The rollout of a cloud-based integration platform has helped HESTA move away from a point-to-point integration approach and cut manual handling of data, according to the super fund’s IT manager Michael Collins
HESTA is an industry superannuation fund primarily focused on health and community services sector. Across Australia it has some 860,000 members, with about $47 billion in funds under management.
Around seven years ago when Collins joined HESTA as general manager, information security and technology, the organisation primarily relied on its fund administrator to run its backoffice systems.
“We really didn’t have to contend with the issue that businesses face of having a large ecosystem of partners delivering services for them,” he said.
Traditionally super funds have often turned to fund administrators to look after backoffice processing and in many cases deliver call centre services and manage communications with members.
“But as you move to the digital world you start to realise that there are capabilities that fund administrators don’t have and don’t want to take on: Understanding what your members are doing on Facebook, how they’re interacting with your website, [and] other digital channels that they may be engaging with that you need to get visibility of or provide services though,” Collins said.
For HESTA, the growth and increasing importance of those varied digital channels of engagement and interaction meant an emphasis on ensuring that it could bring together different sources of data to deliver a single, coherent view of its customers.
“It’s like any industry,” Collins said. “The more you can understand what your members are doing, where the pain points are, how they’re interacting with you, or want to interact with you, or need to access your services, the better you can provide those services to them.”
For HESTA, he said, it was a question of avoiding a “disjointed, clunky process” for members.
“As we’ve started to mature our thinking and broaden our ecosystem of partners and services and solutions that obviously leads to challenges,” he said — particularly data being distributed across a variety of platforms.
“We had a business challenge of making sure that we’re able to connect to all those data sources to give us a holistic view of that ecosystem and understand which data sets where sitting where, how we started to pull those together,” he said.
Collins said the fund had needed to move away from manual processes, such as downloading files from one system in order to import them into another. “That led us down the path of looking at data integration as a capability that we wanted to bring in-house,” he said.
In early 2017 the fund began assessing its options, working with analyst firm Gartner. HESTA conducted a market scan and ended up selecting Dell Boomi’s integration platform as a service (iPaaS) offering.
“Architecturally, we really were moving from a point-to-point integration for every system that we had to a hub-and-spoke model, so we would have the control and governance of the hub and could connect to data sources as we need them,” Collins said.
“That gave us the ability, and a bit more agility, to be able to connect and disconnect from different partners and services, rather than the data spaghetti world that we had previously, where everything was a point-to-point integration, which gets complex and difficult to manage and govern once you get past a certain scale.”
“We quickly came to the realisation that if we were going to bring this capability in-house, we needed a platform that was modern and that didn’t take a lot of technical development skills to build and maintain,” Collins said.
Dell Boomi ticked that particular box because it gave HESTA access to zero code API development through a drag-and-drop UI. The platform meant that HESTA could quickly integrate two systems together and have Boomi handle the data mapping.
“You only have to make configuration changes rather than having to write code,” he said. “Because we’re not a technology provider, so to speak, it makes it easier to be able to get people in who have a basic understanding of data and can use a drag-and-drop interface to start to map those systems together.”
He said ease of use and a capability roadmap that aligned with HESTA’s future needs were key criteria for the choice. The IT manager also cited the local Boomi team as a factor: He said that HESTA invited them in to show how the platform could address one of the super fund’s challenges.
“It literally took an afternoon,” he said. The HESTA and Boomi teams were quickly “mapping and moving data from one system to another”. “Within a couple of hours they proved to us the value of the platform,” he said.
“Off the back of that we signed the contract with them to take on their platform and then within the first four to five weeks we had two or three systems connected up and moving data back and forth without any manual intervention at all.”
The iPaaS rollout has saved an estimated 55 hours of manual handling per month at HESTA. It also means it’s a lot quicker to launch new partnerships (for example with insurer AIA), according to Collins.