PMA Re is a major, lead property, casualty and specialty reinsurer. PMA Re emphasizes problem-solving and risk management solutions to meet our clients' needs. Our underwriting expertise and service area capabilities lead to long- term relationships with clients.

For years, our management team was growing aware of technical shortcomings with our back-office legacy system ­ SOLAR (system for online treaty administration in reinsurance). Across the company, our employees ­ particularly underwriters and claim processors ­ were routinely encountering problems accessing data in the time and format needed to be effective.

SOLAR was approaching obsolescence. Written in Wang COBOL in the early 1980s, we had periodically modified it over the years. To prepare for the challenges of the new millennium, we needed a change.

We researched replacing SOLAR with a packaged system, but the commercial systems available did not offer the functionality we needed. As a result, we decided to find a partner that could help us leverage and extend our existing COBOL-based SOLAR system. We chose MERANT based on their expertise in Wang COBOL and ANSI COBOL and their leadership in developing and extending traditional COBOL applications to the Web.

PMA Re and MERANT devised a project team consisting of employees from both companies. PMA Re designated an IT project manager to work with MERANT's project manager and then identified appropriate internal resources to participate in this initiative. IT resources were selected for both their technical skills and business process knowledge. Corresponding business unit resources were identified and included in the project to help define requirements, perform design reviews and conduct testing.

After consulting with MERANT, we decided to upgrade our SOLAR system by re-hosting its various applications to an intranet application, enabling us to reuse the business logic within SOLAR and two decades' worth of legacy code. The new system, PMA Reinsurance System (PreS), was developed using a variety of MERANT tools and services.

The quality of information captured and processed as well as the quality of business process effectiveness were used to determine success. User feedback regarding ease of use, efficiency, timeliness and accuracy was gathered upon implementation. Daily, weekly and monthly results were compared between our old and new systems to verify accuracy. This was done during an initial parallel production period, after which the old system was shut down.

MERANT's Micro Focus Revolve product, designed to help programmers bridge the knowledge gap between legacy and Web-based systems, enabled us to mine through our COBOL-based SOLAR system, understand the system's business logic and determine what components we wanted to extend to our new Web-based system. MERANT's Micro Focus Net Express product, a legacy-to-Web development environment, enabled us to take those core business processes written in COBOL and actually extend them to a new distributed Web-based architecture. MERANT's DataDirect Connect ODBC technology provides the data access link between our new Web-based PreS system and our enterprise databases.

Our new system has met all of our requirements. PReS allows us to enter more data into the system. It also conducts better data validation, giving us better quality data. Users can create new reports easily, retrieving all of the new data being entered into the system for more effective data analysis and improved business intelligence. In addition, PReS has helped us improve worker productivity due to reduced duplication of data entry, improve data quality as a direct result of new data validation capabilities, reduce software maintenance costs now that unnecessary code has been eliminated and enhance reporting mechanisms that contribute to better business decisions.

When planning an initiative of this magnitude, be thorough in documenting the current situation and the implications of not moving forward. While buying a packaged application is sometimes the easiest course of action, recognize the incredible business knowledge in your existing legacy and understand the ramifications of "throwing" that away. Look to leverage your legacy and evolve it to an appropriate technology platform that positions you for future opportunities.

MERANT is the leading provider of software solutions for enterprise change management; development, transformation and integration of legacy applications; and data connectivity. More than 5 million professionals use MERANT technology at 60,000 customer sites, including the entire Fortune 100 and the majority of the Global 500. Founded in 1976, MERANT has 1,700 employees and more than 600 technology partners.

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