Retirement system steps down for Web system

After 29 years of faithful service, Wisconsin's retirement system is making room for the next generation.

The Wisconsin Employee Trust Funds Department's annuity system had 'outlived its usefulness,' said Dave Hinrichs, assistant secretary of ETF. Built in 1973, the system ran on a mainframe, and although it was a workhorse, it lacked flexibility and didn't work smoothly with other systems, Hinrichs said. 'It was difficult to make modifications, to add fields or manipulate information,' he said.

The department in April began a program to make the retirement system accessible on the Web, Hinrichs said. Wisconsin officials awarded a contract valued at $4.2 million to Covansys Corp. of Farmington Hills, Mich.

The goal of the new system is to give the state's retirees the opportunity to make changes online. This self-service system, called the Benefits Payments System, will let retirees change their own tax withholding status or address information, Hinrichs said. The new system will free department employees from routine processing tasks, so that they can focus more on account holders' needs, Hinrichs said.

The Benefits Payments System will use WebSphere Application Server and MQSeries workflow software from IBM Corp. Users will enter a password over a secure Internet connection, Hinrichs said. The system will incorporate all of the existing data, but 'we need to clean it up before we load it into the new system,' Hinrichs said.

About 110,000 retired Wisconsin employees receive monthly annuity checks, Hinrichs said. That number is expected to grow in the next decade as baby boomers approach retirement age, Covansys officials said.

Full deployment of the system is expected by March 2004, he said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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