Few would dispute that in the long history of insurance there has been a disruption in the fundamental process around how carriers acquire, service and maintain their client base that comes anywhere close to the scale we are experiencing today. Insurer business units and their colleagues in IT operations and system development need ways to respond to the challenge. None wish to be caught holding stone chisels in a digital world.
In our changing world, baby boomers make up the largest percentage of the population, but millennials are the fastest growing population. Traditional carriers that recognize this generational transformation understand the need to make major changes to their core platforms; not just to support expanding offerings for current products, but also in support of digital experience and evolving insurance needs, such as short-term insurance, inventory management or digital start-ups. None of which fit into traditional insurance offerings and all require carriers to adapt quickly.
To better align business with technology units to respond to this shift, many carriers have adopted an Agile-based development process. But more is needed. Organizations that haven’t adopted a DevOps process for software development, testing, delivery, and deployment will not fully reap the benefits of an Agile-based development process.
What is DevOps?
DevOps is an approach to work, not a distinct role or organization. DevOps refers to the collaboration of cultures between technical teams. It encompasses more than just development and operations, but extends into QA testing, release and beyond. DevOps empowers the organization to truly adopt an agile methodology, allowing the business to innovate quickly, improve efficiency and quality of code while maintaining a higher standard of support.
To get full advantage, carriers must not only adopt DevOps, but they must drive to automating the process as much as possible. Automation reduces hand-offs between involved parties, is the heart and soul of a good DevOps process, and is critical for a number of reasons:
- Reduces human error
- Enables small nimble teams to participate in the overall project pipeline using a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) approach
- Significantly improves build quality, delivery and deployment cycles, and decreases timeframes
- Provides an efficient way to scale automated testing cycles and loads
Automating the complete software development life cycle (SDLC) takes careful planning and support from IT and Ops organizations, but the benefits far outweigh the effort.
Cool tools only part of the story
There are many tools available in the marketplace that support the automation process, such as Ansible, Vagrant, Chef, Puppet, Docker, and Kubernetes, along with tooling and APIs provided by cloud providers, such as AWS, Azure, Bluemix, and Google. But DevOps isn’t about the specific tools or stack that’s used, it’s about the approach to work and the collaboration between technical teams with a focus on automation as much as possible. You also must ensure your vendors and partners provide a flexible and open enough platform and solution to support the infrastructure and artifacts required for a strong DevOps process built on industry standard tooling and cloud services.
Cloud and Infrastructure as Code makes it all happen, fast and simple
When supporting a robust and scalable CI/CD pipeline, a good DevOps automated process should ultimately be based on managing infrastructure and environments as code, and this is why it’s critical to deploy and manage the development and testing environment with a cloud provider. Infrastructure as a Code (IaC) is a DevOps practice that makes the process of managing your infrastructure easy, reliable, and rapid. IaC tools have evolved alongside DevOps and the leading cloud providers have made it a central focus to simplify, for example, the launch of servers, installation of applications, version control environments and the configuration of different services using descriptive code.
As carriers strive towards DevOps automation, they must also maintain a set of guiding principles that drive their successful adoption of IaC. For example, carriers must also consider how their DevOps automation affects things such as security, governance & controls, parallel development, and automated testing.
The support cloud providers offer related to security, scalability, monitoring, IaC, and tooling that is well-defined yet flexible to support an organization’s needs, underscores the superiority of cloud providers over traditional data center approaches.
The best cloud providers are also a good resource for education and for guidance on how to win support for expanding DevOps and cloud initiatives within your organization. And vendors that have a Cloud First focus and strategy (especially those that already have a robust automated IaC environment using a solid DevOps process) will make good partners.
Why get started now with DevOps + Cloud?
The results can be startling. One EIS customer leveraging the DevOps-supported EIS® cloud testing environment―with its multiple parallel test streams―realized a labor reduction while test coverage increased from 3,300 automated and 4,400 manual tests to 22,000 automated and only 240 manual tests. They also achieved a savings of 75 percent in the time it took to complete full regression testing. Another customer implemented a new cloud-based platform for new disability lines of business in under six months by leveraging nine parallel development streams.
For motivation, bear in mind that while both DevOps practices and cloud tools help organizations deliver software more quickly, and with better quality, the benefits are compounded when the two are used together. A recent study by CA Technologies found organizations that “displayed strong commitment to both Cloud and DevOps” showed an “81 percent improvement in overall software delivery performance (compared to 52 percent for DevOps Devotees, and 53 percent for Cloud Champions).” They were labeled “Delivery Disrupters”―and you could soon be among them!
Any questions? Reach out to Keven Lincoln, VP Cloud and Managed Service Solutions at EIS, at firstname.lastname@example.org.