DevOps in Insurance Industry: Challenges & Real Success Stories
Insurance industry has to be amongst the leaders in adopting the modern technology. Leveraging DevOps in insurance industry can be the disruptive advantage.
21st century is the time of technological innovation, and every business that wants to remain competitive must keep up the pace. This is especially true for the insurance industry businesses, which have to both provide uninterrupted access to their core products through web portals and mobile apps. In addition, deploying the latest Big Data solutions for real-time data analytics allows adjusting the core products faster to meet the expectations of the target audience better.
However, the insurance companies have invested heavily into building their existing IT infrastructures, and large-scale updates seem a daunting perspective. Applying DevOps principles and tools in insurance industry is a very beneficial step, due to automation of many routine processes, and granular control over the resources. In addition, this enables the continuous improvement of cloud infrastructure and operational workflows.
Insurance industry challenges
DevOps approach to IT operations allows solving multiple challenges the insurance industry has to face:
- Business challenges
– insurance service aggregators drive heavy competition due to comparison shopping
– industry leaders set the new records of technology utilization
– efficient resource allocation is crucial for securing a healthy bottom line
– efficient Big Data analytics solutions are required to get the value from the raw data
- Technological challenges
– insurance products have to be personalized and data-driven to be competitive
– insurance companies have to comply with ever-growing list of regulations
– the product must have short feedback loops and no downtime after updates to ensure customer satisfaction
The last point is the crucial one, in fact. Short value delivery chain means the customers get the features they expect sooner and without issues, which bolsters the brand loyalty and advocacy. DevOps approach to software delivery and maintenance was meant to ensure exactly this outcome, and it is the result the businesses get after completing their transition to DevOps.
How DevOps helps the insurance companies succeed?
DevOps methodology of IT operations is quite an umbrella term, actually. It has not been clearly defined through over a decade of its existence, to begin with. As one of top-10 Managed Services Providers worldwide according to Clutch, IT Svit uses the following definition of DevOps:
DevOps is the set of practices, tools and attitudes ensuring continuous improvement & value delivery in software development and IT operations.
Thus said, the DevOps culture of collaboration and communication is aimed at removing the siloed tasks, responsibilities and goals from Dev and Ops departments. These artefacts are replaced with flexible and all-around capable teams of Ops engineers, who have a say on the software design stage and work to improve the whole software delivery lifecycle.
If you are told that DevOps teams must be comprised of a mix of Developers and Ops engineers — do not believe this statement, as it is clearly made by a “DevOps expert” with little hands-on knowledge of what DevOps really is. The only mixing required by DevOps approach is that of goals — the Devs are responsible for the way their code runs in production, and the Ops are responsible for ensuring adequate resources are available across the software delivery pipeline.
The insurance companies have to provide their core services along with a range of auxiliary features in order to be competitive. The core services — the web and mobile apps allowing the customers to manage their insurance packages and payments — must operate seamlessly under all conditions. In addition, to be able to satisfy the ever-growing customer requests, these products must be developed rapidly and improve at a steady pace.
The last, but not the least important, requirement is the ability to augment the existing insurance platforms with the latest top-notch tech like Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) algorithms that enable the Big Data analytics in banking and insurance industries.
Here is an example of what a DevOps workflow looks like. Let’s assume an insurance company has a product that runs on some infrastructure. How can DevOps approach help improve it?
- Existing infrastructure and workflows audit. The DevOps services provider analyzes the existing systems and workflows through interviewing the insurance company stakeholders and consulting with the IT department in place. All the existing operational or structural bottlenecks are identified.
- Design and implementation of the DevOps solution. Using DevOps tools like Terraform, Kubernetes, Jenkins, Ansible, Docker, Zabbix, Prometheus+Grafana, ELK stack and others, the existing IT infrastructure can be redesigned to ensure better operational resilience and data security, faster performance and higher cost-efficiency. Transition to the cloud as a part of holistic digital transformation is the common outcome.
- Establishing the CI/CD pipelines. Automating the routine manual processes is one of the cornerstones of DevOps workflow. Any repetitive action, be it server provisioning and setup, software upgrade, database backup or running unit tests against the new batch of code can be configured to run according to automated scenarios — Terraform or Kubernetes manifests, Ansible playbooks, Jenkins jobs, etc.Such a pipeline of automated actions enables the system administrators to perform a complex operation with one terminal command, or a developer to provision the fully-configured testing environment without any external assistance, with a few clicks of the mouse or one CLI command.
The same works for all the stages of the software delivery lifecycle. Software development and testing, releases and updates, production environment monitoring and logging, database backups and restore — ANY routine action can be built into an automated pipeline, where the output of one script becomes the input of the next one. This saves A TON of time, money and nerves, so your IT department can actually concentrate their effort on delivering values to your customers, instead of dealing with never-ending repetitive tasks.
Challenges in DevOps adoption
If the benefits of DevOps are so essential and tangible, why is it not more popular? There are 3 main reasons:
- Longevity. DevOps adoption is a part of the bigger process of digital transformation, aimed at improving all aspects of the company operations and business processes. It cannot happen overnight and it cannot be bought through acquisition of some fancy DevOps platform. The company must transform its organizational structure, and operational DNA, not to mention altering the culture of software delivery and IT operations. This is a lengthy process that can succeed only with the wholehearted support from all the managerial staff — all the way up from the grassroot initiatives to the C-suite.
- Complexity. The learning curve for certain DevOps tools like Kubernetes and Terraform is quite steep. Mastering them is plain impossible without certain level of experience with cloud architecture, infrastructure management processes and understanding the principle of immutable Infrastructure as Code (IaC).IaC means that instead of repairing the error that prevents the normal server operations, it’s better to delete the environment and build it anew, with a couple of CLI commands. The incident logs help understand the cause of the issue, IaC helps minimize the downtime and employing the predictive analytics in DevOps allows to avoid the downtime altogether. However, such level of DevOps expertise is seldom available on the job market, so building an in-house DevOps team is a daunting and complex task.
- Costs. Transition to the cloud from the legacy infrastructure is the necessary prerequisite for enabling the DevOps workflows. This means abandoning the on-prem servers or repurposing them for other needs, while performing a lift-and-shift of existing systems or rebuilding them from scratch in the cloud-native environment. This is a costly endeavor, which is quite daunting for many insurance businesses. Besides, why replace the thing that works, yeah?
However, despite all the challenges above, a successful DevOps implementation helps insurance companies significantly decrease the time to market for their offers, ensure operational resilience and optimize their infrastructure, while lowering the expenses.
How to enable the DevOps in an insurance company then?
There are 3 main ways of introducing the DevOps practices in an enterprise insurance company:
- Building an in-house DevOps team from scratch. The main risks here are the scarcity of really good DevOps engineers available and the lack of strategic vision from the company side. It’s really hard to design the right composition of infrastructure and processes required for a DevOps strategy, if you have no prior experience. Finding the right men to implement your idea is another quite big challenge, so this is a very risky way. They will have to learn along the way, so mistakes are quite possible.
- Hiring the external DevOps expertise to train your Ops team. Many companies opt for this solution. They hire one of the IT outsourcing market leaders to provide DevOps training. The external DevOps talents instate Centers of Excellence with the customer, where they retrain your Ops team to use the DevOps tools, practices and workflow scenarios. Later on, your CoE participants act as internal advocates, transforming your corporate culture and moving it to the DevOps rails. This is a sure, yet very lengthy way.
- Employing the MSP to deliver DevOps-as-a-Service. The most cost-efficient way of implementing DevOps services in insurance is hiring a dedicated DevOps team from a reputable Managed Services Provider. This provides rapid access to highly-skilled pool of talents with rich hands-on experience in the areas of digital transformation, cloud transition and infrastructure optimization. During the project, the dedicated team works together with your in-house Devs and Ops, helping them embrace the DevOps principles. The delivered DevOps solution comes with detailed developer documentation, allowing the rest of your team to speed-up their onboarding and adoption of DevOps practices.
How do these generalized scenarios work out in real life? Several examples are below.
Real-life success stories of using DevOps in insurance
Below are 2 examples of how insurance companies benefited from adopting DevOps:
- Allianz Insurance UK is an enterprise insurance provider with over a hundred years of history. They had a huge internal IT staff and infrastructure and wanted to optimize it, in order to become “faster, better and quicker” to cite Adam Rates, one of head executives of the company. Allianz chose the 3rd way and hired an external DevOps services provider. The contractor helped them to audit the existing infrastructure, identify the possible improvement areas and deploy automated CI/CD pipelines for many manual operations.This helped Allianz staff concentrate on improving the crucial parts of their infrastructure, without spending much effort on learning the automated procedures. This way, the team was able to get better, quicker and faster, just as they wanted. The company moved from Waterfall to Agile and has dramatically increased the speed and reliability of their product development and delivery as a result of the project.
- One of the biggest insurance providers in South America suffered from outdated IT infrastructure. This diminished their ability to deliver their services in more than 70 countries worldwide, while also slowing the process of new product development.The company hired a DevOps provider to optimize the existing infrastructure and help accomplish a successful digital transformation. The 2nd way was chosen, and CoE was instated, where the insurance provider’s Devs and Ops learned the ropes of DevOps practices of collaboration and mutual support. The existing apps were split into microservices, running in Docker containers managed by Kubernetes cluster hosted on Microsoft Azure. This enabled the company to rebuild their software delivery pipeline for using Infrastructure as Code, leveraging Azure resources to provision the required environments automatically.As a result of the project, the insurance provider now fields a resilient, scalable and flexible cloud infrastructure. The company can now use both on-demand and automatic product updates to ensure uninterrupted and positive end user experience. The TCO was also significantly decreased, due to optimizing the infrastructure and automating many parts of the operations.
Final thoughts on adopting DevOps in insurance
As you can see, following DevOps principles and best practices enables the insurance companies to complete their digital transformation faster. They become more nimble, cost-efficient, their operational resilience is greatly increased and the businesses receive a strong impulse for further growth and expansion.
If that is what you need — DevOps adoption is the way to overcome the challenges your company faces now. Want to learn more details about the process? Contact us, we are always ready to help!