Published on 30-Nov-2010
"After IBM InfoSphere Federation Server was introduced, just one employee could easily compile an up-to-date integrated business intelligence report, a task that previously took a team of more than ten employees." - —Wang Daonan, CIO, Taikang Life Insurance
Taikang Life Insurance Co Ltd. (Taikang)
When the company had been just established, the IT department focused on developing applications that can operate several business departments. Rather than integrating different system, the focus was on operating the systems. Various life insurance business departments of the company each utilized a different information management system. Among these, there were IBM® DB2® and IBM Informix®, operating on IBM System i® and IBM System p® hardware platforms.
Life insurance company needed to improve employee productivity and enhance customer service and business development opportunities by viewing all its customer and corporate information together regardless of what department it came from.
The company integrated data located in different database systems into a single central view, enabling easy access to company data and customer-related data. The data are automatically combined and provided on a real-time basis.
10x faster building of real-time, comprehensive reports; Reduction in IT costs; Faster development of new applications; New revenue from cross-selling and up-selling customers
China, after recently joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) and opening its relations, has entered a new chapter of history. Now China’s life insurance companies are fiercely competing against international insurance companies. However, one of the most famous insurance companies, Taikang Life Insurance Co Ltd. (Taikang) is riding a steep growth curve. Established in 1996 with its headquarters in Beijing, Taikang quickly grew to be one of the biggest insurance companies in the Chinese domestic market. This company, which has approximately 8,000 employees and more than 3.5 million customers, sells life insurance and pension insurance and health insurance products using a network consisting of 120 branch offices located all across China and more than 150,000 independent designers.
Information silos create growing problems
Wang Daonan, CIO of Taikang, says that there were many hardships the company had to overcome in order to grow to its current size in just seven years. When the company had been just established, the IT department focused on developing applications that can operate several business departments. Rather than integrating different system, the focus was on operating the systems. Various life insurance business departments of the company each utilized a different information management system. Among these, there were IBM® DB2® and IBM Informix®, operating on IBM System i® and IBM System p® hardware platforms.
As the company grew in size, it became difficult for departments to share information with each other because the systems were operated like separate information silos. Additionally, the IT department was swamped with the task of managing the applications that were growing more complicated by day and adding new functions, like online system for customers. The department did not have the necessary resources to integrate different systems.
“Additionally, it took a lot of time and effort to draft business reports under different system environments,” says Wang. “In other words, it took 10 employees several weeks collecting data to generate a report. Because it took such a long time to generate reports, it was difficult to quickly respond to changing market environments. By the time the managers collected the data, the situation on the ground could have already changed.”
Needing better information access
Because the applications for each department were each developed using different tools, the system environment became even more complex. Additionally, customer information was stored in many different formats: for example, fax and email were converted to XML after Taikang call center received them, while updated information received by the company’s website was stored in SQL format.
“In order for our company to grow in the fiercely competitive life insurance market, it was necessary to have a way to combine all data and to clearly analyze customers and related services,” says Wang. “However, it was very inconvenient and possibly very costly to transmit this information to a single database. We needed to improve the access method for business information without making any drastic change to the existing IT infrastructure. After IBM InfoSphere™ Federation Server was introduced, just one employee could easily compile an up-to-date integrated business intelligence report, a task that previously took a team of more than ten employees. Because we could use information in a timely manner, our strategic business decision making and business analysis activities have greatly improved.”
Improving employee productivity and responsiveness
Taikang’s business and IT departments conducted a very thorough analysis of the internal demands before evaluating various solutions that would meet its needs. At the end, Taikang requested IBM, with whom it was a long-time partner, to integrate the data silos using IBM InfoSphere Federation Server Advanced Edition Version 8.1. This software was executed using IBM System p server. IBM ensured that the new solution would be successful by providing comprehensive support, both in business and in technical aspects, with employees located in China and in the United States.
Taikang, currently using InfoSphere Federation Server, integrated data located in different database systems into a single central warehouse, enabling easy access to company data and customer-related data. Taikang was able to fully take advantage of the exceptional processing function and interoperability of InfoSphere Federation Server, making it possible to make real-time access regardless of where the various data are located, as if they were all stored in a single database.
“Thanks to InfoSphere Federation Server, it feels as if all data are stored in a single database,” says Wang. “Accordingly, employees can easily access information important for work from various different departments of the company. Because of that, we are able to reduce IT costs and at the same time promptly respond to and take advantage of a rapidly changing business environment.”
IBM InfoSphere Federation Server, which enables a single integrated view to verify the details of communications between various different departments and customers, greatly improved Taikang employee productivity and responsiveness. “Even if employees are in different departments, they can access customer information and share it in real time, meaning that their ability to cooperate together as in a single team is greatly enhanced,” says Wang. “Now employees have a 360-degree view of customers’ activities and preferences, meaning the customer service level has been greatly improved.”
Improving customer service
For Taikang, which has always placed the highest priority on customer service, this change is very significant. Thanks to its information integration platform, Taikang was able to enhance its customer service and at the same time provide standardized services to each individual customer.
The new integrated data architecture of Taikang is expected to help the company’s employees work in a more efficient manner, because they are for the first time able to analyze the most recent information on the overall company status. New applications built based on InfoSphere Federation Server send text messages every day to the highest level management of Taikang. Updated news include sales figures, personnel information and all other major business indices of the company sent by all branch offices. The data are automatically combined and provided on a real-time basis.
“People were raining praises on the newly provided daily business snapshot service,” says Wang. “This would have been impossible without InfoSphere Federation Server.”
The introduction of InfoSphere Federation Server reduced the time it took to develop new applications and simplified and stabilized the data architecture, positively affecting the IT environment. “Thanks to the flexibility and expandability of InfoSphere Federation Server, we believe we will be able to satisfy changing user demands,” says Wang.
Creating a foundation for future growth
By utilizing this new solution, Taikang has enhanced its prestige as the first company that achieved nationwide data integration, and was reborn as a leader of the new technology. Through InfoSphere Federation Server, Taikang has established a firm, future-oriented foundation. The company is planning to develop new applications, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system, based on InfoSphere Federation Server. Establishing a CRM system would have been virtually impossible under the old conditions, where customer information was scattered across numerous databases.
“The newly established CRM system will be mainly used to sort out major customers to up-sell new products, helping us provide services that are differentiated for each customer,” says Wang. “If this is successful, we will be able to pioneer new business opportunities while further enhancing customer satisfaction.”
The size of China’s potential insurance market is tremendous. Taikang, having secured a new ability to integrate all of its information assets, is in an advantageous position to continue its historical rapid growth. “Thanks to InfoSphere Federation Server Version 8.1, we can now utilize the company information to the maximum extent possible,” says Wang. “We have been reborn as a more effective, intelligent and responsive company.”
IBM® System i® servers
IBM System p® servers
IBM InfoSphere™ Federation Server
For more information
Contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at: ibm.com/software/data/infosphere/federation-server
You can get even more out of Information Management software by participating in independently run Information Management User Groups around the world. Learn about opportunities near you at: ibm.com/software/data/usergroup
Additionally, IBM Global Financing can tailor financing solutions to your specific IT needs. For more information on great rates, flexible payment plans and loans, and asset buyback and disposal, visit: ibm.com/financing
For more information on the IFCA, visit: www.taikang.com/life/
Additionally, financing solutions from IBM Global Financing can enable effective cash management, protection from technology obsolescence, improved total cost of ownership and return on investment. Also, our Global Asset Recovery Services help address environmental concerns with new, more energy-efficient solutions. For more information on IBM Global Financing, visit: ibm.com/financing
Products and services used
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2010 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America September 2010 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, DB2, Informix, InfoSphere, System i and System p are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Other product, company or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. This case study is an example of how one customer uses IBM products. There is no guarantee of comparable results. References in this publication to IBM products and services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. IMC14562-USEN-00