Archive for June, 2010

LOMA Lessons: Going Agile

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Attending my first ACORD LOMA conference this year was an eye-opener. Whether I was chatting with someone in the exhibit hall or attending a session presentation, a common theme was apparent: insurance companies are tired of doing things the same old way.

Several people described system implementation horror stories – multi-year, multi-million dollar investments that hijacked IT organizations and created business roadblocks. Meanwhile, they acknowledged that maintaining their current stable of disparate legacy systems impairs their company’s ability to compete.

Clearly, something’s got to give.

Everywhere I turned, people were describing how going smaller was what they needed. Shifting design approaches from technical staff to business users was another common refrain.  Several presenters extolled the virtues of rapid development of “bite size” code, getting end users to quickly see what the results of their requirements are, and connecting them via SOA architecture.

One of the drivers of the shifting landscape has been some recent success. One large P&C insurer described how a small series of components developed in a non-traditional way scored huge points with end users. Another carrier proved significant savings by building reusable services that ultimately led to the de-commissioning of three similar legacy systems.

Challenges remain, though. Movement towards Agile and other iterative development methodologies are gaining traction, but some people expressed frustration with resistance from key stakeholders. Change is often difficult, particularly with entrenched user groups resistant to new ideas.

Even so, I’m more convinced than ever that modern software development processes will soon become commonplace. Despite the challenges ahead, a clear shift is underway. Rapid development, reusability, and true SOA are all part of the direction. That makes me very optimistic about the future.

Rich Grisham