How a Large National Payer Reaped the Benefits of Strategic DevOps

Modern software and IT organizations are defined these days by Agile and DevOps. The goals are to increase efficiency, accelerate time-to-market for new applications and services and be more responsive to customer needs. In 2017, Forrester Research reported that 50 percent of enterprises are implementing DevOps in some fashion. However, progress is slower than it could be, because these methodologies require fundamental transformations in how team members work. As such, new tools, new skill sets, new processes and new mindsets are required.

For QA teams, specific hurdles include changing workflows to move testing earlier in the cycle, mastering technical tools needed for automation and working at a faster pace that requires more frequent collaboration. Oftentimes, organizations don’t have months to figure out how to transition, so they jump in with mixed results.

Our customer, a large national payer, decided to be proactive and establish best practices upfront. Like many large companies, they are in the midst of a massive digital transformation project. In 2017, the company launched an initiative to improve member engagement, coordination of care and quality of care across 20 million members. Digital tools such as interactive mobile apps and analytics are core to their strategy. The data coming from those programs will help them understand and manage populations for better outcomes. Given the fast pace of change in consumer technology, they needed to embrace Agile and DevOps models.

Project leaders knew that effective collaboration between all stakeholders including business analysts, QA and developers would be necessary. They wanted to implement two-week sprint cycles, incorporate big data technology and test across multiple platforms and devices. This was a lot to accomplish within those tight time frames.

As we began partnering with them on their DevOps transformation, we recommended a strategy that incorporated in-sprint automation and a shift-left orientation. This involved moving testing activities earlier in the sprint, aided by automation, so that QA could keep pace with the volume of test cases and catch problems immediately instead of during the next sprint. These practices align well with continuous development and continuous testing, hallmarks of DevOps. Plus, since automated testing tools typically require coding skills that most manual testers don’t have, we recommended a platform incorporating scriptless automation. That means testers can use business language to write cases, allowing them to ramp up quickly. We also integrated the automated testing platform with Rally to get automated results and defect reporting.

We were thrilled to learn that our customer realized some great benefits from this approach. The highlights included a 15 percent time savings in test planning, 60 percent time savings in regression testing, faster time-to-market and $500,000 annual cost savings by using a framework that eliminated the need to have deeper coding for every Quality Engineer’s. With a majority of the teams adopting in-sprint automation, they are well on its way to establishing a mature DevOps practice.

DevOps can be an exciting shift for everyone on the development team, including QA. People are able to implement new ideas faster and experiment with the latest technologies. Developers and testers can learn from each other to improve products on the fly, and end-users are happier. Ensuring that your team has the proper training, tools and senior-level support to make this shift will keep your best people on board and help the organization reap the benefits of DevOps and Agile faster.