Woodmen of the World
"Now, none of us have to waste time going through logs to remediate issues. We just look at the dashboard, drill down and get the answer."
Senior System Test Engineer, Woodmen of the World
The Woodmen of the World / Omaha Woodmen Life Insurance Society was founded in 1890 and is based in Omaha, Nebraska. The not-for-profit fraternal organization offers insurance, annuities, mutual funds and 529 college savings plans. More than 700,000 Woodmen of the World member-customers across the country share a commitment to family, community and country.
Information technology (IT) plays a crucial support role for the organization. "We call IT ‘Business Technology’ (BT) within Woodmen," says Ben Seiker, Systems Test Engineer. "We provide mostly web applications for our members. There are some back-end systems they can access directly, but we mostly provide front-end web systems so that members can see the insurance they have with us. Our business associates use various applications we provide to help members. We also have many applications that assist our sales force."
Seiker continues: "Our QA department is fairly new, so most of our applications are either .NET or Java, but we do have quite a few mainframe applications as well." Most of Woodmen’s Java applications are written in Spring. "We’re always improving them," he says.
"Users interact with Woodmen’s applications through a web interface using a few externally facing applications along with many internal facing applications," explains Seiker. "These are used to interface with our back-end systems, including mainframe and some policy administration systems."
Oscar Garcia, Senior System Test Engineer, application describes the challenge: "There was a very challenging business-view application that we recently implemented," he says. "It has a couple of interfaces and services that originate from different systems. With that level of complexity, it was a real challenge to identify what end-user action produced an issue for one user, but not for another running the same process."
With so much depending on the end-user experience throughout the complex enterprise, the IT team at Woodmen knew that it was time to formally institute an application performance management (APM) program.
"We were evaluating APM solutions, and then we had quite an experience with a website that we recently released, which is internal-only, says Seiker. "This website was built with our own developer code along with code from two other companies. When it was first released, we had a lot of performance issues. Vendors were pointing fingers."
"Blame wasn’t the issue. We needed a quick solution to this problem—and a way to keep things like this from happening again," he says. "We installed Dynatrace on the servers involved in this website. It immediately allowed us to go directly to the source of the issue and pinpoint the problem to be repaired. We could find whatever vendor was responsible and address the issue based on specific pain points."
"With that level of complexity, it was a real challenge to identify what end-user action produced an issue for one user, but not for another running the same process."
"Before Dynatrace, we had a difficult time explaining technical issues to the business team," says Seiker. "With PurePath® we can use plain language to say, ‘Okay, when you click on this, here’s what happens and so on. We can now easily and exactly explain what goes on behind the scenes to everyone so that we can effectively collaborate across the organization. Thanks to improved communication, our business teams have much more confidence in our IT department."
Garcia continues: "From a performance engineering perspective, we needed to reduce the time to resolution for system issues. Dynatrace enables us to monitor for these problems and actually take action early to create proactive solutions. We’re no longer just reactive for issues as they arise. We can see what may happen and take action to stop problems before they ever impact our members."
"Before Dynatrace, we had a difficult time explaining technical issues to the business team."
"The benefit of having Dynatrace versus any other APM tool is the unique design of the PurePath® technology, Garcia says. "Using PurePath® we can capture 100% of the transactions with minimal impact to overhead. No other technology can do that."
"There’s no manual instrumentation with Dynatrace, either," he says. "You just take the product out of the box, install it, and it starts collecting data and learning about your applications on its own."
"Dynatrace is great because it provides both alerts and incident rules to trigger actions and communicate with other systems' administrators or different teams." Garcia concludes: "Now none of us have to waste time going through logs to remediate issues. We just look at the dashboard, drill down and get the answer."