REVIEWER: Harry Johns, manager of Insurance Information Technologies, AAA Carolinas.

BACKGROUND: An affiliate of the American Automobile Association, AAA Carolinas was founded in 1922 as a not-for-profit organization that now serves nearly 1.5 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services and is an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

HARDWARE PLATFORMS: IBM eServer iSeries 810.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With 30 regional offices, AAA Carolinas is a small to medium-sized (SMB) business with less than 1,000 employees that operates as both an insurer and an independent agency. AAA Carolinas was challenged by an increasingly competitive national market offering lower rates or better service, an inability to support its agents' need to respond to customers on demand with competitive quotes and an outdated, paper-based approach to tracking and documenting information. To enable AAA Carolinas to address these challenges and achieve its business goals of higher customer retention and satisfaction as well as revenue growth, the unit used IBM's WebSphere software and iSeries hardware to link information throughout its offices. For example, because insurance rates are set by the states, there is little margin for competitive pricing on individual policies. However, by cross-referencing customer information, AAA Carolinas develops unique offers based on customers' individual needs.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: As the foundation of the IBM WebSphere software platform, WebSphere Application Server delivers the secure, scalable, resilient application infrastructure you need for a service-oriented architecture (SOA). AAA Carolinas has transformed its business in a way that saves money, increases revenue and improves customer retention. Specifically, the technology investments paid for themselves in less than two months, have reduced AAA Carolinas' clients' average policy processing time from weeks down to hours and save an estimated $20,000 per year that was previously allocated to off-site storage of paper documentation. AAA Carolinas' technology transformation project has been by far the company's most significant and successful business initiative, and the results, including a 60 percent customer acquisition and retention spike, speak for themselves.

STRENGTHS: WebSphere Application Server leverages the industry's premier J2EE and Web services application platform to help build, run, integrate and manage dynamic, on-demand business applications. The software allows users to build and deploy reusable application services quickly and easily with a simple set of tools and interfaces. It also allows users to run services in a reliable, scalable, highly available environment to ensure business opportunities are not lost due to application downtime. Further, it manages applications effortlessly with easy-to-use tools for administration and monitoring.

WEAKNESSES: Because AAA Carolinas is using the Express version of WebSphere Application Server, we are not able to fully utilize the product's capabilities to grow as the business needs evolve, which is a critical foundation to an SOA strategy.

SELECTION CRITERIA: In building an SOA, it was important that the software protect existing legacy applications while providing a standards-based foundation for easily integrating new applications into the infrastructure. Further, IBM has been a key provider of software to the insurance industry. The top 10 insurers in the world and three-quarters of the top 50 use IBM's WebSphere products.

DELIVERABLES: Through its IBM-based SOA, AAA Carolinas is better able to more quickly share critical information with sales representatives in order to more immediately offer the most competitive prices on home, health and boat insurance as well as roadside assistance and travel information.

VENDOR SUPPORT: IBM's strong business partner community was critical to the success at AAA Carolinas. RJS Software guided the implementation and provided the software that helped transform AAA. RJS Software's offering eliminated AAA Carolinas' dependence on paper-based documentation, which decreased off-site storage costs and associated administrative expenses. Working closely with AAA at every stage of implementation as well as provide ongoing support has resulted in significant time and cost savings.

DOCUMENTATION: In one afternoon, WebSphere Application Server was installed, and we quickly began our SOA journey with the help of RJS Software. The product is easy to install and use. It allows AAA Carolinas to protect its existing mainframe investments.

IBM WebSphere
Application Server
One New Orchard Road
Armonk, NY 10504
(914) 499-1900

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