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PASSPORT Automates Extraction and Transformation Processes for BCBS of Alabama

Published
  • July 01 1999, 1:00am EDT

BACKGROUND: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBS) is the largest provider of healthcare and dental benefits in Alabama. It provides coverage to more than 2.5 million people and more than 19,500 companies. With its corporate-wide commitment to excellent customer service, the company has retained more than 98 percent of its customers since 1990. In order to continue to provide an outstanding level of service and value, and to maintain its competitive advantage, BCBS decided to build an enterprise-wide data warehouse. Specifically, BCBS wanted to improve the turnaround time for customized care reports and response to customer inquiries. In addition, virtually all divisions needed the ability to analyze claims information to better identify and manage costs. By developing the warehouse to manage the data, BCBS was also able to more effectively tailor programs for their customers.

PLATFORMS: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama operates PASSPORT on IBM's DB2 platform.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Before the data warehouse could be populated, BCBS faced significant challenges in extracting, cleansing and transforming the data that resided on 25-year-old legacy systems. Furthermore, claim numbers, group numbers, provider codes, etc., varied greatly from system to system, and inconsistencies threatened to negate the reliability and usefulness of the data warehouse. Not only was the information at risk, the significant volumes of data to be stored made hand coding impossible and general transformation programs inefficient.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: BCBS populates several data marts in DB2 on nightly, weekly and monthly cycles. The load files for DB2 are created by COBOL programs generated from the transformation and extraction logic coded within PASSPORT. PASSPORT was able to efficiently extract significant volumes of data to accommodate the demanding batch windows BCBS required. With its DB2 load format option, unique single-pass processing capability in the match merge process and its powerful validation capabilities to handle simple to complex transformations, PASSPORT increased developer productivity by 25 percent.

STRENGTHS: The ability to automate the extraction and transformation process much quicker and cleaner than traditional hand coding or other transformation programs is a strength. Since PASSPORT is platform-independent, it provides the flexibility to change from a mainframe data warehouse to an open systems environment in the future. In addition, the ability to generate a DB2 load data set in unload format reduces the load time for the data.

WEAKNESSES: Generated COBOL code is sometimes complex and difficult to read. When needed, debugging the COBOL code generated can be difficult.

SELECTION CRITERIA: PASSPORT was selected for its ability to handle complex legacy data types, including dates in various formats, without significant effort on the part of the developer and the ability to easily change the target environment of the object. The ability to generate a DB2 load format for loads is also an important feature.

DELIVERABLES: PASSPORT extracts mainframe legacy data (VSAM, sequential and unloaded operational DB2 data) for match/merge processing. It produces files that are then loaded into the new enterprise-wide data warehouse.

VENDOR SUPPORT: One of the reasons BCBS selected PASSPORT was the commitment and responsiveness of Carleton's professional services consultants who assisted with the initial implementation to ensure that BCBS project teams were well versed in PASSPORT's abilities. Consequently, the project team at BCBS was able to quickly become self-sufficient.

DOCUMENTATION: PASSPORT's on-line documentation comes in portable document format (PDF) and is easy to navigate and understand. The product could be used easily with the documentation, but prior exposure to the concepts and structure would be helpful.

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