This project is particularly strategic for a company like ours that is always looking for ways to streamline its management. Our nonprofit status enables us to concentrate on quality of service and our customer relationships, while reducing our costs. For example, with open source we save approximately €400,000 ($515,000) on the cost of licenses for the applications hosted on our servers. We will realize the same sort of economies with our workstations when we amortize the cost of training employees.Eric Onselaer, CIO
A provider of Health Insurance
With more than 70 years experience in the field of health insurance, Landes Mutualité is known for reliability (94% of its members were satisfied with their coverage in 2007), for the quality of its services, and for its innovative preventive programs. Its merger in 2008 with the student insurance company, Vittavi, created Vittavi-Mutualité which today has 180 employees based in 20 agencies across southwestern France. The Group serves approximately 180,000 customers, including 450 companies, and has revenues of €55 million ($70 million). With €33 million ($42 million) in invested funds the Group guarantees benefits to its members, while subsidizing current development and future innovation.
Technically, this combination was neither a merger nor an acquisition, but a pooling of resources intended to develop Vittavi-Mutualité's activities in two areas: expanding their target customer (students, young professionals, middle managers, and executives); and distribution channels (branches and the Internet). In practical terms, the two businesses have pooled their personnel and their IT systems, and combined strategies.
A long-time supporter of open source
In 2004, Landes Mutualité's Board of Directors decided that implementing open source technology was strategically important. Roll-out was gradual - first the servers were migrated to Linux; then voicemail and office tools; and, finally, in June 2007 the workstations were equipped with the Ubuntu OS. Vittavi employees now also use the same tools.
"Open source not only meshes perfectly with our fundamental values - sharing, solidarity, nonprofit, mutual aid, the universal right to health - but also with our values of commitment and civic responsibility, symbolized by the establishment of a 'preventive health pact' for each of our members," says Eric Onselaer, Landes Mutualité's CIO. "We wanted not only to use open source products, but also to get involved in the community; for example by reporting any errors to the vendor to help improve the product. In addition, we promote open source as shown by our sponsorship of the Free Software Days in Mont-de-Marsan." Three data integration projects based on Talend Open studio for Data Integration were recently developed.
"The first project gave us control of the tool and validated our initial developments," says Eric Onselaer. "We were able to recover data from Sybase, and then transform and integrate them into a production database to create an Extranet for members."
This was easily accomplished and demonstrated the potential of Talend Open Studio for Data Integration. The other two projects were more strategic; one was designed to replace a proprietary tool that provided remote data to partner systems (including the French National Health Insurance organization, and the Pharma Network). This data is imported in over 20 different formats, but is distributed via various communication protocols (FTP, SMTP, or PESIT ETABAC). Talend Open Studio for Data Integration lets us manage the exchange with FTP and SMTP and we plan to develop a component to manage the much older PESIT. We will, of course, donate this connector back to the community.
Another strategic project was aimed at developing a data warehouse that would drive business activities by collecting and analyzing statistics. Today, several tools (JasperReports, eReport and Open Office) are used to manage these statistics while Talend Open Studio for Data Integration periodically updates the data warehouse. "We will develop the dashboards that our Finance and Sales Departments use to analyze activities, make forecasts, and predict trends," explains Eric Onselaer. "This project is particularly strategic for a company like ours that is always looking for ways to streamline its management. Our nonprofit status enables us to concentrate on quality of service and our customer relationships, while reducing our costs. For example, with open source we save approximately €400,000 ($515,000) on the cost of licenses for the applications hosted on our servers. We will realize the same sort of economies with our workstations when we amortize the cost of training employees."
Technical independence and mastery of technical development
Apart from the cost savings, Eric Onselaer believes that the main benefit brought by Talend Open Studio for Data Integration is the technical independence resulting from its openness and ease of use. "We regained control of our remote transmission solution, as much in terms of support as in terms of development. We are now able to make changes easily and we don't need to depend on any one vendor. By choosing to focus on open source in 2004, we trained teams who are now able to manage and enrich solutions on their own. This peace of mind is very valuable and not only in financial terms. We are now protected from technical equipment failures (such as modems, which our previous solution required). In the past, the smallest technical problem could paralyze us for days, with important financial implications. That is no longer the case and ultimately our members reap the benefits."
The resulting peace of mind allows Landes Mutualité to calmly plan for the future. "Our goal is to be among the most important regional players in this market. And we intend to do it without compromising the values that have historically contributed to our success," concludes Eric Onselaer. "With a tool like Talend Open Studio for Data Integration that combines scalability, performance, and the strength of the community model, we're able to completely control our information systems and to economically adapt them as our needs develop."