Case Study Covéa
“The initial UAT feedback is great, even the team who initially worked with Oracle are really pleased with the results.“ Andrew Tomlin, Business Intelligence Systems Manager
Project OverviewServing over 1 million policyholders, Business Intelligence forms a critical part of Covéa Insurance’s plans to grow their already successful business.
Covéa Insurance’s UK operation was facing a challenge in that its two sites; Reading and Halifax, were running on separate database platforms. With the task of selecting a solution that would bring these parts of the business into alignment and create a robust, scalable platform for Covéa Insurance’s expansion plans, Andrew Tomlin (Business Intelligence Systems Manager) and the project team at Covéa Insurance put together a rigorous selection process.
“The first thing we needed to do,” explains Andrew, “was decide which platform we were going to place our data warehouse bets on. With a mixture of SQL Server 2005 and Oracle in use, and such a strategic project at stake, we decided it was appropriate to research the entire market.”
Covéa Insurance then undertook a 9 month process of thoroughly researching all available BI solution vendors, producing papers at each stage so they could clearly benchmark each solution.
Thanks to this process, Andrew and the team felt confident in their final assessment.
“We took the decision to continue with the SQL Server suite of products due to our existing skillset, the lower costs associated with SQL and the number of successful implementations already in the market.”
What the project team needed next was the right partner to help achieve Covéa Insurance’s vision: “To make sure we got a partner with the requisite skills, we contacted our Microsoft Account Manager who recommended Coeo and as soon as we met them we were impressed. We liked the fact that Coeo had worked with other organisations in our industry and were clearly committed to the Microsoft platform.”
Once the project team had explained to Coeo that their requirements went beyond simple consolidation into providing a highly scalable platform capable of dealing with massive amounts of data queries, Coeo recommended the Microsoft Analytics Platform System (Microsoft APS) as it would offer immediate efficiencies as well providing enterprise-grade scalability for the future.
“The last thing that Covéa Insurance wanted was an appliance that was just sitting around waiting for the project to be ready” explains Matt Simpson, Principal BI Consultant at Coeo, “this enterprise data warehouse initiative was a strategic project for Covéa Insurance and it was important we landed the solution on a platform we knew would scale as data volumes and number of users increased. Microsoft APS delivers a pre-built appliance solution that reduces both time and complexity to deliver BI projects – this meant we could make sure that Covéa Insurance would begin to realise ROI within the very first phase of the project.”
Keen to ensure that Covéa Insurance got to see the full potential of what Microsoft APS could deliver, Coeo worked with Microsoft to organise a Proof of Concept that would showcase Microsoft APS’s capabilities in the context of Covéa Insurance’s requirements. “Coeo’s close relationship with Microsoft really worked for us,” says Andrew, “it meant that we got great access to information that I’m not sure we would have got with another partner.”
“Our close relationship with Microsoft is so important to us,” agrees Matt, “it means that our clients receive the best advice and guidance available.”
With the POC completed, Coeo worked with Covéa Insurance to get Phase 1 of the project underway: migrating Covéa Insurance’s existing data to the new appliance. “The initial UAT feedback is great,” says Andrew “even the team who initially worked with Oracle are really pleased with the results.”
Alongside the change in technology, Covéa Insurance wanted to do things really differently when it came to the overall running of the project.
Andrew picks up the story: “Because this is a significant, long-term project, we wanted to demonstrate value to the business immediately. We thought that using Agile principles would achieve this for us but were unsure which methodology would work best, so we asked Coeo what their experiences were. What we hadn’t expected was for Coeo to have such indepth knowledge within their team – their specialists were able to walk us through a whole series of Agile disciplines to help us decide, and together we determined that Kanban would be the most appropriate choice. This was a real bonus as it meant that we didn’t need to engage a third party or spend time bringing Coeo up to speed.”
This new, iterative Kanban approach means that Andrew and the IT team at Covéa Insurance are working much more closely with the business on a day to day basis and there is no longer a lag between project scoping and delivery. By working on fixed project components that take a few weeks, rather than months, the business sponsors at Covéa Insurance see regular results. This adds to the sense of achievement and momentum, and means the project is absolutely right-sized for the organisation.
From disparate systems to a super-scale, super performance BI platform that opens up new markets.
Covéa Insurance had a number of objectives:
- Create a single data warehouse
- Introduce Kanban methodology to the business
- Achieve ROI <2 years
- Create a platform that would enable them to take the business into new markets
- Microsoft Analytics Platform System (APS)
- SQL Server Database Engine
- SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS)
- SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS)
- A Dedicated Engineer deployed into Covéa Insurance for a number of days each month, across the course of a year to assist with strategic planning and technical roadmaps
The performance improvements achieved during phase 1 have been remarked upon by everyone – month end reporting cubes that could take anything up to 24 hours have been cut right back to a far more manageable 4-5 hours and analytics reports have been cut from half an hour to a couple of minutes.
There are also fantastic benefits from the consolidation of data across locations; as well as faster query speeds, the introduction of Master Data Services, common language and shared methodologies has made the data infinitely more useful to the business.
The next stage will be to create a consolidated data warehouse for Covéa Insurance that runs up to 100x faster than their previous solution, provides near realtime reporting and a centralised, secure, super-performing platform to take their business forward.
Thanks to the scale and coverage that is inherent with Microsoft APS, the solution will last Covéa Insurance beyond five years with no extra hardware needed. And by using the Kanban methodology, they will continue to benefit from enhancements that deliver time after time to the business.
“I’ve been really pleased with the success of the project so far,” Andrew concludes, “I can see that what we’re building today means that the large volumes of data we’re expecting will be easy to manage and users are already benefiting from vastly improved query performance times. Coeo really have made our lives easier.”
- Time taken for month-end cube process reduced by 80%
- Time to produce analytics reports reduced from 10-30 minutes to 1-2 minutes
- Scalability to support Covéa Insurance’s expansion plans for >5 years
- Opportunity to test, and successfully introduce, agile Kanban methodology
- Improved master data services and consolidation of data across sites