Micro Focus announced the successful modernization of AG’s mission-critical business systems. AG is Belgium’s largest insurance company, serving three million clients, including private individuals, small-to-medium sized enterprises, and large companies. The experience was a masterclass in how to plan, resource, and execute a major infrastructure transformation while keeping everyday business operations on track.
AG is Belgium’s largest insurance company, providing a variety of life and general insurance, as well as supplementary pensions. It has operated in the Belgian insurance market since 1824. Its three million clients consist of private individuals, SMEs, and large companies.
Micro Focus announced the successful modernisation of AG’s mission-critical business systems
During the modernization project, critical applications comprising more than 80 million lines of code were moved from the incumbent mainframe system to new infrastructure that supports 14 million transactions per day. The project began in mid-2018 with a completion goal of four years.
Vitally, during the transition and since, there were no interruptions to daily business activities for AG or the services offered for its three million clients.
How did AG, with the help of Micro Focus, manage to run and transform so much at the same time?
Success Factor #1: Expert Replatforming
Following a series of mergers and acquisitions, in the early 2000s AG was in a close partnership with Fortis Bank (now BNP Paribas Fortis). AG benefitted from in-house COBOL-developed systems and applications, which gave it a unique competitive edge in the marketplace.
Wanting to be in control of its own future direction, AG started a project to create an autonomous IT environment separate from Fortis around 2018.
With 80 million lines of COBOL code consuming 6,000 MIPS, 60,000 daily batch operations, and valuable business intelligence embedded in the solution, the technology partnership to make the move happen was vitally important. An internal change management program was launched to support the replatforming and ensure all development and business teams were actively involved and invested in reaching the overall objectives. AG hired José Fortemps as its Head of Mainframe Replatforming to spearhead this important project.
Fortemps explained, “We evaluated several options to support our project and found that the Micro Focus Enterprise portfolio would serve our requirements best. Micro Focus has successfully migrated COBOL code into distributed, open environments for other large customers, and we felt confident that they would be the right partner for us. We had 100TB of IMS data that needed to be converted, so scalability and performance were key success factors for us. In a close alliance, our system integrator partner HP, along with Micro Focus and Microsoft, reviewed our architecture with us and agreed on a target environment that would cover development, test, acceptance, and production.”
Success Factor #2: A Data-Driven Strategy
A key requirement for the project was to architect a new environment that is open to APIs – the protocol that allows applications to share and exchange data. APIs enable close integration of operational and data analytics, forming the foundation for the data-driven company AG strives to be.
Although a transparent move was the objective, behind the scenes the benefits are clearly apparent.
At a corporate level, moving from the Fortis-hosted mainframe gave AG full autonomy over its own IT strategy. While this might have also been achieved by moving to a new mainframe hosting partner, that approach would still have left the team with the integration limitations and siloed development approach dictated by the mainframe environment.
As Philippe Van Belle, Chief Information & Technology Officer at AG, noted: “Moving our mainframe workload to Windows, supported by the Micro Focus Enterprise solutions, gives us an annual operational cost savings of over 75 percent, compared with the ongoing and rising cost of the mainframe. We expect to achieve full ROI on our investment within 4-5 years.”
Success Factor #3: Breaking Down Silos
Another vital component of transformation following the successful replatforming has been the culture change that took place within AG. Thoughtful management of the project led the infrastructure and development teams to collaborate closely.
This successful new alliance can now be capitalized upon in a modern, collaborative end-to-end development environment.
The team has seen a huge uplift in development skills and knowledge which unlocks development and operations efficiency gains, resulting in a faster time to market. The new environment is considered a differentiator in development talent retention and recruitment too, as the technology is cutting-edge and attracts a new generation of developers.
José Fortemps observed: “When so many people are involved, and the change is so huge, it is inevitable that not everyone is fully onboard from the start. It was great to see how our efforts to articulate the benefits, involve everyone, and respect everyone’s input and opinion, resulted in successfully converting any doubters to full supporters of the replatforming project.”
Success Factor #4: World-Class Solutions and Services
By using Micro Focus solutions and services, Belgium’s largest and oldest insurance provider established a contemporary, collaborative application development environment that meets the company’s current needs, while enabling continued evolution and future change.
Over 600 people contributed their expertise throughout three years of solid preparation, mostly under the shadow of COVID-19 restrictions. The final year was focused on an extensive development change management program to train the 90-strong development team on new, and more agile, development processes and educate them on the benefits of development in the new Windows environment.
All significant milestones were met, and six months before the final cutover date all production code was frozen in preparation for moving the development activities.
A few months later, the development team started work in Micro Focus Enterprise Developer, all using a modern IDE to improve application maintenance and development efficiency. Soon after the development environment, the test environment moved, which just left the production environment for the final cutover.
During a long holiday weekend, three years of preparation culminated in a four-day “big bang”-style cutover. The team prepared meticulously for this weekend, having spent the previous eight months producing a “run book” with over 20,000 tasks outlined.
As Fortemps explained, “The whole replatforming exercise has been completely transparent to our staff, our 5,000 distribution partners, and our customers. We are so proud of this phenomenal success.”
Running and Transforming at Scale
The challenges of running and transforming are formidable no matter what size the enterprise undergoing transformation. These challenges both intensify and multiply when managing transformation of an organization with operations as vast and complex as AG.
AG’s success derives from its ability to serve a broad community of corporate, institutional, and private investors, as well as an extensive network of business partners.
The company’s success in executing on a strategic transformation program that will improve its service to these communities over the coming years – without impacting its quality of service today – attests to its vision and managerial prowess.
Learn more about the successful transformation work Micro Focus and AG achieved collaboratively here.