Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board is switching to a new platform for its online storefront that will lower operating costs, simplify end user transactions and help integrate its applications with partners’ systems.


Monday WCB announced that it is migrating its Web presence onto BEA Systems Inc.’s WebLogic platform to replace IBM WebSphere Application Server.

“This is going to allow us to bring the workflow functionality to the table, which has more capabilities than our existing workflow in terms of monitoring and managing work,” said Bob Black, director of information technology services at the board. “The portal server opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for us in terms of quickly putting together the applets. We’ll have a platform that will help us deliver all the projects much more quickly.”

The board is currently managing seven development languages including COBAL and Microsoft Visual Basic, which have become increasingly expensive and difficult to manage, he said. To increase functionality and lower operating costs, the board will move to the one code set (Java) and the portal will be designed to employ to a service-oriented architecture.

From June to December last year, WCB evaluated and looked at the technical and business directions for its systems.

Upon completion of a three to four-month evaluation of the two products, the board concluded that the IBM product would cost significantly more than the BEA product over the first five years in production.

“We are looking to expand the functionality that’s in these new platforms into our existing infrastructure,” said Black. “When we evaluated the two products we felt from a cost perspective and from a functional perspective that the BEA platform was better suited for our environment.”

The evaluation included a cost analysis of software licenses, maintenance, development, personnel training and hardware.

Eric Stahl, senior director of product marketing at San Jose, Calif.-based BEA Systems, said the latter and enterprise strength are what differentiate its application product from that of competitors IBM, Oracle and Microsoft.

“J2EE is still a very complex programming model,” said Stahl. “We’ve come up with tooling and a runtime environment that makes it as easy to build an application as you would expect in the more traditional Microsoft end of the spectrum where people use Visual Basic.”

While Black said IBM WebSphere met the board’s requirements, he added BEA WebLogic Platform was a better platform and infrastructure for WCB in the long term.

“We’re very cost-sensitive,” said Black. “It would have cost us more to deliver some of the same functionality. Because of the way (IBM) put the product sets together, you’d have to buy that bigger product.”

In addition to cost savings, the BEA solution also helps the board improve its productivity.

“The biggest piece of the cost equation is the labour it takes to build the application and maintain it over time,” said Stahl. “If we can give people a 10 x productivity gain, they can either build an application 10 times faster or they can build an application with one-tenth of the resources that it might take using a competitor’s product.”

The board is currently working on the interface and functionalities of its case management systems where people can access information on what’s happening on each claim through the Internet.

The next phase of the project will involve the evolution of its claims system to interface with its partners systems such as human resources or payroll.

“The injured worker belongs to a supply chain of service providers,” said Black. “We want to start automating all of those links or exchanges whether it’s a physiotherapist or chiropractor.”

Employers will also be able to get information on return to work alternatives for the employee, for example.


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