped the customer save resources and budget with a rapid and seamless transition from SAP Webi/Deski/Crystal reports to Cognos reports. The client now has a scalable platform that its employees and agents can use in the new normal and expand their business through enhanced customer service.