Automation helps Bupa deliver enterprise apps releases ‘on demand’

Bupa has revealed how automation software has helped change the culture in its app development team, to make it more agile and respond better to business demands.

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Bupa has revealed how automation software has helped change the culture in its app development team, to make it more agile and respond better to business demands

Two years ago, the healthcare specialist embarked on a change programme in the UK business, which required the ability to launch new apps quickly. However, a legacy infrastructure and old ways of working prevented this from happening.

“We couldn’t deliver things on time at the pace expected. We wanted to do agile, but the team wasn’t viewed as one that could keep pace,” said Mo Uppal, enterprise IT specialist at Bupa.

“One of the reasons was that the team had inherited a legacy estate, and there was a lot of specialism that was needed to run the systems.”

He added: “Because we came from a waterfall background, the whole thing was geared up to releasing once a week to UAT (user acceptance testing) or smaller test environments.”

However, after implementing CA LISA Release Automation from CA Technologies, Bupa has managed to increase the number of weekly deployments by 300 percent, and the number of deployed environments by 200 percent, Uppal told the CA Expo 13 event in London.

“We can do this with one person. It doesn’t have to be a specialist. It used to [require] a team of 15 people,” Uppal said, noting that no redundancies were made, and that instead, staff were redeployed doing “more productive” tasks.

“Our purchase of the platform paid for itself in the first eight months,” he added.

Bupa had 30 test environments of “varying shapes and sizes” from single to over 100 servers. Its key platforms included IIS 6/8 Windows server, Microsoft BizTalk server, .Net Framework 4-based web services, and Oracle, SQL and Cisco technologies.

One of Bupa’s goals was to enable the app development team to spot defects earlier in the life cycle, where it is “cheaper” to find and repair. For example, development uses one app server at the testing stage, which increases to two servers at UAT and to 30 servers at the production stage.

“It is a lot easier to fix something in a one server, than a multi-server environment,” Uppal said.

However, his team was unable to see what was coming up the development pipeline, which meant it couldn’t plan effectively.

“We were ill-positioned to deal with required step changes in capability due to lack of pipeline visibility, to get early sight of what was coming to make sure it was something we could cope with,” said Uppal.

“A lack of engagement with the delivery team meant they didn’t trust us. Agility was being demanded by management and delivery but the environment team was viewed as an impediment.”

To reverse this image, Bupa identified the most problematic line-of-business application and looked at the shortcomings in the team’s approach and the tools it used, which it then addressed.

When it decided on an approach it then adopted the tool from CA technologies.

“It couldn’t be a point solution. We wanted to use a cookie cutter approach for our most common deployment challenges,” Uppal said.

Achievements

Bupa has now identified and resolved the common problems with release automation, and unified the approach to deployment across the whole estate, irrespective of the team responsible for the deployment.

“The whole ‘impediment’, ‘you’re a problem’ attitude started to dissipate, because [we are now able to deliver] on-demand release - multiple releases on multiple days, in any given week. Not just on a Wednesday or a Thursday [like in the past] - any given day,” said Uppal.

“We deploy on any environment, from dev through to production.”

The company also provides dashboard reporting, which gives greater visibility and transparency, which Uppal said helps to promote trust between the key teams. Moreover, it collaborated with development and build teams to ensure their interests were “baked” into the solution.

The development team has also become more open to challenges.

“Within the team, it’s fostered a mindset of ‘whatever it it, it’s possible,’” said Uppal.