Core legacy application was hard to access and integrate.
Used Verastream to service enable mainframe-based billing system for reuse in new business processes.
- Accelerated processing by a factor of five.
- Eliminated expensive per-transaction fees.
- Improved customer service.
- Leveraged investment in legacy systems.
- Established a rapid application-development platform for ongoing projects.
WOW! Internet, Cable, and Phone is a leading U.S. provider of competitive bundled services to both residential and commercial customers. The company has been serving communities in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio since 1996. WOW! has been consistently recognized for excellence in product quality and customer satisfaction by Consumer Reports, J.D. Power & Associates, and Broadband Reports.
A WOW! Customer Experience
WOW!’s strong competitive advantage can be attributed to a simple philosophy: deliver a customer experience that lives up to its name. WOW!’s recent decision to purchase Attachmate Verastream Host Integrator was in complete alignment with that goal.
Rex Kennedy, vice president of applications and software development at WOW!, knew the company could improve existing and future customer service applications by streamlining access to their billing program. “It’s a mainframe-based application, with no open APIs, so our internal systems were having to access billing data in a manual and non-traditional fashion,” he said.
Because the billing system is a core application and houses critical data, the ability to perform increasingly difficult navigation had become problematic. With multiple WOW! business interfaces spanning a variety of applications, quick account lookups and expanded customer self-service were becoming more and more elusive.
The Need for Speed
WOW! customers needed to log in whenever they wanted to view their email, account information, or online content included in their subscription services. Necessary authentication called for multiple and extensive billing-record lookups to ensure a given customer had the requisite access rights.
The critical nature of this account-lookup process – and the frequency of its use – meant it must perform flawlessly; slow response times or down times would inevitably result in an unsatisfactory customer experience. But due to increases in the number and nature of customer requirements, the existing interface was at risk of being consistently overloaded.
Scoping the Project
WOW! needed to modernize this time-consuming and potentially expensive interface system. In effect, they wanted to build fast, automated processes on top of real-time integration, in a way that the resulting business functions could be reused across applications.
They had already tried a traditional screen-scraping product, but it could not dependably keep up with expanding demand. Furthermore, its proprietary coding language limited maintenance responsibilities to just a few internal team members. “What we needed was an industrial-strength, bullet-proof solution, that didn’t require a lot of maintenance,” Kennedy said.
Modernizing Legacy Assets
A satisfied user of both Attachmate Reflection and Attachmate EXTRA! terminal emulation products, the company found out about Verastream from Don Koretos, WOW!’s manager of software development. He and his team build and maintain applications for dispatch and field-related processes. Following a rigorous product evaluation, they chose Verastream Host Integrator to expose their mainframe billing data and logic as web services that could be mixed, matched, and reused.
The old WOW! solution had required IT to build one-off routines that would access the billing system for each new type of data request. But with Verastream Host Integrator, the development staff was able to centralize business context and logic so it could be more manageable.
Automatic Conversions with Verastream Web Builder
Director of Software Development Amol Shah reported that his teams mapped out the 3270 screens using Verastream Web Builder, a tool that automates the deployment of web applications, component interfaces, and web services from abstracted legacy functions. Responsible for teams that build and maintain applications for marketing initiatives, order management, and fulfillment processes, Shah said that Verastream Web Builder brings a “UI-driven” focus to the development cycle.
Because all of the applications at WOW! are built in .NET, Verastream Web Builder delivered another benefit by automatically translating all modeled screens to the .NET platform. “Having an interface that converts it for you is so beneficial,” said Koretos, who also pointed out the value of a lighter footprint on the user side and easier accommodation of different kinds of clients including Windows applications, web sites, and PDAs. “The Verastream standards-based process lessens the relevance of the end-client platform,” he said.
More Control, Speed, and Simplicity
“From a development standpoint, Verastream gives you more control over your applications, without relying on a third-party interface sitting on the desktop,” Koretos said. “Now, the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.” He explained that there are numerous steps in an order transaction where input and retrieval of data are required. “In the process, systems integration is happening and it’s all passing through Verastream,” he added.
Thanks to the speed and simplicity of Verastream Host Integrator, WOW! accomplished their first production rollout within 60 days after purchasing the solution. “It was 100-percent ready to go,” Shah said. They were also able to eliminate their applications whose sole purpose was interacting with the 3270 terminals.
Shah reported that Verastream’s unique and intelligent session handling made transactions five times faster than WOW!’s previous solution. That’s an obvious benefit for WOW!’s 1,000 skilled internal users, but it’s all part of the drive to a better customer experience.
A Welcome Surprise
Now, with streamlined account lookup, all of WOW!’s high-speed data and phone customers (and a good portion of video customers) are enjoying the results. When customers log in to check email, for example, the speed of the new authentication process is noticeable – and welcome.
WOW! is also cutting costs as a result of the Verastream implementation because they can now minimize use of third-party service providers. And they can keep per-transaction fees to a minimum because Verastream Host Integrator has enhanced and created efficiencies in the way users access data.
Reuse, Don’t Reinvent
According to Shah, all WOW! business processes – from customer self-service, to the provisioning side, to the dispatch side – rely on fast access to data residing on the billing system. So his IT teams have begun creating other applications, using those original Verastream-generated services, for both internal and external users.
Shah said he likes Verastream’s ability to “divvy up the application” and use selected functionality because it helps WOW! work toward a services-oriented architecture. “Now we have a really strong foundation to build on,” he said. “With Verastream, when you service-enable one app, you have actually done it for a bunch more.”
As an example of this functionality, Shah talked about a PDA application that one of his teams built for technicians in the field. “Their familiar workflows are available to them, whether they’re dispatching on a job, closing a job, or referencing customer data,” he said. “The navigation complexity is hidden, while in the back end the mobile web app uses Verastream-based transactions to access the mainframe data.”
A Flexible Solution With Ongoing Potential
Meanwhile, Koretos has already looked beyond WOW!’s mainframe systems to successfully run scripts on some of WOW!’s Unix-based applications. “We plan to convert all of all our applications to this services approach,” he said. “It’ll all be integrated.”
Kennedy concluded by saying, “We’re big fans of Verastream, and we’re using it everywhere we can.”