CATEGORY: BI Tools

REVIEWER: Marc Andonian, Ph.D., assistant vice president of information services for CIGNA IntegratedCare.

BACKGROUND: CIGNA IntegratedCare, a business unit of CIGNA Corp., provides programs that integrate short- and long-term disability, workers compensation or healthcare benefits to reduce disability costs and increase productivity.

PLATFORMS: WebFOCUS is currently installed on multiprocessor Windows NT network servers, accesses data from DB2 databases on IBM MVS/TSO mainframes and flat files from IBM RS/6000 AIX systems.

PROBLEM SOLVED: CIGNA IntegratedCare built a business intelligence platform, called InfoReturns, using WebFOCUS from Information Builders (IBI). This system accesses data from multiple sources, generates reports on a schedule and delivers output to clients via e-mail. This allows CIGNA IntegratedCare to supplement and eventually replace legacy systems that produce hard-copy reports which are printed and mailed to clients. CIGNA IntegratedCare's senior management agreed to support the development of a prototype reporting system built with WebFOCUS and to expand the program as it proved itself. Once the hardware and software were procured and installed, we created more than 20 different reports in about 30 days with part-time personnel who knew the FOCUS programming language. Common report output formats include HTML, straight text, Excel spreadsheets and Adobe PDF files. Currently, we generate 500 to 1,000 reports a week (some nightly, weekly, monthly, etc.) to our pilot group of 45+ clients. Client response has been excellent, and we are planning to expand our project.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: WebFOCUS provides a robust programming language and a broad array of distribution features. The product can deliver reports through e-mail, FTP, print and can be accessed through the Internet. Our application provides key reports via e-mail to help our clients track and manage their disability costs. Clients receive information they need automatically in their e-mail. They have no need to log onto a system to specify or run reports, or to pick up output ­ though those options could be developed using WebFOCUS.

STRENGTHS: WebFOCUS lets CIGNA Integrated-Care leverage its knowledge and investment in mainframe FOCUS through code compatibility, while delivering stylized reports in a variety of formats. Report Caster lets us schedule and deliver reports to clients via e-mail, FTP or print. The system also allows us to burst a single report into sections using a sort variable and deliver subsets to individuals. The system can access any of our legacy system platforms and databases through the enterprise data access (EDA) layer. This allows us to access and integrate data from the various CIGNA systems and groups into a single report. Since the system is available on a broad array of hardware platforms and operating systems ranging from NT servers to MVS mainframes, the system is very scalable. Data access, report processing and information delivery can be distributed across various processors or environments, and code is portable.

WEAKNESSES: WebFOCUS contains a series of "assistants" or wizards to help nontechnical end users generate reports and graphs. These tools are very functional but are not as robust as some software products that compete only in this domain. These other tools, however, do not offer the powerful FOCUS 4GL programming language that can generate virtually any type of report. Report Caster accesses Microsoft Exchange and true SMTP services, but does not currently support eSMTP services that are a standard part of the widely used Microsoft IIS Web server. IBI is currently working on these issues, and enhancements are expected.

SELECTION CRITERIA: CIGNA IntegratedCare selected WebFOCUS after observing the success of a former sister division, CIGNA Property & Casualty (now ACE/INA) that used WebFOCUS to develop a state-of-the-art information system. This system demonstrated WebFOCUS' robust capability and product reliability. We needed a robust programming language that supported a variety of output formats and delivery mechanisms. We wanted to leverage existing programming knowledge and code/software investment. The tool selected needed to be portable and scalable and able to query a variety of data sources.

DELIVERABLES: WebFOCUS has helped CIGNA IntegratedCare effectively deliver actionable information to its clients to support its business and develop its relationships.

VENDOR SUPPORT: IBI demonstrated strong vendor commitment and support. In addition, IBI has excellent help desk and technical support, and is serving CIGNA IntegratedCare well.

DOCUMENTATION: IBI's documentation, help and training materials are complete. The information is available in hard copy and electronically, and is integrated into its products.

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