Phone: (972) 717-5690
1701 W. Northwest Hwy, Suite 100 Grapevine, TX 76051
Irving, TX 75014
Frequently Asked Questions
UCT has collected the following questions about data conversions, mapping, and our unique methodology.
- Can our customers' employees use DCA or can only UCT employees use DCA?
- Will DCA perform for projects other than insurance in scope?
- What if I'm interested in offshore resources?
- If UCT is working on a project will the UCT staff be on site 100% of the time?
- We don't use Windows servers in our environment; can you host DCA for us?
- What do you mean when you refer to being "vendor neutral"?
- What is a "top-down" conversion strategy?
- Can I buy "software only" from UCT?
- Your literature refers to the terms "reusable and repeatable", what do you mean?
- How much does a conversion project cost?
- Where can I go to understand insurance terminology?
- How do you scale the conversion for a large number of policies?
- What are the automatic reports that come out of the conversion?
- What kinds of files are most often utilized as input/output for the generated code?
- What are UCT's qualifications for assisting us in understanding our Life policy data?
- How do you ensure that the data is accurate before loading it to the target system?
- 1. Can our customers' employees use DCA or can only UCT employees use DCA?
The licensed Data Conversion Architect product may be accessed and used by company designated employees. UCT offers an excellent training program to prepare the appropriate employees to maximize their access to this powerful and efficient tool, and the documentation and help facility will greatly assist every user. It should be noted that many clients elect to train their non-technical SMEs to use our software as opposed to their technical staff. And, while the DCA is easy to learn it is sufficiently robust to handle the most complex issues with respect to data bases and application systems.[back to top]
- 2. Will DCA perform for projects other than insurance in scope?
Absolutely! DCA has been utilized in the county government sector as well as the legal market place where the customer will be completing 100 data conversions in a 12 month window. The issue is the scope and not the industry. The project is converting from the source application(s) to the target application. DCA was built to be flexible and easily adapted to new opportunities; our software is generic with respect to application systems and verticals.[back to top]
- 3. What if I'm interested in offshore resources?
There are two parts to the answer to this question. First, in a complex conversion situation a customer will always want to deploy their own resources to architect the conversion system and write the specs for data extraction, transformation, balancing/validating, exception processing, reporting, and data clean-up.
With the UCT approach, the same SME uses DCA to express these business rules and conversion code is automatically generated. It compiles the first time without error. Changes to the rules automatically result in new programs. With our methodology we've already achieved a major cost reduction in the same areas where offshore savings would have been most available.
Second, if offshore resources are still necessary, they could be trained to use DCA and could process through the same training program that domestic resources utilize. Permitting those offshore individuals to utilize DCA will offer the presumed lower labor cost, AND the proven lower costs associated with the use of DCA will also be recognized.[back to top]
- 4. If UCT is working on a project will the UCT staff be on site 100% of the time?
Upon request UCT will subsidize your project staffing requirements and provide experienced professionals, including both Business Analysts and Programmers (our consultants average 30 years experience).
UCT consultants work in a virtual office environment. This business model helps to reduce overall project costs by eliminating some travel expenses and results in working in a more productive environment without the conflicts for prioritizing time such as competing project assignments or company functions that contend for the consultants time. Depending on individual client requirements, UCT consultants typically spend no more than 10% of their time on site while our project managers spend between 25% and 50% of their time on site, when needed.[back to top]
- 5. We don't use Windows servers in our environment; can you host DCA for us?
Yes, UCT can and does host DCA for clients who elect this option. If you are asking this question, one might assume that your data resides on a different platform, and that is OK because the actual code generated from DCA may be deposited on any processing platform.[back to top]
- 6. What do you mean when you refer to being "vendor neutral"?
This is a very good question and critical to your conversion project. UCT's only business is the data file conversion business. We do not offer administration, claims, or rating applications, and as a result we do not create the prospect of being a competitor with your selected application vendor. Since we are not a competitive threat, problems about access to confidential material seldom arise, and consequently potential issues with executing non-disclosure agreements with these companies are avoided. This will save you money and stress! UCT has worked with many vendors and has never been questioned about our handling trade secrets.[back to top]
- 7. What is a "top-down" conversion strategy?
UCT's data conversion methodology does not just include moving data and then re-checking to insure it is properly re-located and remains accurate. While in most cases we also convert some data directly to the target data base, UCT's methodology uses the technique of populating transactions for the target system in order to populate that data base whenever possible. Benefits include:
- Error reduction. Results are produced dynamically as opposed to simply moving data.
- Expanded and more thorough testing. Target system transactions are tested as part of the conversion process to insure that the appropriate results are produced.
Our methodology is a DIFFERENTIATOR in that UCT does provide accuracy levels of 99.9% versus the much lower expectations of other methods.[back to top]
- 8. Can I buy "software only" from UCT?
This is definitely an option. One should consider their resource availability in making this decision. Typically our customers are not data conversion specialists, and as result they do not have a need to develop this center of excellence. Most often our clients elect to use UCT resources to supplement their staffing constraints. And another benefit of incorporating UCT resources into your project team is that our people fulfill a "mentoring" process which, in the end, reduces our clients' dependence on UCT.[back to top]
- 9. Your literature refers to the terms "reusable and repeatable", what do you mean?
Our business solutions have been designed to allow for calling pre-existing tables and modules that accomplish the desired tasks. Most source and target systems are rich with reusable components that are required for a data conversion project. In addition, UCT has a considerable library of reusable extensions from previous projects. All projects realize this high level of reuse, especially in companies where multiple administration systems are being consolidated into a chosen target, and situations where a company does frequent conversions such as a BPO provider.
However, a significant amount of prior work may be leveraged due to our consistent methodology which includes such areas as project initiation, project planning and conversion architecting. Referring to the term "repeatable" is similar to reusable. An example of a repeatable process is the conversion project itself. With UCT's methodology once a conversion project has been completed a knowledge base has been constructed and whenever the need for a future data conversion project reappears you have a proven process that will permit itself to be repeated for this next project.
In some cases, a client may have a need to convert from a system that they've already converted from, as in acquisition-oriented companies. In those cases most of the conversion system components from the earlier system can be plugged into the new project and updated as needed. This has saved some customers more than 50% of the time and cost of the earlier conversion project.[back to top]
- 10. How much does a conversion project cost?
UCT believes the better question is "how much can I save working with UCT"? We are the conversion experts with software tools and methodology that maximize efficiency. This is why we can consistently outperform our competition, because we maximize efficiency. UCT generally comes in 40% to 60% lower in terms of cost and in terms of time to complete. We have the tools and the experience, and we don't have to start each project from an empty planning pad! We are so confident that we will fix price projects if the prospective customer so desires.
One recent customer reported that UCT's project, when fully costed for software and internal resources, came in less than 1/3 of an in-house estimate to complete the same project. And that project was completed on time and under budget.[back to top]
- 11. Where can I go to understand insurance terminology?
To understand insurance terminology, please visit Insurance Information Institute's Glossary.[back to top]
- 12. How do you scale the conversion for a large number of policies?
Tuning is always part of large volume projects. It's usually done during systems testing, and we always fit the conversion into a weekend/holiday schedule or less. Our largest single block converted was over 1 million policies at Anico, but usually the blocks are smaller to accommodate business users and target system configuration schedules.
For any number reasons, it can become necessary to architect the solution to run as fast as possible. There are several methods for doing this and the conversion team usually decides up front which method(s) will be used. A typical conversion employs many of these techniques in some form.
- Run multiple concurrent instances of the conversion program on different portions of the data - For instance, if there are 1M policies, run 4 jobs that convert 250K policies each.
- When volumes are large, multiple concurrent jobs are usually (almost always) run. Typical split is by company code but can be split by anything. Conversion extract/transform not usually critical path, and therefore not split.
- Run different conversion programs concurrently on different types of data - For instance, if there is independent policy, plan, and agent data, run 3 conversion programs: one to convert the plan data, another to convert the policy data, and a final one to convert agent data.
- Optimize the program code - Look for ways to improve program code efficiency or use the optimizer which is often built into the IDE.
- Preprocess the data to optimize I/O - In some cases a preprocessing step can be executed to organize data into more efficient data sets. For instance, if there were 5M policies and only 1M were being converted a preprocessing step might extract the 1M policies into a keyed file for the conversion to speed up lookups.
- Work with data center to set priorities or assign job classes appropriately to maximize processing speed.
- Run off hours when fewer competing jobs are running
- 13. What are the automatic reports that come out of the conversion?
When the conversion programs run they create messages that report errors and status. These messages can be automatically created or created from the business logic that is entered for the conversion. Automatic messages include error messages generated when data is truncated, infinite loops are detected, invalid array indexing is detected, or a field is empty when it must have data. In addition, messages can be generated from the business logic for any reason. For a simple example, business logic can ask that an error message be generated when a birth year is greater than 2010.
Excel is a commonly used tool in our market for analysis and documentation. We download messages automatically to Excel spreadsheets for distribution to the 'assigned' analyst. For example, certain reports dealing with balancing/validating financial values may be sent to the Actuarial staff for decisions on subsequent actions. Messages may alternately be formatted using XML, depending on subsequent access and processing. All messages are available in DCA reports.
The extensive experience of our Business Analysts really come into play in the ad-hoc reporting they add into the conversion maps that is pertinent to your data and your plans.[back to top]
- 14. What kinds of files are most often utilized as input/output for the generated code?
Files processed in/out of the generated COBOL are frequently sequential files, VSAM files, delimited files, XML data files, files containing sequential transactions, etc. In addition, data can be selected from or inserted into a database using SQL.
We usually access the source system files in the native formats used by the production versions of those systems. Generally it is neither necessary nor desirable to change file structures for conversion purposes.[back to top]
- 15. What are UCT's qualifications for assisting us in understanding our Life policy data?
All consultants have 20+ years of policy administration system experience - much of it doing conversions. Our consultants have worked in all aspects of a policy's life cycle from underwriting, to policy administration, to claims.
In addition, DCA's auditing logic can be used to determine things like the plans and coverages in use, value ranges, value lists, etc. for your specific data.[back to top]
- 16. How do you ensure that the data is accurate before loading it to the target system?
When we drive converted data through the target system, we want the target system to apply it's rules and edits to identify data and consistency errors. If target system edits identify a problem, the solution may be in the mapping rules, the target system configuration, or source data issues. The fix to the problem is frequently a business decision. The UCT model depends on the target system acceptance of the data. Therefore, as early as possible converted data is loaded into some form of the target system (sandbox or model office).
In addition, we code many edits in the conversion maps, the audit maps, or both to avoid errors generating out of the target system load process. This jump starts the cleanup and decision making processes before the target system is even ready to accept any input. Again, our conversion experience is an important factor in getting the data as clean as possible before getting to load step.[back to top]