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WoodmenLife: Modernizing Data Platform and Delivering Member 360 with MarkLogic

As covered in my previous post, forward-looking enterprises are developing 360° views of customer data in order to accelerate information discovery, build better applications faster, and improve customer engagement.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Joe Stein, Manager of Data Solutions at WoodmenLife, and ask him about working with MarkLogic to migrate data from legacy mainframe systems into MarkLogic for developing a 360° view of its members, and launching a first production application – all in 6 weeks.

Please tell us about WoodmenLife and your data platform modernization plans

Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society (WoodmenLife) was founded in 1890 as a not-for-profit. The organization gives back to its members across the country, who join together in a shared commitment to family, community, and country. With a legacy of financial stability, we offer quality life insurance and retirement products.

We have been investing in digital transformation, with key strategic initiatives focused on integrating and better leveraging data needed to deliver improved customer experiences. To accomplish this business objective, we recognized the need to modernize our data infrastructure by replacing the policy administration systems running on mainframe systems. Over time, we can begin retiring our mainframe systems, and all of the costs that go along with maintaining those systems.

WoodmenLife’s goal is to migrate all historical claims data from the mainframe and combine that data with financial and other systems to get a 360° view of members.

What business problems are you solving?

To deliver on our goal of improving member experience, we needed to make unified and accurate customer data from across our systems accessible to the business and easy for users to search. By combining current and historical policy data with other unstructured data from across the enterprise, we will enable our users to more easily find all member policy information for servicing, reporting, and compliance purposes.

Why did you choose MarkLogic?

I saw a presentation about MarkLogic at a conference and said to myself, “We could use that at WoodmenLife.”

The company’s systems are divided by business unit, and it is very difficult to combine data and get 360° views, which causes problems in delivering the level of service we want to provide. For example, WoodmenLife offers scholarship opportunities to eligible WoodmenLife members. Identifying those members is very difficult.

WoodmenLife has a lot of relational technology – DB2 on the mainframe and SQL Server everywhere else. We tried building an operational data store in SQL Server to integrate information from other business systems and databases, but this approach just scratched the surface of what we wanted to do. The system was too complicated and it couldn’t accommodate third-party demographic data.

How is it going?

With MarkLogic, it’s been a seamless implementation. From start to finish, including completing proof-of-concept and launching the first production application, took us 6 weeks. Everything has gone exactly as promised, which is a pleasant surprise, as deployments of new software can be a challenge. Our biggest hurdles were internal – getting everyone up to speed in our technology services organization.

Our MarkLogic solutions consultant, Mike Burleson, was a big reason that the implementation went so smoothly. His understanding of how MarkLogic would interoperate with other technologies in our stack and project consultation allowed us to get up and running very quickly.

MarkLogic built us a basic UI for business users to access all historical policy data and other unstructured data (PDFs and images) integrated from across the enterprise. Our initial users are very impressed with the search application and UI, which is much better than looking at mainframe terminal screens.

What’s next?

With MarkLogic, we now have the platform in place to easily and quickly expand both the datastore and search requirements based on business needs. Our next step is to use MarkLogic to integrate member and operational data across all lines of business (life, annuities, etc.), and enrich it with new external datasets, so that our users have the 360° view needed to digitally transform the business and continuously improve member experience.

To learn more

At MarkLogic, we understand the challenges you face migrating operational data assets from legacy mainframe systems to a modern data platform and can help you make the case. MarkLogic offers a unique combination of tools and expertise to accelerate your data-driven transformational goals. To learn more, please read The Case for Mainframe Migration or visit our website at

Ed Downs - Solutions Marketing Manager | MarkLogic

Ed Downs is responsible for customer solutions marketing at MarkLogic. He draws on his considerable experience, having delivered large-scale big data projects and operational and analytical solutions for public and private sector organizations, to drive awareness and accelerate adoption of the MarkLogic platform.

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