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Why Nationwide Insurance Has Over 200 Agile Teams Across Their Enterprise

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Why Nationwide Insurance Has Over 200 Agile Teams Across Their Enterprise

Carmen DeArdo, DevOps technology leader for Nationwide Insurance,was asked in a recent interview about lessons he learned from the company’s transition.

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This answer is a good indication of how enterprises are just now starting to see the potential of using DevOps methodologies. Companies like Nationwide–one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world–have been adapting lean and agile concepts before DevOps even formally existed as a concept. These vanguards have observed directly how this crusade has quickly evolved–and have had to continuously adapt and improve their processes to stay ahead of the competition.

DeArdo said that about seven years ago, Nationwide started an agile initiative concentrated around their development processes (design, develop, test). This resulted in forming agile teams across the enterprise (they have more than 200 now), which encompasses the bulk of their development work. While they got a lot of results from this initiative such as improved quality, productivity, and on-time delivery, they also realized that in order to make further improvements, they needed to look at the entire delivery value stream. Their analysis indicated that they had “front-end wait states from a lack of continuous flow of work into their agile teams, wait states due to dependencies on resources (e.g. development and test environments), and also delays in deployment due to manual activities.”

By taking these principles and applying them to the entirety of their delivery value stream, they are looking to drive a series of continuous improvements that will result in quicker and more efficient delivery to their customers. A key component of this is their continuous delivery Initiative, which is something that was already in progress.

Over the past year they have framed their DevOps model, which contains practices and cultural pillars, built upon a foundation of agile and lean principles. They then assessed where they were in these areas. In some, such as continuous integration, they are very mature. In others, such as continuous delivery (CD) and automated infrastructure, DeArdo acknowledges they have work to do. So while in the past, they might have had different areas focusing separately on driving local optimizations, they are now establishing a program and roadmap where they can prioritize and manage their DevOps related work in progress.

DeArdo says that “while a lot of focus in DevOps tends to be on the automation capabilities for testing and infrastructure, we have spent considerable time looking at the front end of our process and how work flows into our CD pipeline. We spend a majority of time (and money) on initiatives prior to a story card ever entering an agile team backlog. There is also a lot of variance in our front-end processes, which results in waste. And our delivery process was not integrated to allow continuous visibility of the work as it moved from planning to deployment.”

DeArdo’s parting words of wisdom are that while it’s important to have the right technology, it is mostly for naught if an organization lacks an “efficient end-to-end process that provides continuous visibility of the work as it progresses and also reduces variance”. Without that, the best technology will only have a limited effect on the quality and speed of the services provided to clients.

For more on how to use DevOps to gain an edge over the competition, download our free whitepaper: DevOps Misconceptions and best practices.

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