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Application Currency: A Modernization Parable

So there you sit, in the privacy of your own office, with a metaphorical brandy in one hand and a cigar in the other. It’s been a long and expensive journey replacing those core business systems, but finally, the Big Three — Policy, Claims and Billing — are all running on the latest systems.  Unquestionably there were some ‘exciting’ moments along the way, but no flame-outs, no failed $50 million projects, all is good, your key applications are all current.

But then your “System Problem Escalation Bat Phone” rings … what now?

It looked ok then …

It seems the retirement party you attended briefly a month ago, where John, with 35 years of loyal service, was finally hanging up his keyboard, has a slightly larger impact that you thought.

It turns out that John was the only developer in your shop who knew the application that gathers and transforms the data from your nice new shiny Policy system into the Broker commission statement system. And no commission statements have been produced for 3 days!

Code conflict

Worse, it turns out the system, small and seemingly insignificant, is written in VB6. Not only was John the only VB6 guy in your shop, but Microsoft no longer supports VB6. Now, it’s true you worried about VB6 being an unsupported language, but really, this system hardly ever changes and your Microsoft rep assured you that the runtime was covered in their ‘It Just Works’ program. What could possibly go wrong?

Well it turns out that your new Windows support guy decided it would be a great idea to ensure every Windows machine in the shop is fully up to date with all the latest security updates. And, without John there, protecting the computer the VB6 application runs on, it got updated.

Although ‘It Just Works’ does assure that the VB6 runtimes ‘just work’, many if not most VB6 applications make extensive use of obsolete and unsupported components and libraries. The security updates have prevented one of those critical libraries from running and the whole application is now broken. It’s about this time that you remember what your Mother said: it’s always the little things that kill careers!

This is just a parable, right?

Is this a farfetched scenario? Well perhaps the Bat Phone bit is but it’s certainly true that every insurance company has applications other than the Big 3. And its also true that very little time or money is spent on those applications.   Are they considered “mission critical’?

Probably not but equally, they wouldn’t be running if they weren’t part of the overall need of the company.

Modern thinking is required…

Perhaps its time to implement a Modernization program for all those ‘little systems’. A strong Modernization program is effective, inexpensive and can insure that every system in your shop, not just the Big 3, has Application Currency.

 

Editor’s Note: Peter Symons is Regional Vice President – Central Canada, Mariner Innovations.  Mariner Innovations is an innovative IT services company, as well as Canada’s leading supplier of Application Modernization Services.

Peter will be presenting on Modernization Beyond Core Systems at the 2015 Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference

 

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