Legacy Application and Software Development Processes Modernized for an Award-Winning Customer Experience
SITUATION & BUSINESS CHALLENGE
One of the country’s largest insurance companies faced a challenge common to industry leaders: a technical platform that once was leading-edge was now failing to keep up with market expectations. The insurer had been one of the first to offer customers online access to manage their policies and payments. But the website hadn’t continually incorporated new technologies, and had gone nearly a decade without a significant upgrade.
IT leaders at the firm were well aware the website didn’t meet their consumers’ needs – hundreds of thousands of annual helpdesk calls attested to the site’s shortcomings. Users struggled with slow page loads, lengthy workflow paths, and the inability to use debit cards or e-checks for payments. Customers were increasingly accessing their accounts from mobile devices, but the website’s fixed page displays made for a frustrating experience. The dated UI needed an update, but any redesign efforts were hampered by the site’s tight linkage to legacy back-end systems.
When internal analysis showed that customers who used the website were less likely to renew their policies – meaning the poor web experience was actually driving customers away – management knew it was time for a reboot. Unfortunately, the IT organization wasn’t prepared to undertake a major website overhaul. Their teams weren’t familiar with the latest web technologies. Underlying legacy systems weren’t well documented, and much of the “tribal knowledge” about back-end data had left as veteran developers retired.
The company needed a technology partner that could fill in the gaps and modernize their customer website. AIM Consulting was there to meet the need.
AIM worked closely with IT and business teams to deliver an improved experience for the company’s Customer Account Management (CAM) application. In collaboration with company stakeholders, AIM’s consultants identified key goals for the modernization project:
- Architect and develop a data-abstraction layer, to decouple front-end presentation from the constraints of legacy transaction and account systems.
- Construct a modern UI framework that would support improved page flows, integration with new payment solutions, and mobile-friendly responsive page designs.
- Deliver a revamped customer experience with updated branding and streamlined workflows.
The project evolved through several phases as AIM’s Agile development team worked in an iterative process with the client.
Architectural Assessment and Design
AIM consultants performed a detailed analysis of back-end legacy systems; interviewed business stakeholders; and mapped workflows to design a middle-tier service that could extract account data and provide flexible delivery to the front end. The resulting solution was a RESTful API that allows web developers to access multiple backend data sources, without needing to understand the intricacies of the legacy data stores.
AIM’s Agile development team was located at the customer site, allowing them to work closely with the firm’s technical specialists while delivering updates in two-week iterations. The team built out and tested the new middle-tier service, and constructed new web pages with AngularJS. Progress was rapid, and the first website update was ready in a few months. At that point the project hit a snag: software deployment at the company was a complex, lengthy process. New code needed to migrate through multiple test and staging environments, each with different degrees of fidelity to the final production environment. Progress on webpage development slowed as the AIM team and client technologists worked through environment-specific security and communications issues.
After a series of delays, the “MVP” website update was successfully released. Still, recognizing the need to streamline our approach, AIM proposed reforming the Agile team to include developers and quality engineers from the client’s IT organization. This approach brought local-system expertise into the team, while giving the client’s engineers a first-hand experience with modern Agile development.
The combined AIM/client Agile team carried out the next phase of development. Together they added new workflows and payment types to the customer account application, and reduced delays in the delivery pipeline. By working in a team alongside experienced AIM consultants, the client’s developers were able to ingrain modern Agile practices and in-depth knowledge of the newly developed APIs. Once AIM closed its involvement with delivery of another website update, the client’s technologists were well prepared to continue seamlessly.
In less than a year, AIM’s team delivered transformations in both technology and IT effectiveness to the client:
- An award-winning consumer website update that has reduced support calls, improved customer retention, and provided significant cost savings.
- A modernized technology infrastructure that incorporates microservices architecture, .NET frameworks and AngularJS-based UI.
- Improved development tools, site security approaches and enhanced monitoring.
- Software developers and quality engineers with new Agile skills to share with their colleagues
The company has continued to leverage these innovations to improve other areas of its website. The new infrastructure has enabled IT to accelerate progress on other e-commerce initiatives, as well.
AIM Consulting’s focus on collaboration and long-term results was instrumental to the project’s outcome. AIM worked across organizational boundaries to bridge gaps between the client’s IT and business groups. Our Agile coaching addressed concerns about how the transition would affect teams’ roles, and enabled them to adopt improved software development and delivery practices. Ultimately, the close partnership between AIM and client stakeholders was the key to a successful project.