Since the beginning of the decade, it's been pedal to the metal for AAA Life Insurance Co.. The organization, which offers term and universal life products, fixed annuities, and travel accident insurance to AAA members, has grown from 75 employees in 1999 to a staff of 400, supporting more than 800,000 customers and more than $1.1 billion in assets.As AAA Life's business began to accelerate at breathtaking speed, the organization's managers began to see some treacherous bumps and obstacles on the road ahead. The company lacked an enterprisewide system for watching and managing costs within the various business units. With relentless hiring and increasing costs of doing business, managers needed a clear, single view of where more gas needed to be applied to boost business, and where the brakes needed to be applied to curb spending.

AAA Life's challenge was that it lacked an effective means to gather and analyze enterprise information, according to Jay DuBose, chief financial officer of AAA Life Insurance Co, and, until recently, acting CIO. Budgeting and planning were being conducted on Excel spreadsheets, he explains. Along with ad-hoc spreadsheets, much of the organization's budgeting data was locked up in an IBM AS/400 system that was only accessible via character-based green- screen terminals. "We were spending about 85% of our time just accumulating, balancing, and validating the information, and only 15% to 20% of our time actually analyzing the numbers," says DuBose.

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