The Financial Services industry is fast moving, highly regulated and customer-centric. The general perception in our industry is that any change in processes implies risk and delay, neither of which we can afford. But at the same time, we are faced by the mammoth task of needing to continually introduce new products and services to stay competitive and cater to the growing needs of our customers. This is unthinkable without a fast software delivery lifecycle, as our business is highly dependent on technology. The best way to accelerate software delivery in a complex, fast moving environment like ours is to adopt a DevOps approach.
As a speaker at a number of events, I have discussed the ongoing transformational journey at Nationwide and shared our approach with other enterprises who want to understand how they can follow suit. I recently had the opportunity to co-present with Hayden Lindsey from IBM at the DevOps Enterprise Summit (Oct 21 – 23) hosted by Gene Kim. You can watch a replay of our joint session Patterns for Enterprise Success: The DevOps Journey at Nationwide below.
From humble beginnings as a small auto insurer serving the farming community, Nationwide has grown into one of the world’s largest insurance and financial services companies. Like many businesses today, we saw that we needed a better way to respond to changing market requirements and regulations, to increase speed to market, and to support new channels for customer interaction. Mobile, cloud and big data technologies were further raising the pressure on us to facilitate rapid digital innovation. What we required was not just a solution, but a change in culture (the way we look at things), processes (the way we do things) and tools (the technology we use). DevOps gives us the capability to achieve all of this—and more.
The immediate challenge was to achieve these changes by leveraging our existing heterogeneous tool suite. We partnered with IBM DevOps, which has played a significant role in our success. We were already working towards agile transformation. With IBM’s support, we were able to use the DevOps approach to application development and delivery across our distributed and mainframe environments. While a DevOps approach as supported by IBM enables organizations to start anywhere based on their specific needs, we at Nationwide decided to address all four adoption paths across the software delivery lifecycle: Steer, Develop/Test, Deploy and Operate.
DevOps enabled our IT department to perform continuous integration of its code and continuous deployment into its development environment several times a day. Teams can also perform acceptance testing of customer requirements within the same iteration as development. IT managers can show their internal customers, in near-real time, what developers are producing. This capability became a game-changer as we became more agile as a business and more responsive to customers. We achieved a 50% improvement in code quality, a 70% reduction in system downtime and were able to move 58% of our teams into the top quartile in key productivity measures. I believe that, the more agile we can be from an IT perspective, the more agile the business can be in terms of going from the development of an idea to the deployment of a customer-facing product.?
The next step in our DevOps journey is to build on the gains generated by the adoption of Agile and Lean practices across the entire SDLC. This is where technologies such as TaskTop and UrbanCode come to the fore by providing the integrated continuous flow and visibility needed for a continuous delivery infrastructure. By creating this delivery highway, we are giving Business Areas the ability to deliver as fast as they need to based on their own determination of cost, risk and value. Time-consuming manual processes based on out-of-date information are replaced with automated deployment policies that use real-time information synched from systems of record. The combination of dashboard and dials gives the business the visibility and control to drive at a much faster pace than is currently possible. Lack of trust in development outcomes has historically been an impediment to speed. Our new automated approach is giving us the confidence to move faster to serve the business without compromising the quality of our deliveries.
IBM was a great partner for us here as they share our support of the open standards approach, which gives us the ability to work with a heterogeneous set of tools, across the full lifecycle, allowing us to determine holistically the best tools, the best architecture and the best approach to meet our goals of high quality, high productivity and faster delivery for our customers.
By balancing speed, cost, quality and risk, DevOps is helping us increase our capacity to innovate. That in turn helps us get to market faster and be more competitive. I mentioned during DevOps Enterprise Summit that the phrase “time is the new currency” resonated with our goals of optimizing the path from “concept to customer value”. We need to ensure we don’t let it slip through our fingers. We have long been dependent on manual processes, but in this new digital age they are only going to slow us down. This is the time to be agile, competitive and pragmatic. It’s time for all of us to break the age-old shackles and embrace the opportunity for change that DevOps represents.
About the Author
Carmen DeArdo is the Director of Application Development Tools and Technologies at Nationwide Insurance. Carmen is responsible for driving continuous delivery utilizing DevOps, Lean and Agile techniques across Mobile, Distributed and Mainframe and other technologies. This includes recommendations and implementation of technologies used across the development life cycle (e.g. IBM Rational tool suite, open source technologies).