Nastel Helps RAC to Work Smarter - Application Availability Monitoring

Overview

The Challenge

To maintain RAC staff productivity and service levels in the face of significant change, introduced by the adoption of Siebel in the front office combined with IBM WebSphereMQ for company-wide application integration. To make the most effective use of skilled personnel and reinforce the value delivered by IT to the business.

The Solution

Nastel's Autopilot middleware monitoring tool that detects problems and enables faster and easier resolution, resulting in enhanced quality of service for RAC customers.

The Benefit

Increased responsiveness to problems, with faster resolution. Better use of skilled staff. Raised productivity and increased value creation. Enhanced customer experience.

Ever since its foundation in 1897, the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) has been consistently at the forefront in developing motoring services - from introducing uniformed patrols in 1901 and roadside emergency telephone boxes in 1912 right through to the present day. Over seven million RAC Members enjoy access to an enormous range of motoring products and services, ranging from the familiar roadside assistance in the event of a breakdown to legal and financial services, driver and rider training through BSM, and up-to-the-minute travel information. IT is viewed as a key service enabler, and remains a key imperative.

Assessing the Problem

During 2003 the RAC implemented a new front-office solution based around Siebel products, to improve the efficiency and customer service of customer-facing functions and to deliver an enhanced customer experience. As part of this project, integration functionality had to be put in place to provide the linkage between the new front-office systems and the other RAC systems such as AGRESSO, the back office application, and the dispatch application, ICAD. IBM's WebSphereMQ family of products, including the messaging and message broker components was chosen to deliver the required integration capabilities.

The RAC extended its thinking further from this basic integration need to envisage a central hub of shared services, such as address validation, credit card validation and mobile phone-based short message service

"We were experiencing a fair number of MQ-based problems, especially with the clustering part of our implementation. These all had to be passed to the MQ specialist support team, and it took too long to unravel them and get everything in synch and working properly again," Jaeda recalls. The impact was primarily that the online services would stop working. Call Service Agents (CSAs) trying to access the shared services pool validate addresses from postcodes or secure credit card authorizations had to switch to using less efficient processes to deal with customers, resulting in an increase in call handling time. The CSAs were still able to serve the customers, but capacity was impacted. In addition, these issues started to foster discontent across internal business units with the value being returned from the new IT systems.

But impact was not limited to internal units. The SMS shared service is used to send SMS messages to customers to inform them of the arrival time of an RAC van, for example. Unavailability of this service could become a customer issue if the problem remained unresolved for a longer period, and RAC's obsession with customer service made resolving these issues imperative.

Getting Smarter

In order to address these problems, the RAC realized that it was necessary to get smarter. Nastel's Autopilot product suite was selected, providing monitoring and management tools for the WebSphere products (MQ, Business Integrator and Application Server) and application processes, and the results have been impressive.

"The Nastel tools have enabled us to build a comprehensive picture of MQ behavior across the company," stated Jaeda. "This can now be presented to the general support staff, allowing them to easily spot problems or emerging situations within the integration layer. Our specialist team has also provided scripts that allow the support team to address the simpler problems themselves. Only the more complex issues need to be brought to the specialists."

This ability to spot and resolve simpler problems without recourse to the MQ specialists has a double benefit. Problems can often be resolved much more quickly, while the specialist team can focus more effectively, concentrating on complex issues rather than having to resolve the more basic but time-consuming issues. This has been a major benefit, according to RAC MQ specialist Saghir Ahmed. "Before we implemented AutoPilot, we had to have two full-time MQ-trained staff for support," remembers Saghir, "but now that AutoPilot is in place we have been able to do the job with a single, non-specialist person." Jaeda agrees, adding her own confirmation of the benefits to RAC from using Nastel's AutoPilot products. "Internal customers are seeing better responsiveness now," Jaeda observes, 'and we are making more efficient use of our resources. AutoPilot has really helped us work smarter."

The RAC is continuing to expand its Nastel implementation, for example integrating it more closely with enterprise management framework, causing the support staff to be alerted automatically. This improves the speed of detection and resolution of problems by removing the need for support staff to constantly monitor the Nastel display.

Summary

RAC's experience with Nastel and its AutoPilot tools has been very positive. Before the Nastel implementation, the number of problems and the time and effort to resolve them was resulting in:

  • Reduced levels of customer service
  • Loss of productivity of Call Centre staff
  • Inefficient use of limited specialist resources
  • Negative impression of IT internally

Working with Nastel and its products has delivered real value to the RAC, with benefits such as:

  • Enhanced levels of customer service Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Better use of specialist resources
  • Increased responsiveness

Throughout the entire work effort around the AutoPilot family of tools and their implementation and use, the RAC has worked closely with Nastel itself. "Nastel has been pretty helpful, and AutoPliot has really enabled us to achieve our goals," admitted Jaeda. "We just need to fine-tune things now," she concluded.