DE-CODER: Architecture Lines up with Business Goals

To keep pace with competitors in the annuities market, Transamerica Life Insurance Company had to find a way to leverage its legacy information systems as it forged ahead with plans to remain a key player in a faster, changing business environment that required more responsive technology.

The task
For Transamerica, that meant automating six business processes and enabling self-service for its customers, as well as the roughly 45,000 third-party agents throughout much of the U.S. that act as the company’s sales force.

To do that, Transamerica used SeeBeyond’s Integrated Composite Application Network to create a set of services on a service-oriented architecture. The suite includes tools for integration and business process management that automate and orchestrate complex business processes and workflows spanning Web services, systems, people, and companies.

The move to an SOA helps Transamerica answer respond to the business challenges of attracting and retaining customers, providing consistent access to multiple products across multiple channels, meeting customer demands for real-time information, and reducing the cost of launching new products and channels.

The goal
Jeff Gleason, director of IT strategies for the financial markets group at AEGON, Transamerica’s parent company, says he and his colleagues are trying to make the company more agile to meet the demands of agents and customers who want information quickly, and align the technical architecture with those strategic business goals for the next two years.

“Much of it has to do with the fact that our business is dependent upon third parties, basically banks and broker dealers,” Gleason says. Transamerica must customize its solutions to meet a distribution partner’s needs “quickly, efficiently and cost effectively,” Gleason notes.

Because at least 85 percent of the company’s business logic resides in its mainframe systems, Transamerica needs to accommodate both its batch and real-time systems, Gleason says.

When Gleason’s division began planning the project, his IT team immediately cited nightly batch runs as an impediment to a real-time strategy, he says. The goal was not necessarily to replace the batch systems, but to align them with modern business processes.

The next steps
Gleason’s group has completed work on seven business services that the company manages through B2B data exchanges. The next steps: Continue building business services and executing projects that cover those services. “It’ll probably take us about another year to create business services that accommodate the changes we foresee,” he says.

The SeeBeyond suite helped Transamerica’s efforts because it could handle the many complex data transformations the effort involved, according to Gleason. The company also looked at pure-play extraction, transformation and loading tools, but Gleason says that, at the time, the ETL tools they saw “provided very limited support for [an] SOA,” and many of the tools required too much coding. That wasn’t going to work since the aim was to simplify the architecture and leverage a talent pool of mostly mainframe programmers, he notes.

“Usability of the solution and reducing the complexity of the SOA were…key factors for us,” Gleason says.