Enterprising Developments

What Makes DevOps Critical for Insurers

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, September 24, 2013

When it comes to software and IT service quality, nothing holds more promise of smoother cooperation and operations than the burgeoning movement toward DevOps, which, as the mashed-up term suggests, is an agile-type collaboration in which developers and operations teams work together. Rather than developing an entire application and throwing it over to operations to see how, and if, it all runs, developers build and test each phase of a project with operations in mind.

The importance of DevOps actually first came out of automobile manufacturing – as part of Toyota's quality initiatives many years back. As Steve Bell, a lean IT advocate, put it at a recent conference, developers tend to be creative and work in an unstructured way. On the other hand, operations people are concerned about structure and standardization. The purpose of DevOps is to bring these two opposing forces together for the common good.

The word is catching on. A recent survey of more than 4,000 IT professionals by Puppet Labs finds 63 percent of respondents have implemented DevOps practices, a 26 percent increase in adoption since 2011.

Today's insurance companies run on their digital capabilities. New products are digital. The ability to use big data in areas such as telematics is critical. For an insurer with a large IT department and numerous digital assets, bringing development and operations into alignment means huge savings in deployment costs, as well as jumps in software quality. In the Puppet Labs survey, among the respondents employing DevOps, 63 percent report improved quality of software deployments, as well as more frequent software releases.

To effectively build a DevOps collaboration, Puppet Labs makes the following recommendations:

Automate, automate. automate:“Automate a single pain point such as DNS, NTP, or root passwords. Start small, prove the value, and use the visibility that success brings to tackle bigger projects.”

Centralize: Store all configuration data in one centralized place, so everyone is on the same page at all times.

Break down barriers: "DevOps doesn’t require buy-in from the whole company,” the report advises. “If you’re in operations, find a developer who writes the code you deploy. If you’re a developer, find one of the ops people who deploys your code. Have coffee. Hang out.”

Foster DevOps skills within your team: “You almost certainly have people with DevOps skills already working for you. Support them. Listen to their ideas and help them succeed.”

Develop and use metrics: “Use agility and reliability metrics such as deploy rate, change lead time, change failure rate, and mean time to recover to show business value,” the Puppet Lab report advises. “Use functional metrics like test cycle time, deployment time, defect rate in production and help desk ticket counts to demonstrate your success.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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