Excellus Blue Cross eyes enterprise mashups for call center

It's looking to give agents data from multiple apps simultaneously

With Internet mashups now offering consumers an easy way to link content quickly from different sources, "enterprise mashups" are emerging as a potentially easier way for companies to pull data from multiple IT systems.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a Rochester, N.Y.-based insurance company, is researching a mashup approach to provide customer service agents with an easier way to quickly access data from disparate IT systems.

Mike Axelrod, enterprise architect at Excellus, said today in a webinar that his company is looking to mashups as a way to bring fast, simultaneous access to claims, policy and other data to the computer screens of call center agents. The insurance company is evaluating a prototype application developed by JustSystems Corp. that uses mashup technology to display data on one screen that may reside in multiple systems -- including green-screen and Web-based applications, Axelrod said. JustSystems' xfy technology can handle multiple pieces of XML data simultaneously on the screen, according to the company.

"Every customer who calls in has a different story," Axelrod said. "The data that their customer service representative needs to help them may be in more than one place. You really don't want your customer waiting on the phone while someone hunts around for the information."

For example, he said, the mashup prototype could work with Excellus' existing service-oriented architecture interface to get information from a claims application and then present that information to the customer service representative through a browser, he said. If the agent then determines that he needs information from a policy application, the same process would occur again, but the claims information would still be on the screen.

"The idea is really how can we integrate the user experience right at the Web browser level?" Axelrod said. "I might not know what information I need, even when I go approach an application. Wouldn't it be great if the application can make it easy for me to click the right button so I can get these new views added to my screen for the questions I just thought of, and not lose the information I already had on my screen?"

Underlying the mashup user interface is an XML-based document that can be saved so that the agent can use it again if a similar question comes up, added, Paul Wlodarczyk, vice president of solutions consulting at JustSystems. The documents also can be routed to a records management application if they need to be saved for compliance reasons, he added.

Access to data is handled through Web services calls or database queries that appear as links in the underlying documents, Wlodarczyk said. In addition, because of the underlying document, changing a view is as simple as editing a document. This can "push the last mile of application development closer to the line of business," he said. "They can work independent of centralized IT."

That would help various lines of business at Excellus, where IT projects sometimes get pushed back so the IT shop can handle a new government mandate or tackle some other higher-priority projects, Axelrod said. "It would be super if the other business units ... could move right ahead and continue their work despite any IT budget crunch caused by some government mandate, for example," he said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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