Ranger4 DevOps Blog

Hiscox See the Value of DevOps and IBM UrbanCode

Posted by Paul Hancock on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 @ 20:11 PM

I attended the IBM Developer Connect event at Twickenham stadium on Thursday 6th November. With various Industry, IBM and Business Partner speakers there was plenty of choice, but the afternoon session that caught my interest was DevOps at Hiscox.

Hiscox is a leading specialist insurer with a diverse portfolio of personal and commercial risks. With 100 years of underwriting heritage, they have more than 1,400 staff, with offices in 11 countries. As a market leader they cover risks that range from marine, terrorism, aerospace, technology, media and professional indemnity through to high value personal insurance, such as homes and contents, fine art, bloodstock and kidnap and ransom. 

I was keen to understand the practical steps and benefits Hiscox have seen from adopting DevOps and the IBM UrbanCode solution. Jonathan Fletcher (Enterprise Architect - Technology & Platform Lead) spent 30 minutes describing the DevOps journey Hiscox are undertaking. He started with a traditional explanation of DevOps as "Culture of shared goals that reduces the friction between Development and Operations". 

He went on to describe the traditional friction between Development and Operations, with Development teams wanting the ability to do more and make more frequent changes whereas the Operations teams having a need to keep a greater level of control and have more standards in place. Jonathan went on to explore some interesting questions, such as:

  • Why do we think the issue of working well together and aligning goals is limited to Development and Operations?
  • Shouldn’t everyone involved in the change process work together to accomplish shared goals? 
It became evident that Hiscox are using DevOps to break down silos and bring together different teams to work in new ways. Jonathan stressed that having a team that evangelizes DevOps ideas, concepts and tooling as a good thing but that when building a DevOps initiative you must be careful not to build a silo. I especially liked his DevOps description - "DevTestBizThingyOps should be the real name" © J.Fletcher.
It was a great introduction and grabbed my attention but I was keen to understand how Hiscox have approached DevOps. Hiscox had previously worked within a global centralised capability model and have realigned themselves with each geographic region and now have Development, Support, Testing, DBA's etc within the same team. This closer collaboration has helped to move from a federated model to cross-skilled steam with cradle to grave responsibilities and shared goals and incentives.

Jonathan describes the DevOps initiative at Hiscox as a journey and I was interested to hear him say, "What started out as an ambition to increase the pace of change has evolved into “rebooting” the IT team". Jonathan again stressed the need to be aware of not building a DevOps silo and how after building the DevOps capability you need to encourage other teams to consider the benefits of a different way of working. The business drivers for Hiscox adopting DevOps were:
  • Growth of the business is challenging IT  to find new and better ways to do things 

  • Working smarter not harder 

  • Help break down silos between teams by providing a change platform that is re-usable between multiple teams

So what benefits have Hiscox seen from DevOps and the adoption of IBM Urbancode? Hiscox are currently implementing their first project using IBM UrbanCode Deploy on the biggest change programme ever undertaken by the organisation and they've seen:
  • 47 releases last week in 1 application alone

  • 17.5 man days of effort reduced to around 10 minutes

  • Hiscox went from 1 person knowing how to do a release to potentially dozens of people

They're fantastic metrics and a great success story. What stood out for me during the presentation was the view of using DevOps as a journey and a vehicle for change. Additionally the use of metrics to complete a pre and post implementation assessment of the success of DevOps and IBM UrbanCode is very powerful. 


Topics: DevOpstastic, UrbanCode, DevOps, Case Story