Interviews

Unum: A Model of IT Evolution

3 Pages

First, lower total cost of operation would enable us to reduce costs and invest funds we saved. What’s more, increased mainframe application availability would help us deliver service to our customers faster—which is what they have been asking for. And taking that one step further, improved agility would enable us to respond quicker to customer needs while also being able to more readily implement changes to improve employee productivity.

EE: So what was required for you to move all aspects of your mainframe back in-house?

Tustin: To begin, we needed to hire a diversified IT infrastructure team. The IT infrastructure group needed to be comprised of a tightly knit team of experts within mainframe systems, but also those who were skilled in applications and distributed systems. This gave us the expertise we needed to overcome a variety of current and future technical challenges. We also recognized the benefit of having a team spread geographically, with staff located at our major office complexes and working remotely across the globe. After the team was in place, we needed to refresh the complete mainframe environment as our hardware and software were at older levels. The team spent the first year installing new hardware and bringing all mainframe software up to current levels. This in itself was a large undertaking and required the team to work almost every weekend in 2011. Once the team was in place, the mainframe transformation program was developed based on business needs and, more importantly, involving our applications architects, enterprise architects and application developers. 

The next challenge was upgrading the many pieces of software to the current level to improve operational efficiencies. In fact, we have implemented an N minus one policy so we are running current versions of software because it helps us reduce costs. There were also software solutions that the outsourcer owned that we needed, causing us to license new software. Of course, all the software had to be implemented as well, which takes a great deal of time to finish. There have been many long days, but the benefits are clearly being realized.

EE: Were there other challenges that had to be considered?

Tustin: Yes, at the same time, the economic climate dictated that we had to operate with very tight budgets. We had to be very methodical in executing the plan so that each dollar spent was truly the most cost-effective way of achieving the desired outcome. Sometimes budgets were reduced and we had to make adjustments along the way to continue progressing toward our goal. Yet, through all these challenges, the total cost of operation is clearly less.

EE: What will be the result of the mainframe transformation program?

Tustin: First and foremost, high availability for our mainframe applications. Although the mainframe already delivers a high standard of availability, the program will take it to the next level by allowing us to route work to the server that can most efficiently satisfy the request. We will finally have the opportunity to reduce, if not eliminate, planned mainframe down time because we will be able to perform system and application maintenance while also servicing the business. Mainframe computing availability, scalability and performance will improve, enabling us to enhance service to our customers and increase employee productivity. When our mainframe environment was outsourced and we needed to initiate a project, add capacity or implement something new, we had to take time to negotiate with the outsourcer and wait for their staff to implement the desired change. That hampered our ability to move quickly to provide the business with solutions they required in a timely and cost-effective manner. 

Today, we can make the decision in-house to make a change and use our own staff for implementation. For example, a business unit wanted to add a development environment to one of our mainframes. We were able to completely satisfy the business unit’s request in about a month, greatly decreasing the time it would have taken had our mainframe environment still been outsourced. Since the additional development environment could be added quickly, we were able to have another positive impact on improving customer service and employee productivity.

EE: You stated you had two major projects—the second being focused on improving automation. Tell us what you have done with automation.

3 Pages