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Case Studies
Acxiom: Medicare Support Services
To read more about the author, Anura Gurugé, and his monthly newsletter click here

Acxiom should not be a stranger to the long-term readers of this Newsletter. Way back in the fall of 1997, Acxiom provided us with an inspiring, incisive view at then-fast-emerging field of data mining - and the virtues of using 'channel-attached' RISC/Unix parallel processors to crunch mainframe resident data. Now another division of this innovative, forward-looking, giant corporation, whose 1999 revenues were $965M, provides us with an equally insightful case study on the merits of using Internet-based host publishing [i.e. 3270-to-HTML conversion replete with extensive rejuvenation] to provide managed care organizations [e.g. HMOs] around the country with secure, cost-effective, simple and transparent access to mainframe data.

Acxiom sponsored truck

This case study yet again reiterates the incontrovertible economics and the convenience of using the Internet for remote host access - in this case coupled with host publishing, which adds icing to the cake by not requiring any sort of software download to (or installation on) the client machines. The host publishing offering being used in this instance is enableHTML, enable's Java-based [i.e. platform independent] product, which when unveiled in March of this year became the first 3rd generation 3270/5250-to-HTML conversion product on the market - and set a new standard for this important facet of Web-to-host technology. [February 2000.]

Acxiom sponsored truck

Acxiom's Medicare Support Services group (which is a part of Acxiom's Outsourcing Division) is contracted by the Federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to provide managed care organizations around the country with Medicare eligibility and enrollment information. Acxiom maintains this information, which it receives monthly from HCFA, on a mainframe. A CICS application is used to gain access to HCFA data.

The new, Internet-based, enableHTML powered Web-to-host system will go live in early October of this year. This host publishing system will take the place of the current 3270 emulator-based mainframe access scheme. With the current approach, Acxiom has to supply subscribing managed care organizations with a traditional 3270 PC emulator along with a companion VBScript.

The emulator and the VBScript had to be installed on each PC that would be used to gain access to the "HCFA" application being run on the Acxiom mainframe in Woodland Hills, CA. Once installed, the VBScript would be invoked by the PC user as the means through which to access the "HCFA" application. The VBScript would make the necessary connection to the Acxiom mainframe via a dial-up connection.

This scheme, which relied on emulation software and a VBScript having to be manually sent to each subscribing organization, was obviously error prone and very time consuming. It also did not cater for the high level of user interface rejuvenation desired by Acxiom to greatly simplify the use of this CICS application. What Acxiom wanted was a 'zero-footprint' [i.e. no emulation software of any sort at the client end] Web-to-host solution with extensive rejuvenation capability.

Serendipity on the Web

Mr. Charles Johnson, Solutions Delivery at Acxiom's Outsourcing Division, discovered enable as a result of a Web search for Web-to-host solution providers. This was serendipitous. At the time Mr. Johnson started talking to enable, in February of this year, they were just getting ready to roll out enableHTML. This, with its extensive customization capabilities and 'zero-footprint' attribute, would appear to have been tailor-made to clearly satisfy Acxiom's needs. And this has indeed proven to be the case.

The enableHTML-centric architecture to be used by Acxiom to provide subscribing managed care organizations with access to the mainframe resident "HCFA" application

Acxiom sponsored truck

The overall architecture of the enableHTML-centric solution deployed by Acxiom for the "HCFA" application is shown above. Note that encryption is being used end-to-end, browser-to-mainframe via HTTPS [i.e. SSL with HTTP] between the Web server and the browser and then SNA encryption between the 'tn' server and the mainframe.

The screen shown above along with the three screens below show the high degree of rejuvenation achieved by Acxiom using enableHTMLl in conjunction with enable's famed 'drag-and-drop' rejuvenation studio. All the rejuvenation was done by the Acxiom Medicare Support Services organization within the Professional Services Business Unit.

Mr. Vydas Marijosius, one of enable's technical maestros, whom some of you may remember from his dazzling demos that were a highlight of last fall's "Building Corporate Portals" seminar series, spent four days on site at Acxiom - installing the software, conducting training on customization and performing some general consulting. That was essentially the bulk of enable's hands-on involvement. The rest was done by Mr. Charles Johnson and his team - attesting to enable's oft-made claim of easy deployment, simple customization and quick results.

A Very Satisfied Customer
With the system ready to go live in October, Mr. Charles Johnson is extremely happy with the new system. He has nothing but good things to say about enable: "Great support so far. enableHTML is everything we expected it to be. enable is a class outfit... a good company... talented, customer oriented people."

This is a wonderful vote of confidence for enableHTML, which is now poised to make its presence felt in the Web-to-host market. There are quite a few other customers who are currently building new systems using enableHTML.

Rejuvenated screens from Acxiom

Acxiom sponsored truck


Acxiom sponsored truck


Acxiom sponsored truck

Mr. Johnson and his team deserve much kudos for locating enableHTML (on the Web) and for the sterling work they have done in creating a very pleasing, contemporary, 'point-and-click' GUI to disguise the harsh 'green-on-black' 3270 interface of the CICS application. [Echoing the health care theme of this application, the Web page background chosen by Acxiom looks like and has the texture of plaster of Paris à la a cast.] As of now, these Acxiom screens should serve as a great example of the level of rejuvenation sophistication that can really and readily be achieved with today's host publishing solutions - such as enableHTML.

Acxiom - the Leader in Customer Data Integration
Acxiom Corporation® (Nasdaq: ACXM and www.acxiom.com) is a global leader in real-time Customer Data Integration (CDI) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) through the provision of database marketing services, advanced technologies, and data content. Acxiom's forte is in enabling businesses to develop and deepen customer relationships by instantly creating a single, accurate view of their customers across the enterprise. The October 1997 case study of data mining by Acxiom highlights Acxiom's use of cutting edge technology - in this instance channel-attached Unix parallel processors - to extract buried 'non-obvious' customer data.

Acxiom sponsored truck

Acxiom helps FORTUNE 500 and other leading companies manage their customer relationships cross multiple 'channels' including the Internet, call centers, and retail outlets. Acxiom achieves this by providing data integration technology, database management services, and premier data content through its AbiliTecSM, Solvitur®4, and InfoBase™ products, while also offering a broad range of information technology outsourcing services. The "HCFA" application featured in this case study falls under Acxiom's Outsourcing Division. Acxiom purchased this "HCFA" operation from Litton Corporation in December of 1999.

Founded in 1969, Acxiom is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. It currently employs around 5,600 associates worldwide and had revenues of $998.5 million for the twelve months ended June 30, 2000. It has locations throughout the U.S., in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Australia.

Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA)
The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) is the federal agency that administers Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). It provides health insurance for over 74 million Americans through Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP. The majority of these people receive their benefits through the fee-for-service delivery system; however, an increasing number are choosing managed care plans. The Acxiom "HCFA" application featured here facilitates the running of this managed care option.

In addition to providing health insurance, HCFA also performs a number of quality-focused activities, including regulation of laboratory testing, surveys and certification of health care facilities (including nursing homes, home health agencies, intermediate care facilities for the mentally retarded, and hospitals), development of coverage policies, and quality-of-care improvement.

Bottom Line
This is another resounding endorsement for today's Web-to-host technology - in this case 3rd generation host publishing. It also confirms the rejuvenation prowess of enable technology. Mr. Charles Johnson and his team have made Acxiom and their clients proud with this top-notch Web-to-host system.

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