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Established DevOps culture | Seeded and fostered cultural change

Prudential-PGDS: an ‘Apigee’ of innovation through Agile and DevOps

As a key part of Prudential's and PGDS's digital transformation, Apigee had a significant impact by harnessing the best of Agile and DevOps with our support. The results were accelerated speed to market, time and cost savings for future projects, and a burgeoning DevOps culture.

COMPANY BACKGROUND

Prudential is an international financial services group serving around 24 million insurance customers.

PGDS (Prudential Global Data Services) was launched in 2006 as a separate business and managed the IT infrastructure for the group.

Prudential recognised the need to transition to a more digitally focused operating model and a core part of that strategy is Apigee, an API gateway platform deployed on a public Azure cloud.

Apigee enables APIs to be exposed to various internal systems and third parties (businesses and Prudential customers over the internet). It offers controls for ensuring secure access and also convenience features such as to allow one call to Apigee to interact with several backend systems.

Infrastructure as Code supports the Apigee platform. The pipeline builds virtual machines and networks from scratch quickly and consistently, and then installs Apigee as well as monitoring and alerting agents.

Trailblazing with Agile and DevOps

Apigee was a trailblazing project for Prudential and PGDS, combining an Agile and DevOps approach for the first time. IndigoBlue was engaged to support and promote this new way of working. Our senior consultant was embedded in the team, a proven approach which allows for day-to-day observation, coaching and support.

Through his coaching and guidance, and the proactive engagement of the team, the project showed the value and impact of collaboration, incremental delivery and uncertainty management, the three pillars of the Agile approach. It became an exemplar, validating the strategic direction of Prudential’s digital transformation.

Collaboration

The Apigee team comprised representatives from both Prudential and PGDS, the first time this had been done. Most of the team was collocated in Reading, with one team member in Scotland and two in India. Every effort was made to ensure the day-to-day inclusion of the remote team members.

Previously, separate teams would have worked on the same project, split across companies and business units. This introduced dependencies and diluted accountability. Taking an Agile approach, there were no silos; as the team reported, “If something needs fixing, we all pitch in and help; there is no them and us.” By its own account, the team felt empowered to prioritise delivering business value over everything else. There was a feeling of shared accountability for Apigee.

While it had been usual practice to spread resources across several projects at once, we stressed to PGDS the importance of dedicated resourcing – and Apigee conclusively demonstrated the impact of this approach in terms of improved quality and speed of delivery.

The collaboration extended far beyond the team. With our encouragement, the Apigee team proactively engaged with Prudential’s InfoSec compliance body, Information Risk & Security (IR&S). A security expert is embedded in the Apigee team and helped to define enhanced security requirements for use on public clouds. This covered active vulnerability scanning, perimeter defence, intruder detection, logging and alerting.

In addition, the Apigee team provided an informal governance interface between PGDS’s Cloud Services team and Prudential’s IT delivery teams, seeking out delivery team innovation to share with Cloud Services, and raising delivery teams’ awareness of cloud services at their disposal so they didn’t rebuild what already exists.

Incremental delivery and uncertainty management

The Agile approach to incremental planning and delivery, and dynamic uncertainty management, was completely game-changing. Typically, a Prudential IT project would have started by spending at least six months gathering requirements before coding commenced. Through our coaching and guidance on Agile inception and planning, the first increment of Apigee was released six months after the work stream started.

The team worked from a product backlog, incrementally delivering the Infrastructure as Code and building the APIs. Core to the plan was to establish an early path to live, exposing any issues and areas of uncertainty, and helping identify any additional stakeholders who needed to be involved.

Apigee prompted a whole range of considerations for the very first time; uncertainties to resolve and decisions to be made, such as establishing Prudential’s approach to configuring its secure Azure platform. Taking an Agile approach, these decisions were not all made up-front, but at the appropriate time during delivery.

This emergent thinking and practice also helpfully exposed the need for an evolution of governance processes, so that governance bodies retain visibility and control while facilitating an incremental approach and frequent deployment. IndigoBlue is an industry leader in Agile governance and so our coach was able to offer unrivalled guidance on this.

The outcomes

Harnessing the best of Agile and DevOps with our support, Apigee had a transformative impact. The team is unequivocal: the experience was massively motivating and was the way they want to work henceforth.

They furnished their colleagues in Prudential and PGDS with a ready-made set of tools that would allow them to be self-service in provisioning standard environments and, through robust automation, deploying to live with unprecedented frequency.

The benefits don’t stop there. Having been coached in Agile and DevOps processes by IndigoBlue, the Apigee team shared this learning with colleagues, building up a pool of knowledge in ways of working, processes, and the Apigee product itself.

Apigee will continue to be developed as a product, not as a project, with on-going development to improve Apigee so that it continues to meet the needs of Prudential and its customers.

Industry recognition of the level of success with which Agile and DevOps were combined on Apigee came through its shortlisting in the DevOps Excellence Awards 2018 in the category 'Best Use of Agile'.

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