Enabling fail-proof & safe databases operation for a US insurance giant

Legacy database support project amid grand digital revamp of the client’s

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Customer location
  • USA USA
Project duration:
  • 1+ year

Client and Business Goals

The Client, an insurance major operating globally, has been in the market for over 20 years now and although its legacy software still supports its functioning properly, it clearly has been asking for a change for a while. The carrier didn’t want to wait for a critical point and started a massive digital transformation campaign with Symfa, known for its deep expertise in this area.

The current project is one in a series of digital transformation endeavors aimed at revamping the whole legacy system lying underneath the client’s processes. The major goals are:

  • to rewrite the software enabling the work of 10,000 employees using new technologies
  • migrate to more efficient architectures
  • support the operation of those software sections that cannot be currently rewritten.

The objective of this specific project is to enable secure and efficient operation of the databases storing data on quotes and policies. Our team also does regular health checks, introduces necessary changes and maintains the databases.

Challenge

The project is a never-ending story, as the influx of new data is happening every day. So our major challenge was to establish fail-proof workflows to guarantee safe and efficient data updates and storage for the client. This was especially important given that remote engineers work on both sides – Symfa’s and the client’s. 

Considering that no direct control is ever executed over the engineers’ work and processes, our Team Lead stood up with the initiative to check all the code coming from the Symfa side before it merges with the client’s code. The PM on the client side was beyond happy about the initiative, as it would guarantee higher bug capture rate, more efficient builds and overall quicker project delivery, despite some extra time and investments required.

Another challenge was seamless onboarding of new team members on the project. There are a lot of bottlenecks in insurance, for newbies and old timers alike. So that our new team players bring real project value fast, together with the client we developed a simple yet effective project onboarding framework.

  1. First, the client gets the VMs ready for the new engineer and grants him/her all the necessary access rights and passwords. 
  2. The Symfa team gets the engineer from here to share general project documentation. As this team is a part of a larger project, the newbies are introduced to the larger project first to have a bigger picture of what’s going on, without limiting their project understanding to their specific responsibility zone.
  3. Smaller team onboarding follows. The Tech Lead helps the new engineer set up the project environment and shares important system and domain nuances.
  4. The new engineer gains access to multiple information channels in MS Teams that have been created for all the participants of the larger project to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration.
  5. Besides daily sync-ups, from time to time, as new products appear, the Symfa team and the client team have common meetups held specifically to fill any gaps before a completely new set of tasks arrive. The client’s BA introduces the entire team into the new system section, highlighting all the nuances and intricacies that the engineers should know in order to implement the code correctly.

Solution

Our client is constantly expanding its geography and launching new products to stay competitive. This means new data entering databases – new state data and tons of new confidential customer data after the launch of the new products – that needs to be properly reflected and stored for processing and analytics.

To support this process, the client chose a .NET application written in Visual Basic, which was quite a powerful option for its time. As for now, this technology is considered a bit out-datish. Therefore, for many client’s applications a complete code refactoring has been under way for some time now, while this one is waiting for its turn. Currently, the Symfa engineers are taking care of the databases using the existing technologies.

Technologies

  • SQL
  • MS Visual Studio
  • .NET

Results

This project started for Symfa from one engineer who joined the client team in a test mode. Now it’s a team of four talents, and the project has been going full blast without a day of downtime since July 2021.

MS Teams is used for all the project communications. Initially, the team had two types of meetups – Symfa sync-up and a common sync-up. In time, the client decided to replace the common sync-ups with a dedicated channel in MS Teams where all the issues are settled immediately. This is also the place where the PM from the client’s side shares new documentation, notifications, etc. in case some extra explanations are needed for new types of data or stories to work with. This is usually enough for the team to catch the tune. Should further explanations be ever needed, the Symfa Tech Lead has a direct call with the BA and the PM of the client and then shares all the information with the rest of the team.

The project methodology is a classic Scrum, which implies planning, retrospective, and grooming sessions once in two weeks + daily planning sessions. All the team members actively participate in the project discussions and contribute to the overall system growth and evolution.

The client’s PM highly praises our Tech Lead’s commitment and attention to detail, which guarantees seamless code builds without delays. Whatever tech issue we may experience, it will be well settled by the time the client’s team starts their workday. Thus, the project benefits from the difference in time zones, with high-quality code delivered in two shifts.

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