Le Mars Insurance
That's not true for Le Mars Mutual Insurance Company. In just a few years, the eight-person DP department for the insurer has been able to move quickly to help its users get the information they want -- thanks to pcMAINFRAME.
One common situation is to have different corporate users needing to analyze the same set of data -- but to meet their own needs. "In several cases, we've been able to set up a single pcMAINFRAME profile which simultaneously meets the needs of many different users, such as R&D, or Marketing, or Underwriting," explained Joanne Smith, senior programmer-analyst in Le Mars' Information Services Department. For example, if they all need to access the same file, "we set up a pcMAINFRAME profile which will access every field which any user needs. We set it up to download that data into their Lotus spreadsheets, for example, and then leave it to them to set up their spreadsheets and select the data which they need." This means that often, requests which in the past took hours, or days, to meet, can be set up in just a few minutes.
The ability to automatically convert data from mainframe formats to others -- for example, to convert packed fields from VSAM files into spreadsheet cells -- is important to Le Mars. In the past, Le Mars programmers had to write programs or otherwise spend a lot of time modifying data. "Something that in the past might have taken us two or three hours, we can now get out of the way within 10 minutes," Smith noted. "So that's one more thing you don't have to worry about. As a matter of fact, one of my customers in R&D told me recently that he'd done a job in 15 minutes, using pcMAINFRAME, that would have taken him all day in the past."
The key thing, Smith has found, is providing users with access to the raw data on the mainframe. Once they can get that data, and get it into their PCs in a form they can work with, they tend to be quite satisfied with the service her department provides. If you have to get a programmer involved in providing access to data, "then you're talking man-hours," she noted.
"Considering all the ways we use pcMAINFRAME, it's no exaggeration to say that pcMAINFRAME has paid for itself many times over since we've had it," Smith concluded.