Insurance Company Improves Portal Performance Through Monitoring

A new monitoring tool helps identify problems on internal and external portals.
Until recently, the I.T. staff at OneBeacon Insurance Group didn't have enough information to solve problems when the help desk received calls from agents about the company's Web portal.

"We had no way of identifying where the problem occurred," says Rich Ackermann, assistant VP of E-business application services for White Mountains Insurance Group subsidiary OneBeacon, which posted $3.5 billion in gross premiums in 2005. "We didn't have very good information, and user experience and application performance were somewhat of a mystery to us."

Concerned that it might lose business, the insurer began searching in 2004 for a solution to monitor its Web-based systems and quickly fix problems before too many agents were affected.

"We wanted to make sure we didn't create frustration for our agents because we certainly want them to bring their business to us," Ackermann says. The system also needed to be able to measure performance trends to help the IT group determine future demand, so it could plan for equipment upgrades.

The company's Web systems include an external portal through which independent agents can process business, and an internal employee portal for policy-writing applications and claims processing. The WebSphere-based portals used Vignette's Enterprise Content Management software suite, which is deployed on a server running IBM's AIX version of Unix.

No Modifications

After a year of searching, Ackermann identified four vendors, which he declines to name, whose products provided in-house Web monitoring and reporting capabilities. "We wanted a tool that was not intrusive and was able to monitor the end-to-end experience," he says. OneBeacon purchased Coradiant's TrueSight monitoring equipment in March 2005 because it was the only tool that could monitor both of OneBeacon's portals, as well as its network, without requiring additional software or hardware, or modifications to legacy applications.

A self-contained appliance, TrueSight monitors traffic and application performance. It allows IT staff to trace user problems so they can be resolved quickly. It also creates reports that are used to analyze performance trends. The appliance was installed in a day, although it took six weeks to determine optimum placement on the network. "In our case, we monitor both our internal and external traffic, and found that if we installed it on one of our internal network switches, we could monitor the traffic from both," Ackermann says.

Not long after TrueSight was deployed, OneBeacon's IT department put it to the test. "Our users were experiencing slow response times, so we used TrueSight to monitor the problem," Ackermann says. "We were able to fix it in a matter of hours." Cutting the time it takes IT to find and fix user problems is saving OneBeacon thousands of dollars.