The Blog

Do Not Make The Same Mistake COBOL-based New Jersey & Kansas Unemployment Department Made

It may be because there is nothing on TV. It may just be general curiosity. Either way, I find myself consuming a bit more news than normal in these interesting times we currently find ourselves in. Much of that news is to be expected. Airlines in trouble. Oil plummeting. Stimulus packages created and then poorly managed. But then I came across something I wasn't expecting. The dire need for COBOL programmers.

The backstory is this. Due to the rise in unemployment, and a flood of unemployment claims, the antiquated system that utilizes a programming language few people know anymore is creating significant issues processing claims. So there is this urgent call for COBOL Programmers. But few under the age of 60 know how to program in COBOL. Why? Because COBOL came onto the scenes in the 1960s and hasn't really been taught since the 1980s.

But before we jump on the obvious lack of foresight New Jersey and Kansas have had, it is important to understand that what most tech companies don't understand about non-tech companies is that you rarely get the benefit of being an early adopter in an established, profitable, well-run organization.

That being said however, what non-tech companies don't understand is that they have to have a game plan to deal with their aging systems and processes. Credit can be given for not always being up on the latest and greatest because the latest and greatest is not actually the greatest for established companies, but they don't get a pass on waiting 50 years to update their system either.

You have to find a balance.

While the old saying goes, never waste a good crisis, it is by far more preferable to modernize before a crisis hits.

One of our customers recently capitalized on that. They are one of the few businesses that have stable growth in the good times, but have very rapid growth when things are bad. In theory, their main competition could do the same. But their main competition can't because they aren't set up for that. So while our customer can pivot on a dime - even remotely - and integrate insurance companies' systems into their system, and then their system into UPS's system, their competition is left with a very small piece of the pie. We are talking tens of millions of dollars left on the table.

But it wasn't in the crisis that enabled them to do that. It was 7 years before that when they realized their RPG-based (similar to COBOL) system was stuck in the 80s and it was time to modernize.

Times are tough now and they likely will be tough for a while. And whether it is helping your team work easier remotely, or cutting costs, or simply because the time to advance is when your competition is flat footed: now (yes even now) is the time to modernize. It's probably cheaper and easier than you might think.

Be better situated for the good times. Be better prepared for the bad times. And stay safe out there.
Need help with modernizing your antiquated system? Don't be a stranger then. Let's talk.
Database Replication - Business Above IT
We have a customer that is growing very fast in the Healthcare space. Two years ago their Member database was around 200,000 members. After 2020 Annual Enrollment Period settled, they are now over 5 million members. This growth is a very good problem to have.

One of the features of Vy Healthcare CRM™ is something called "IntelliSearch." This feature enables a quick and easy ability to find members when names are not always the same or when it is not obvious which MCO they are with (something that can be more difficult than you'd think - but this is a topic for another day).

The problem with IntelliSearch is that while it makes it very user friendly for Call Center agents, it is way more taxing on the server, especially as that database grows.

Another feature of Vy Healthcare CRM is that we process discharge/authorization files as soon as they come in from the MCO. This is of course great for the MCO, our customer, and ultimately the member getting served, but it is also pretty taxing to be processing through thousands of discharges and comparing it to millions of Members in the middle of the day.

So when average page load times went from 1.2 seconds to 7 seconds in January, something needed to be done and needed to be done fast.

It was initially proposed that we need to remove IntelliSearch and that file processing should be moved to an overnight job because that is where the problem lies.

The problem with this is that it would severely impact usability and also provide worse customer service.

And therein lies the problem. For those outside of technology (looking at you CEOs and CFOs), all "tech people" seem the same. But there are a lot of different types of technology people. In a perfect world you have:
  • Developers
  • Database Administrators
  • Server Admins
  • Network Admins
  • Security Specialists
  • Project Managers
  • And of course, an Executive over all of them that understands all of this

If you have an appetite for all that, Vy Technology may not be for you (that's at least a $1 million in payroll right there). Even if you can afford it though, finding and retaining is a whole other issue. So what most small and medium sized businesses do is they hire a single Network/Server Admin type, put them in an IT Director position, and turn to them to make big picture decisions. If you found that diamond in the rough that can wear all those hats and you can keep them happy, great! But if you don't have that, you can't leave operational business decisions up to the wrong type of technology person.

In the end, we went with a replicated database solution that processed the searching in one database, the discharge files in another database, and left the master database free to do everything else (at no additional cost, no operational impact, little work for the internal IT department, and in a matter of two days).

This absolutely was more work. Did it "ruin a weekend," yes. Was it the easy way out, no. But there is no doubt this was the right move to make for the business. And putting the business over the IT department is what good businesses (and IT departments) do.
Need help with keeping functionality as you grow? It would be fun to discuss. Contact us.