Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions
An insurance broker asked for our help with performance issues in their policy management software. We sent out Niels, and he quickly identified the application’s database as the root cause. Instead of being content with a quick fix, he completely overhauled their database. He even came up with his own algorithm to transfer the data to the new technology!
At Debreuck Neirynck, we strive to create custom software solutions for our customers that often encompass the entirety of their business processes. In this case, however, we sent one of our colleagues for what we thought would be a relatively small project. What seemed to be a minor change quickly led to a complete overhaul of a database, which in turn is now letting the company innovate further. Read on to find out more about how Debreuck Neirynck changed their company forever!
Our client is an insurance broker that specialises in individual policies. They contacted us because of performance issues with their policy management software. As the years went on, calculating their clients’ insurance premiums started taking longer and becoming more prone to errors.
Calculations that used to take a few hours took almost two weeks of mostly manual labour because of the many required corrections. Since these calculations needed to happen at least every quarter, this took a significant portion out of their employees’ regular work schedule. Something clearly had to change if our client wanted to keep things running smoothly, grow sustainably, and foster innovation.
When our colleague Niels inspected the client’s infrastructure, he identified their application’s database as the culprit of these performance issues. The client had configured their database years ago in a way that meant it could not grow sustainably.
New data just clogged up the system, further complicating the performance issues. When the policy management software calculated their clients’ premiums, it had to copy the entire database timeline. The software then calculated all accounts simultaneously, which led to bottlenecks in performance.
Instead of a one-and-done fix, Niels went back to the drawing board for a solution that would pay dividends down the road. He redesigned the entire database from scratch, using Datomic instead of MySQL. Datomic is a database technology that specialises in timelines and date-related processing by making time a basic feature of data entities. It lets users “travel in time” and easily compare the current data to a few days or months ago.
However, switching technologies also meant Niels needed to figure out a way to migrate the existing data to a radically new database structure. This required a sophisticated migration algorithm that went a lot further than a simple ETL (extract, transfer and load) approach. According to Niels, this was not an easy feat, but an interesting and thoroughly satisfying puzzle to solve!
All of Niels’ hard work definitely paid off. The policy management software now needs only ten minutes instead of two weeks to calculate premiums. Employees need to correct the premiums rarely, if at all. End users can see any modifications they make to the data in real-time, whereas they had to wait a few minutes before. Since the database is now configured sustainably, the client can expand it as needed with no performance impact.
Besides the performance enhancements, this technical change made a shift in mentality possible at the client. The new system drastically improved employee motivation and productivity because of its massive increase in usability. It has inspired the client to make some substantial changes of their own.
The employees’ newfound enthusiasm has kick-started new projects, such as researching automation to reduce end user complexity. The client also decided to start building a completely new, modernised front-end to replace the old interface. In the client’s own words, they needed something that reflected the next-generation performance they never expected of their system!
It’s clear that investing some time and effort now more than pays for itself down the line, just like with the custom software we build at Debreuck Neirynck. Inspired by this story? Contact us, and we’ll make sure that people like Niels prepare your organisation for tomorrow’s challenges!