This is an article from the June 2006 issue of DM Review's Extended Edition. Click on this link for more information on DMR Extended Edition or to download this issue in a PDF format.

Founded in 1909, Mutual of Omaha is a full-service, multiline organization providing insurance and financial services products for individuals, businesses and groups.

Mutual of Omaha's culture is derived from its midwestern roots. As such, we believe superior customer service is a key to success - a mantra that permeates all aspects of our business. For the IT department, this mantra means guaranteeing system availability for more than 6,000 internal and external technology users.

The infrastructure at Mutual of Omaha is a complex, heterogeneous environment that includes a large mainframe running core business applications, more than 100 UNIX servers (running Solaris and AIX) and 400 Microsoft Windows 2000 servers. Therefore, aside from the normal technological advances, the biggest challenge in our environment in recent years is system availability and the pressures to make sure that we provide it. To deliver value and service to our customers, we must be proactive in our infrastructure management, rather than reactive. A proactive approach helps us get closer to aligning our IT services with business priorities.

Reacting to years of rapid growth, our IT department had pieced together a management solution based on point products from numerous vendors. We soon realized the management system was on the verge of creating more management, productivity and availability challenges than it was solving. Our department set out to design and implement an infrastructure monitoring and management system that facilitated management to improve system availability and customer experiences.

After evaluating several vendor solutions, we partnered with BMC Software because their products have the necessary architecture for meeting our challenges and the flexibility to branch into other technologies. We first deployed BMC Performance Manager and BMC SQL-BackTrack solutions and saw significant improvements. The new systems management solution gives our systems programmers a complete view of the IT infrastructure and their respective environments so they are more proactive. Today, 90 percent of the instances when customers call IT with a problem, the programmers are already aware of the issue and working on resolution.

Capacity and planning were also key priorities, so we installed BMC Performance Assurance to model and project growth and workload placement to prevent overbuying and maximize existing resources. We estimate these assertive capabilities saved Mutual of Omaha a tremendous amount in operating expenses in the first few months alone.

As with many organizations, we were facing shrinking maintenance windows, larger databases and increases in mission-critical systems. By tapping BMC SQL-BackTrack, we have been able to automate recovery efforts, reduce manual errors and increase backup performance while minimizing overall impact to the database. With the new solution, the company reduced its database downtime by 66 percent or 10,445 hours and reduced problem tickets by 60 percent or 769 tickets.

Overall, our new infrastructure management systems has allowed Mutual of Omaha to get ahead of problems rather than always reacting to calls for help. We have realized a significant cost savings and have been able to provide the level of availability that our customers demand.

Based on our experience, we recommend having a complete view of the IT environment to manage any issues that arise. This ability to view and manage the entire enterprise can result in substantial savings, improved capacity management, increased efficiency, significant cost avoidance and the capability to provide the level of customer service that is required in the competitive insurance industry.

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