MMI Holdings Limited (MMI) is a leading South African based financial services group. MMI was formed in 2010 through the merger of Metropolitan Holdings and Momentum Group, both sizeable insurance and financial services companies in South Africa. MMI’s core businesses include: long and short-term insurance; asset management; savings; investment; healthcare administration; health risk management and employee benefits.
As a result of the merger, MMI now had two employee benefits (EB) divisions and IT systems (Metropolitan Capri and Momentum Orbit), with similar functionalities. A decision was taken to combine these divisions into Momentum EB, with the Orbit system becoming the EB platform of choice. Momentum EB was now faced with the following challenges:
- Migrating information from the Capri system to the Orbit system.
- Maintaining the Capri system for the duration of the migration to Orbit.
- Ensuring employee motivation, retention and job security for the Metropolitan IT team working on the Capri system.
Alacrity, a privately held technology solutions, services and consulting company, who had a long standing working relationship with Momentum and Metropolitan, was approached by MMI to advise and assist in finding viable, long-term solutions to these challenges. The outcome of these discussions resulted in the following:
- Alacrity would be awarded a four-year service-based outsource contract for the critical support and maintenance of the Capri system for the duration of the migration to the Orbit system.
- Alacrity would offer permanent employment positions to the Metropolitan IT staff working on the Capri system.
- A new contractual working relationship between Alacrity and Momentum was established.
KEY SUCCESS INDICATORS AND FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES:
This arrangement benefitted all parties concerned:
- Momentum were able to mitigate the risks associated with maintaining a system that would be sunset over a period of 4 years, thereby preventing any potential reputational or financial loss due to a lack of support for Capri. It also ensured that required statutory and business enhancements to Capri could continue.
- Momentum could concentrate on the development of the Orbit system to accommodate the Metroplitan EB business migration and ensure the stabilization and growth of the newly combined business.
- Alacrity could offer job security through longer term employment and career opportunities for the Metropolitan IT team that moved over to Alacrity.
- Through the outsource contract with Alacrity, Momentum was able to retain access to all the business and system IP and knowledge, together with well-defined development, maintenance and support processes, that had been subjected to scrutiny, and passed by Metropolitan’s external auditors.
- Alacrity gained profitable new business opportunities and access to additional skilled resources, who, in the future, would be able to be deployed at other clients.
Further services and projects, within other parts of the MMI group, have been contracted to Alacrity as a result of the reputation gained through this successful sunset outsource contract with Momentum.
|CAPRI PLATFORM:||EMPLOYEE BENEFITS BUSINESS FUNCTIONS SUPPORTED:|
“The key objectives of managing staff and retaining skills during an extended migration project was achieved with great professionalism by Alacrity. The fact that they themselves underwent some changes during this contract period underlines the quality and commitment of the management team at Alacrity. It was a pleasure working with everyone on this project and it was especially reassuring to note how they catered for the people they inherited as part of the contract – shaping new careers for individuals, whilst still ensuring a well-managed hand over of skills. My lasting impression was one of a company willing and able to make things work despite the inevitable changes and challenges encountered during such a long contract.”
– Heinz Seldte, IT Co-ordinator Momentum EB
Based in the UK, red24 is a leading risk management company that delivers a range of products and services to businesses, organisations and individuals around the world. They assist clients in minimising risks to their personnel, operations and profitability, and have a global network of multi-disciplinary vetted consultants. Their services include: travel safety; kidnap resolution and mitigation; food crisis management; cyber security assistance; corporate investigations; and due diligence.
TravelTracker, a red24 online tracking and location system, that helps organisations mitigate the risks employees face when travelling abroad, was becoming increasingly unstable and difficult to maintain. The original architecture could no longer support the various functional and non-functional additions to the system, nor allow for any future enhancements to be made. As this is a core, business-critical system for the organisation, the instability was becoming a significant risk for red24.
- A high level investigation was performed on the existing TravelTracker system and business requirements, to determine the scope of the project and the challenges faced by the business. This allowed Alacrity to provide some insight into the extent of the work, and enabled the two organisations to determine the best way to proceed with the refresh.
- Subsequently, a more thorough analysis was carried out in order to define all detailed functional system requirements, and provide red24 with comprehensive estimates of effort and cost.
- New technology and architecture recommendations were made, based on Alacrity’s comprehensive analysis, and agreed with red24 prior to development commencing.
- The development and testing of the system occurred on an iterative basis – throughout the project, continuous progress discussions and consistent involvement in the ongoing testing of the solution, by both Alacrity and the client, ensured full transparency on all aspects of the project, and guaranteed that red24 received a product fully relevant to their needs.
The end result was that a more robust, maintainable and functionally relevant TravelTracker system was developed and implemented for red24. The new system now allowed for future business enhancements and changes to be seamlessly implemented. Aspects such as integration with third party products and mobile deployment, that were previously impossible or difficult to manage, could now easily be handled and executed within the new system framework. Ultimately, the success of this project significantly reduced the hassle, cost and risk, to red24, of managing their TravelTracker business.
“The redesigned system from Alacrity allows for greater visibility and front-end control, which enables our non-technical personnel to work with the system configuration, thereby resulting in a faster turnaround time on new client implementations and ongoing client support”
– Jeremy Eastman, Special Projects Manager, red24
Sanlam, head-officed in Cape Town, is a leading South Africa-based financial services group. Since its establishment in 1918, it has developed over time from a traditional life insurance company to an international diversified financial services business. Through its main business clusters (Sanlam Personal Finance, Sanlam Emerging Markets, Sanlam Investments, Sanlam Corporate, and Santam), the group provides financial solutions to individual and institutional clients across all market segments, specialising in: insurance, financial planning, retirement, trusts, wills, short-term insurance, asset management, risk management and capital market activities, investments, and wealth.
The employee benefits administration industry is based on the following premises:
- Employers will submit accurate monthly payroll data to the administrator, and
- Employers will pay over the correct contribution amounts, which correspond to the month’s payroll deductions.
Delays and inaccuracies during this important monthly process have a significant negative impact on both the cost of administration, as well as on the quality of the service provided.
Employee Benefits (EB), a division within Sanlam Corporate, was lacking an automated web solution to address these challenges, and as a result, was starting to lag behind their competitors. The business was under pressure to increase efficiency and profitability, and therefore the automation of the monthly contribution process was an important part of their strategy.
Encouraged by Alacrity’s successful track record in the financial services industry, Sanlam invited Alacrity to participate in the process of designing and developing a proof of concept (POC) solution, which would demonstrate to the Sanlam business users how the above challenges could be overcome. The following steps were taken by Alacrity to address the challenges:
- Facilitation of initial workshop with key stakeholders from Sanlam.
The main purpose of this workshop was to clearly define the business problem and ensure all stakeholders were in agreement. Once achieved, it was now possible to decide on the broad terms of the solution, and to clearly scope the POC exercise.
- POC was developed within three months.
This was a bare bones, but functional system, demonstrating the front-end system and key interfaces that were crucial to address the business problem. These key interfaces included:
– The integration to the back-end administration system, and
– Integration to the Sanlam BI system.From a functional perspective, the system demonstrated that a simple client interface, which shielded the clients from the complexities that needed to be handled by the back-end administration system, was possible.
- Introduction and implementation of Straight-Through Processing.
The POC further proved that it was possible to implement straight-through processes, effectively providing Sanlam clients with the ability to maintain their own contributions data. This also enabled Sanlam to collect the exact contribution amounts, from the client, via an automated payment process, thereby addressing one of the main business problems.This was key, as it transferred responsibility to the client for ensuring that:
a) Their data was correct and current, and
b) Their payment amounts were accurate.
- Complete business solution developed.
Following the successful completion and sign off of the POC, Alacrity was awarded the contract to build the full business solution (STeP system). This project was developed using Agile techniques, and the initial solution was implemented into production six months later. The initial solution has since been expanded considerably to handle a broader product set and further automation.
Alacrity’s successful implementation of the STeP system has had a number of very significant, positive impacts for Sanlam Employee Benefits:
- Enhanced Client Experience – a survey was run to evaluate the ‘new’ client experience. The feedback from this survey was overwhelmingly positive, with 100% of clients rating the new process as being superior to the previous manual process.
- Efficiency Improvement – as clients now updated their own contribution data, and Sanlam was no longer required to perform this manual task, this increased Sanlam’s capacity to cope with new business growth without having to expand their cost base.
- Risk Reduction – data updates were now performed directly by the client via the online administration system. This reduced the risk of Sanlam data errors, which could result in client-loss write-offs.
- Downstream Benefits – as contributions are an upstream activity within the administration value chain, improvements in data accuracy and timeliness, through stringent validations implemented in the STeP system, significantly reduced the amount of downstream rework.
SERVICES PROVIDED BY OTHER GROUPS / COMPANIES:
Although the solution design and overall program management was provided by Alacrity, it was imperative, for the success of the project, to co-operate and collaborate with the internal Sanlam IT staff, and with MIP, the vendor who supplies and supports the back-office Sanlam EB administration platform
Worldwide Chain Stores (WCS) is an internationally recognised provider of software solutions and services, dedicated to improving the performance and profitability of an organisation’s supply chain. Specialising in warehouse management, procurement and labour management solutions, WCS has an enviable history in providing world-class solutions to large organisations in North America, Europe and Africa over a 45-year period.
WCS’s 2nd generation Warehouse Management Solution, although excellent and valued by clients around the world, was based on legacy technology. This presented a challenge to the long-term sustainability of the business, as
unmaintainable technology would eventually lead to WCS’s clients moving off the solution in favour of competitor’s platforms. The technology behind this solution would need to be updated and the system redesigned in order to meet the high standards of performance and stability, critical aspects of a warehouse management system, to which WCS’s customers had come to expect and rely on.
WCS started investment on the 3rd generation offering called CSnx. It was now critical to ensure that CSnx would meet their existing customers need for a modern technology stack with rich functional capacity offering superior value.
In order to achieve this, WCS required a highly skilled and knowledgeable development team, experienced in the latest technology. Owing to the high costs and shortage of resources in the United Kingdom, WCS decided to partner with Alacrity Technologies South Africa, as they could offer high quality development
at a lower cost. In addition to these benefits, outsourcing the development of CSnx to Alacrity ensured that WCS would not be left with an excess of staff once the majority of the workload was completed.
THE TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION:
In 2014, Alacrity signed a long-term outsourcing agreement with WCS to become their development partner, thereby providing technology direction, enterprise and solution architecture services, as well as a full service set across the entire systems development life cycle (SDLC) for WCS’ warehouse management and procurement solutions. Under this arrangement, Alacrity would play an important and significant role in the development and architecture of CSnx, providing a next generation technology platform capable of automating and managing complex omni-channel supply chain operations.
The first priority was for Alacrity to port the CSnx application from an outdated IBM based EJB2/Struts solution, which could only run on DB2 and IBM WebSphere, to an open stack.
The new stack used the most up-to-date Java standard (JPA2) for database access. CSnx could now be configured to use either OpenJPA or Hibernate as JPA implementations, thereby enabling customers to configure CSnx using
their choice of database e.g. DB2, Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL etc. without any code changes.
Various features of the Spring Ecosystem were utilised for the middle tier of the application to cater for aspects such as security, data access, integration etc.
Additionally, Apache CXF was used to create all the REST and Web services, and all reporting was done via Jasper Reports. The user interface was built using Google Web Toolkit (GWT) and SmartGWT. GWT allowed for a rich web client with advanced features to be built that would run on all the popular browsers.
All the UI components in CSnx were defined in metadata, which could then be processed via a UI engine developed for this purpose. The engine used SmartGWT for desktops and plain GWT for handhelds in terms of generating the actual screens.
The new open (non-proprietary) stack allowed for CSnx to be deployed on various databases and various application servers with no change to the code. It has since been deployed on IBM WebSphere, Apache Tomcat, Oracle Weblogic and Wildfly (ex-JBoss), as well as virtual machine clusters on Google Cloud and small single servers.
The end result has been a robust, stable, high performing application that should be successful even through the most stringent international architectural audits, and has allowed WCS to offer CSnx to a variety of clients, ranging from small businesses to large enterprises. The system is easily maintainable; thereby significantly reducing cost and turnaround time for changes needed for specific implementations or roadmap related enhancements. This new system will ensure long-term sustainability for WCS, and enhance the potential to increase market share for their CSnx product.
“The Alacrity Team has integrated well with the WCS UK and US Teams and have become a critical component of our product development. We appreciate the amount of effort and hard work the team has put in so far, evidenced by the tremendous results achieved over the last few months. We have also received great positive feedback from the customer acknowledging the great work and effort put in by WCS to achieve very aggressive timelines – WCS could not have done it without the Alacrity Team”
– Joshila Makan, CEO of Worldwide Chain Stores