When it mapped out a "scorecard" listing of requirements for a new annuity administration system in early 2000, Security Benefit Group Inc. was living in the green eye-shade era of COBOL, two mainframes and "bolt-on" systems.To make matters worse, the carrier's IT department was trapped beneath a mountain of application changes.

Typically, it took the 110-year-old Topeka, Kan.-based financial services firm 12 to 16 months to get a new annuity product to market. Outdated technology didn't support the commonplace Windows desktop or support the use of a mouse. Cost/benefit analysis of product changes was impossible.

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