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?
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
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