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Ethias Customer Story

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Reducing Total Cost of Ownership and Increasing Scalability with Alfresco's Modern Digital Business Platform


Ethias is the third largest insurer in Belgium, employing around 1,800 people with 2 main headquarters in Liege and Hasselt and  more than 40 regional offices across Belgium. With more than a million loyal customers, Ethias directly insures public authorities, companies and private individuals without requiring them to use a broker. Ethias had a legacy instance of Documentum which couldn't fulfill the need of bringing new services to their external customers and couldn't keep up with the standards their internal customers were requesting regarding the collaboration under the branch offices.


Since 2008, the Ethias team has used Documentum for their document and email archiving needs, hosted by service partner NRB. However, they faced high recurring costs for low added value as Documentum's main function was to serve as a storage system leveraging only basic content management capabilities. 

New business requirements were mandated to drive more value from documents, which led to increased security and the introduction of more metadata to drive operational process efficiency. None of these could be met easily with the current Documentum architecture in place. Search and retrieving documents was a particular pain point for end users and led to poor productivity when using the system. In addition to these challenges, a new document production platform and also a new OCR process integration could have led to poor exception handling and error-prone metadata quality. 

To address these challenges, Ethias wanted a secure, agile and open architecture with cloud-availability and scalability, which could be deployed quickly for fast ROI. All while giving them the flexibility to easily adapt, which had been missing with their current solution.

With a desire to integrate with Guidewire Policy & Claim Centers and and reduce their total cost of ownership, the new solution needed to offer an innovative approach to enterprise content management (ECM) with an open and agile architecture. In 2016, Alfresco Content Services, hosted and packaged by NRB as a cloud provider, with XeniT, Alfresco Premier System Integrator Partner, was selected.

The selection process included comparisons of many vendors (EMC Documentum, IBM Filenet, OpenText, Oracle) with different integrators. Xenit demonstrated the best understanding of Ethias' challenges through the discovery and blue print phases, combined with their mastery of the Alfresco Digital Business platform. 


NRB & XeniT worked together to provide a 99.9% high availability, cloud hosted Alfresco Content Services solution, integrated with object storage technology from Caringo and an Oracle database, with limitless content scalability, in just 6 months. 

The migration from Documentum was simplified with XeniTs content streaming tool and NRB export routines, which transferred over 57 million documents to Alfresco in under 3 months, with peaks of 5 million documents in a weekend, and a rate of 50 documents per second in batches of 100,000 documents. Not only did we ensure the data integrity during the migration, but we even improved the data with the setting of metadata that was missing previously.

As a result, the migration of millions of documents in the terabyte scale was successfully completed, and Ethias went into production on time. 

Many organisations are a bit scared of the risk and costs of migrations, but this was not an issue for us due to the preparation and expertise of the team. We have demonstrated that a migration doesn't have to be a risky and complex task. Now, we save a lot of money each year using the new Alfresco Digital Business Platform - it was definitely worth the effort.

To facilitate integration, Xenit provided a GUI tool (Alfred Finder) and an API that simplified business integration for synchronous interfaces. Larger streaming jobs (asynchronous) are handled by Alfred Inflow. Due to the API Gateway, Xenit controlled the transactional behavior such that Solr and the database can be tuned and used at their proper strengths and capabilities. Content is secured in motion and at rest with Alfresco encryption. 

The architecture is built with docker containers, helping to evolve in the future without too many side effects and boundary conditions. The adopted model allowed to expose 3 modes of integration including a direct access to the GUI tool with an IAM layer making the solution independent of any source application for the exploitation of the documents. Due to the modern architecture and the capabilities around scalability and High Availability, Ethias was able to offer a platform availability of 99.8%.

One of the major challenges was providing an ECM solution on a distributed platform with standardized SOAP integration points. Today, we record a search and consultation document every half seconds, we expect a multiplication by 4 in the medium term. 

Today, Alfresco is an independent platform built in a sustainable form. All of the high availability architectural criteria were met, making Alfresco a critical content services platform to support day-to-day operations.

Alfresco at the Core of a Digital Transformation Strategy

By creating a common content service layer, Ethias improved the simplicity and reliability of its global IT architecture. Consequently, new digital processes can be implemented and integrated more rapidly. Alfresco takes care of all content related services and processes, and other applications consume the service and engage in stable and versioned interactions with Alfresco. Due to the creation of a business API, all integration with Alfresco from third party applications (scanning, vertical insurance packages, salesforce) is version controlled and resilient to change. The Alfred business API lays a foundation for future intense collaboration with customers via the internet. 

The necessary security layers and measures have been put in place to support digital customer and partner interaction in a secure environment. Encryption, integration with Identity Management solutions, proper access control based upon metadata are part of the protection strategy. Last but not least, a container-based architecture will allow scale to 100,000 user interactions and more than 100 million documents in the near future.

Accelerated Time to Value with Alfresco Solution

The first phase of deployment and migration took under 9 months, with two additional integrations delivered in the next 6 months.

In 2017, major objectives were to create an innovative and simple metadata driven Role Based access control system, to improve overall security and enrich the Ethias metadata model to cope with future requirements of GDPR, advanced integration and content intelligence.


Today, 70 million documents are now managed in Alfresco, with 10 to 20 million documents being added annually. 

Most requests return search results in a matter of seconds, via the business API, simple integrations have been built in a short while, supporting diverse integration partners (Ernst & Young, NRB project teams, Deloitte) to integrate vertical solutions with the content services of Alfresco.

Total cost of operation of the solution was reduced by at least 50% - main factors were costs around maintenance, infrastructure and setup. The operating expenses ("OPEX") remains now stable with the new solution, and this is the most important factor for Ethias. They also reported a payback period of less than 12 months, and this already includes the costs for the initial setup of the infrastructure and the deployment. 

The richer document model that is available now supports more complex queries, insightful exploration of documents and support for upcoming challenges like GDPR or mobile access.

"Alfresco has proved to be scalable and robust, while  API allowing easy integration to other systems that was crucial for project success.  Users have the content in the systems they use to get their job done, with Alfresco managing the content and enabling advanced search and viewing capabilities. This has made our processes more efficient." - Benoît Vard, Project Manager, Ethias