As a spin off business unit of health insurer Highmark, HM Health Solutions is tasked with helping not only that insurer but also other third-party insurers across the industry to optimize systems that run core functions like benefits design, member enrollment, claims processing and customer service. And according to key members who opened up about the organization’s on-going DevOps transformation at IBM InterConnect this week, continuous delivery will increasingly play a role in HM Health’s ability to do that.
Utilizing IBM Urbancode, the business has been able to improve the application delivery process by giving application teams more control over how they stand up new environments, better visibility into builds and deployment , and much speedier configuration management. As a result, not only are they able to deploy more quickly, they’re keeping their developers happier and better engaged, with a higher rate of productivity.
“We save time and a good amount of it,” says Jim Neumyer, senior application developer for HM Health Solutions. “The (app) teams have the ability to look at their builds, configure their builds how they want to do it, strip down the builds with our standard templates and go very quickly from an SCM check-in to deploying in very few steps.”
As he explained, the teams are able to stand up their own environments, they’re no longer hampered by lengthy approval processes. Streamlining of approvals was perhaps the biggest time saver, Christina Felts, team manager of open solutions engineering, explained that one team said they experienced a savings of an hour of deploy time per app—something that can add up on release nights dealing with dozens of applications.
“One of our app teams was able to setup a new environment in less than one day, which previously we couldn’t do. So it could take a couple days before they got everything set up in that new environment,” Felts. “And it also eliminated the need for them to work with my team and put in a request and have to wait up to a couple days turnaround to get configurations done.”
Additionally, Neumyer says they can also easily roll-back when necessary. Perhaps even more impactful, though, has been the visibility piece in overall enablement of developers, Neumyer said.
“So the teams can check everything. If they have an issue, if they don’t know what’s going on in their environment they can go out there and look. It takes me out of the mix,” he said. “They can see it very clearly and easily and try it again. And most of the issues can be resolved on their own. And we can automate things a lot easier.”
HM Health Solutions says this is only the start of their DevOps journey—as things stand, it’s still a waterfall development shop moving toward Agile—but the early successes have garnered more buy-in from across the organization. Neumyer recommended to colleagues in the audience to follow the baby-steps approach that has worked for his organization when it comes to getting started with continuous delivery.
“The biggest takeaway for me is to take small bites,” he says. “Don’t shove the ice cream cone in your mouth all at one time. When you take small bites you’re able to tweak things very quickly.”