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Big Blue Helps Put Customer Information on Nationwide's Side

  • April 01 2007, 1:00am EDT
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REVIEWER: Todd Okuley, director of application development, Nationwide.

BACKGROUND: Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the world, with more than $158 billion in assets. Nationwide ranks #98 on the Fortune 100 list. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services.

HARDWARE PLATFORMS: Nationwide is running WebSphere Customer Center (WCC) on AIX on IBM pSeries servers (the p630 and p650 models). The company also uses IBM's DB2 database on IBM's zSeries mainframe.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Nationwide wanted to create an up-to-the-minute, single view of its 35 million customer relationships as a means of improving customer service and cross-selling opportunities. Due to the segmented nature of Nationwide's business units, a single repository of customer data did not exist. Additionally, relationships with brokers who sell some of Nationwide's products and services required a system that would provide a view of only those products that a broker or call center representative needed to see. To achieve this goal, Nationwide selected WCC to create a single view of its customers.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: This project called for Nationwide and its systems integration partner, IBM Global Business Services, to integrate legacy customer information across its lines of business, the largest of which is the property and casualty customer information file, into WCC. WCC's matching and duplicate suspect processing algorithms are being used to aggregate customer data from 16 separate sources, while ensuring that each customer appears in its system only once. Thus far, 10 data sources have been ported into WCC, and by mid-2007, the remaining six sources will be brought in. In the future, Nationwide plans to make more use of WCC's service-oriented architecture (SOA) by porting its sales and support applications to customer information services that can be shared across the enterprise. As a result of WCC's functionality, Nationwide expects to achieve a consistent, up-to-date customer view across all of its sales and service channels, including call centers, the Internet and the offices of its network of brokers.

STRENGTHS: WCC's support for an SOA is one of its biggest selling points. WCC allowed Nationwide Insurance to enter into SOA by leveraging WCC's proven best practices.  Nationwide expects to reduce related application development and maintenance costs. Cost savings can then be reinvested in other business transformation projects. Another benefit is that Nationwide has been able to start migrating a primarily COBOL mainframe development staff to J2EE and SOA. WCC's data model is very flexible. The ability to extend WCC's data model, services and searches is very strong.

WEAKNESSES: Software alone cannot address a company's customer data integration (CDI) needs. Companies considering deploying WCC or another CDI product must be prepared to work through complex issues involving data governance, data integration and data quality. To make Nationwide's CDI initiative successful, the company's marketing department has developed company-wide standards for customer experience. These standards guide the work of Nationwide's IT department and IBM as they roll out WCC. As with any software package, there are always customer-specific requirements that may not be included and require customization. Having an understanding of the implications of WCC's extension framework takes experience.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The WCC project started as a thin enterprise customer view and SOA initial project. IBM's WCC was selected because of its proven capabilities in these areas.

DELIVERABLES: By March 2008, WCC will provide Nationwide's claims and service centers with real-time access to customer information. As part of the WCC implementation program, Nationwide is also integrating its Customer Information File with its data warehouse for analytic and cross-selling/up-selling capabilities. Upon completion of this initiative, the company will be able to mine this information to provide more targeted and better services to its customers.

VENDOR SUPPORT: IBM's support for WCC has been tremendous. IBM Global Business Services has been extremely responsive to the company's configuration and implementation needs. IBM's software team has also given the project a great deal of attention.

DOCUMENTATION: IBM's documentation for WCC is excellent, but you cannot expect to run a CDI product based on the documentation alone.

WebSphere Customer Center
1 New Orchard Road
Armonk, NY 10504
(914) 499-4100

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