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Case Studies
U.S. Auto Insurance
To read more about the author, Anura Gurugé, and his monthly newsletter click here

This is another exemplary Web-to-host case study from the insurance sector that yet again proves what a boon the Internet has been to this sector and how it is indeed opening up exciting new business opportunities for insurance companies. This case study shares many parallels with the widely known RVOS of Texas case study that was revisited in the January 2000 issue.

Like RVOS, U.S.Auto is strictly Texas-based - albeit in the auto insurance field, as apparent from its name, as opposed to farm property coverage which is RVOS' forte. As with RVOS, U.S.Auto is currently using enable's Java applet 'tn' emulator - and, not entirely coincidentally given its growing repute, both companies are evaluating the possibility of migrating to EnableHTML, a 3rd generation 3270/5250-to-HTML conversion solution, featured in the Acxiom case study. The other similarity is that just like RVOS, U.S. Auto also discovered enable through its role in providing rejuvenation for IBM's Host On-Demand.

U.S. Auto Mainframe

The enable Java applet-based mainframe access over the Internet scheme implemented by CSI Agency Services/U.S. Auto

There are, however, also two interesting and important differences, vis-à-vis Web-to-host, between these two Texan insurance companies. U.S.Auto uses an IBM S/390 Multiprise 3000 mainframe [Page 2, 11/16/1999] while RVOS uses AS/400s. Furthermore, U.S.Auto is using this enable solution to provide host access to independent insurance agents across Texas, while the RVOS system is for providing RVOS' own 300(+) agents with AS/400 access.

CSI Agency Services

The CSI Agency, based in Dallas, TX, specializes in providing auto insurance to car and truck owners in Texas. At present, it has two separate operations: Insurance Depot and U.S. Auto. Insurance Depot is their in-house, direct sales auto insurance business. Insurance Depot has its own insurance agents that operate out of 12 offices spread across Texas.

Auto Insurance Screen


Auto Insurance Screen

U.S. Auto's elegantly customized, highly intuitive and easy-to-navigate auto insurance related screens, developed with enable techology, to take the place of the textual 'green screens' displayed by the VM-based mainframe application.

The recently created U.S.Auto is explicitly geared to incisively and competitively cater for all the car insurance needs of independent insurance agents (and agencies) within Texas. The need to easily and cost-effectively reach out to these independent agents makes Internet-based mainframe access THE optimum way to implement this auto insurance system. As conclusively demonstrated by previous case studies [e.g. RVOS and Horizon Health Care (July 2000)], Internet-based mainframe access, via a standard $19.95/month (or less) ISP account (that most independent agents would already have), is by far the most economical means for remote mainframe access. Non-Internet-based remote access schemes, even using public Frame Relay networks, can cost as much as $6.50 - $10 per hour per user!

Consequently, essentially unlimited Internet based access, which comes to around $40/month per agent when one factors in the $20/month for unlimited local calling from the regional phone company, is an absolute steal. No wonder insurance companies and others are flocking to the Internet to provide remote users and field agents with host access.

The other irresistible beauty of an Internet-based 'thin-client' host access scheme, such as that adopted by U.S. Auto, is the 'zero lead-time' client activation that does not require any kind of hardware or software setup - provided the client already has a means to connect to the Internet (as most people do today). The Chickering Group, a provider of student health insurance, highlighted this as a pivotal advantage of Internet-based host access, way back in early 1998, in one of the very first Web-to-host case studies to be published [2/25/98 Newsletter]. With this Internet-based, enable-powered system, U.S.Auto can readily activate new agents, essentially on-the-fly, without any type of connection setup related delays.

More Functionality - and Thinner to Boot
The visually pleasing, very self explanatory and easy-to-navigate U.S.Auto rejuvenated screen shots shown on Figure 2 clearly demonstrate the very high level of user interface customization that was sought by U.S. Auto. The commitment to and the investment in this level of rejuvenation makes eminent business sense given that U.S. Auto's client base is made up of independent agents - most of whom are unlikely to be very familiar or partial to the harsh realities of 'undoctored' 3270 'green-on-black' screens.

The U.S.Auto rejuvenated screens obviously make their online auto insurance quotation and policy management offering competitive, compelling, easy-to-use and fast-to-use. The ROI is thus guaranteed and bountiful.

enable was not the first or only Web-to-host solution evaluated by U.S. Auto. Mr. Greg Steible, Manager of Data Processing for CSI Agency Services (and thus also U.S. Auto) and his team look at other popular Web-to-host products including IBM's Host On-Demand. They were not fully satisfied with the customization capabilities offered by these products.

Knowing that IBM licenses Host On-Demand's rejuvenation technology from enable, as does Hummingbird [11/16/1999 Newsletter], they decided to go straight to the horse's mouth, so to speak, to get the rejuvenation flexibility they were looking for. As is invariably the case when customers deal directly with enable, U.S.Auto was not to be disappointed.

U.S.Auto found that the enable Java applet based 'tn' emulator offered more functionality and moreover was 'thinner' [i.e. smaller size] than the other products that they had looked at. In addition, enable was able to further facilitate U.S. Auto's rejuvenation requirements. For example, U.S.Auto wanted to extract data from one 3270 screen and be able to easily save it in another as a part of their rejuvenation process. Some of the new features that were in the two most recent releases of the enable applet [i.e. Versions 4 and 5] came forth from requirements identified by U.S. Auto.

Best Package They Could Find
The overall architecture of U.S. Auto's enable applet-based Web-to-host solution is shown in the Figure 1. It is a by now classic and very clean scheme that is highly proven and guaranteed to deliver exceptional results.

Mr. Greg Steible and his team did the bulk of the screen customization on their own - with the two screens shown in Figure 2 testifying to the elegance, sophistication and panache of their efforts. The fact that they did most of this top-notch customization before they received any onsite training from enable vividly confirms its proud assertion as to the hallmark intuitiveness and simplicity of their customization technology. As with Acxiom, enable's onsite training at U.S. Auto was conducted by Vydas Marijosius a rising star within this stable of young, energetic and motivated technocrats.

U.S. Auto is very happy with their Web-to-host solution. Mr. Greg Steible's praise of enable's technology and people is glowing and unequivocal: "enable was the best package we could find. They made changes that we asked for. They improved their product for us. They are very good people."

Bottom Line
With resounding success stories like this, it is no wonder that more and more enterprises, especially in sectors like insurance, transport, financial services, health care, local government and service, are rushing to standardize on Internet-based host access. This case study also highlights the level of rejuvenation that can be easily achieved with high-end solutions, such as those offered by enable.

As mentioned at the start, U.S. Auto is thinking of migrating to EnableHTML down the road. The fact that U.S. Auto's current screen customization definitions for the applet offering will work, unchanged, with EnableHTML makes this potential migration that much easier to justify and realize.

All-in-all, finding enable and opting to adopt their technology was an inspired move on the part of U.S. Auto, one which will continue to pay them handsome dividends in the years to come. Mr. Greg Steible and his team deserve a hearty round of applause for the great job that they have done for their company as well as to the art and science of Web-oriented user interface rejuvenation.

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