BF&M: Leveraging Talend in the Insurance Industry to Move Out with the Old and In with the New

Based on an analysis by our developers, BF&M slashed 70 percent off the project development time with Talend…
Paul Mathews, Vice President of Information Technology

BF&M Insurance Group is one of the leading insurance companies in Bermuda providing life, health and pension products. As a general insurer, the company also offers all forms of property, casualty, motor and marine products. Given the inherent complexity of maintaining constantly changing customer service databases and underwriting policies for such a wide range of insurance products, front end and backend system upgrades are inevitable over time. 

Replacing a legacy insurance application presents its challenges

In the case of BF&M Insurance Group, the company recently faced a major system replacement for its 20 year-old policy administration claims underwriting system. According to Paul Mathews, Vice President of Information Technology with BF&M, “We faced a considerable challenge replacing our legacy AS400-based underwriting system that was originally based on an application called Windshore. What became clear as we’ve grown our business is that the data volume and complexity associated with our underwriting business required a more robust system, necessitating a move to a new system called Avatar.”

When hand coding for data migration isn’t an option

The BF&M technical team responsible for transitioning Windshore to the Avatar system initially believed the data mapping could be handled through a “straightforward development” approach. “What we quickly realized is that the data mapping requirements were a huge task,” says Mathews. “With 20 years of history contained in the old system that has been touched by numerous programmers over the years, data resides in varying states and is not particularly well documented.”
Heading the technical team responsible for BF&M’s system replacement project, Lead Architect, Denis Roberts, recognized that data migration and integration tools would be necessary in order to keep the project on schedule. “It became clear that data migration constituted 40% of our entire project,” said Roberts. “Consequently, we started an aggressive search for a data migration and integration tool to relieve our developers from trying to hand code a solution.” 

Data integration and migration is an intricate, multi-step process of moving and combining data across an information system. Extracting the right data from different sources such as databases, files, applications, and web services is a necessary first step. Transforming that data through joins, lookups, calculations and/or deduplication to fit operational needs is a logical next step.  And finally, that data must be loaded into target systems. This data extraction, transformation, cleansing and loading cycle has led to the meteoric rise of data integration tools.

The hunt for a better solution

BF&M’s search for the right data integration solution involved due diligence on a wide range of options including offerings from Talend, Informatica, CloverETL, and Pentaho.  “Talend Data Integration stacked up very well against other providers of data integration tools and was a clear winner,” said Mathews. “In short, the tool’s data manipulation and on-the-fly recoding capabilities proved to be huge advantages.”

The ROI behind Talend

Because the system replacement project involved iterative design cycles, the data migration tool of choice had to be extremely flexible, including the ability to seamlessly modify data being pulled forward from the Windshore application to the new Avatar system. “Based on an analysis by our developers, BF&M slashed 70 percent off the project development time with Talend compared to what it would have taken to complete without an ETL tool.”

Talend Data Integration is also being used to synchronize data between the Windshore and Avatar systems in real time. This ensures the customer database maintains its proper sequence for business continuity purposes while the migration is being completed.

While Talend Data Integration was initially deployed as a data migration tool, it is being used for far more than was originally planned by BF&M. “We do a lot of data integration work with other partners outside of the insurance company,” said Mathews. “This includes transportation departments, banks and health authorities throughout Bermuda.  Based on its powerful features, we’ve greatly expanded our use of Talend that has become the central hub for all data integration requirements for our production systems.”