January 10, 2014

While core business systems may be the corporate rock stars, sometimes it's the enabling solutions that make them shine. Such was the case at New Jersey Manufacturers (NJM) Insurance Group as it made the transformation from legacy systems to open solutions beginning in 2007. "We knew we'd eventually need an APM [application performance management] tool to optimize our open systems environment," explains Vito Iannuzzelli, assistant VP of IT at NJM. "We had a legacy APM but were uncertain it would meet new demands."

As the 250-employee IT staff at the West Trenton, N.J., insurer ($1.5 billion in annual written premiums) began transitioning to open systems in late 2010, a team also started evaluating the APM market. But, it soon took a pause. "Since we didn't have the entire environment in place, we decided to put the APM adoption process on hold," Iannuzzelli recalls.

Vito Iannuzzelli, NJM
Vito Iannuzzelli, NJM

By mid-2012 the situation had progressed. NJM had completed selection of major systems, such as Guidewire Software (Foster City, Calif.) suite for core insurance processes, and had started implementations. Other solutions an APM would need to support included Hyland (Westlake, Ohio) OnBase, EMC (Hopkinton, Mass.) Xpression, IBM (Armonk, N.Y) WebSphere, Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) SharePoint, HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) Service Manager and AgilePoint (Mountain View, Calif.) iBPMs.

"At that point we restarted the APM evaluation process," says Iannuzzelli. "We were interested in leapfrogging to a newer technology, so we quickly narrowed down the options to two. One tool we were familiar with because we already had it in-house. The other was Compuware (Detroit, Mich.) APM Lifecycle Performance Management. Both were compatible with a Windows Server environment, which aligned with our technology architecture."

To test Compuware's offering, NJM built an application that re-created a list of scenarios it wanted a new APM solution to address. These included memory leaks, excessive database calls and slow systems reports. In November 2012 NJM brought the Compuware APM onsite for a three day proof of concept. "The key for us was zero-touch instrumentation, down to the end-user level," says Iannuzzelli. "And, it needed to be a production solution, not development tool."

[Compuware's Kieran Taylor on leveraging APM for competitive advantage in insurance]

Next came a proof of concept that NJM expected to take three days. "Compuware APM made it through 100% of our must-have requirements and 20% of our desired functionality on the first day," Iannuzzelli says. "Needless to say, we were impressed."

After inking a deal with Compuware, implementation of the tool began in February 2013. This included obtaining a physical server for the Compuware data warehouse and eight virtual servers for data collectors. "Compuware worked with us to spec out the infrastructure," Iannuzzelli says.

For the next three months NJM implemented the software in waves. "We started with IT applications and then rolled it out by business unit and application," says Iannuzzelli. "We could've completed deployment in a weekend, but we chose to be systematic."

While there were no significant deployment challenges, an integration gap emerged. "Compuware doesn't natively integrate with HP Service Manager, which we use as part of our ITIL [IT infrastructure library] processes for support tickets," notes Iannuzzelli. "So, we're building that interface ourselves. Otherwise, Compuware's been very responsive to our needs across the board."

Regardless, the benefits have mounted up quickly. "It went from taking weeks to identify and fix a problem to about a day," Iannuzzelli says. "We've never had that type of visibility before."

Moving forward, NJM's IT team intends to further embed Compuware APM as the overall transformation continues. "By baking the tool into our development and QA processes we can identify problems before they cause any issues to move us closer to our 100% uptime goals," says Iannuzzelli.

Additionally, the data collected by Compuware APM will ultimately assist business units with making process improvements and, as a result, improving customer experiences. "For example, with ecommerce we're logging the types of technologies that are connecting, traffic patterns and regional origin of traffic," Iannuzzelli explains. "From a data mining perspective the opportunities are tremendous because we've never had such actionable data before."

In short, the deployment is a home run, Iannuzzelli says: "We've received much more value out of the tool, faster, than we ever expected."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's ...