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Continuous delivery: software releases as if from a conveyor belt

Digitisation and the challenges that come with it are putting pressure on the insurance industry. New providers are bursting into the financial and insurance markets with innovative services. New products and services have to be developed and marketed increasingly quickly in order for businesses to preserve their competitiveness and remain a step ahead of the competition. Regulatory requirements that often have to be met at short notice are yet another factor. In short, insurers have to increase their rate of innovation as well as the speed and flexibility with which they provide new products.

This requires stable, high-quality software systems that are always up to date and can be adapted to new requirements as quickly as possible. Yet the core systems of insurers are highly complex applications, and it costs a lot of time and money to implement new requirements. For example, it usually takes far too long to develop and deliver software releases, and the process is an error-prone and risky one in which many recurring procedures still have to be handled manually. And maintaining a consistent level of quality at the same time is a challenge unto itself.

Continuous delivery for faster software releases

How can this process be shortened in order to make new software features available promptly, regardless of whether the requirements are technical, regulatory or specific to a certain field? With continuous delivery and continuous integration. These two strategies play a key role as the central elements of agile software development. The practice of continuous integration and delivery defines the principles and technical practices that allow for the rapid, low-risk and efficient development and delivery of new software features. This way, new requirements can be made available rapidly and at minimal expense as soon as they become available.

Continuous delivery (CD) describes the development of a rapid, reproducible and reliable process for simplifying and greatly accelerating the delivery of software. In doing so, CD is heavily reliant on automating the entire delivery process. Not only does this shorten the process as a whole, but fewer errors are made that negatively affect how the software operates.

Fast feedback for a fast response

Continuous integration (CI) ensures that changes can be made to the source code of software through automated integration and end-to-end tests before the software is released. The developers quickly receive feedback on code changes, enabling them to fix errors at an early stage. The results are then also available to all of the other programmers involved with the software. As such, everyone has an overview of the current state of development.

By automating the build, deployment and testing processes and improving the collaboration between developers, testers and IT departments, teams can provide changes on a daily basis regardless of the size of the product or the complexity of the IT architecture.

msg life uses continuous delivery

Agile software development is a high priority at msg life. As such, it is a matter of course for msg life to use continuous delivery and continuous integration to develop and deliver software releases. The software application is divided into numerous smaller deployment units, such as docker containers, which map a technical feature and can be launched separately from one another. The use of docker container technology is an elegant way of implementing an immutable deployment strategy which aims to use the identical deployment in all stages of development and therefore preclude potential deployment problems from the outset.

The deployment pipeline which encompasses all processing and validation stages that a piece of software passes through before it is released is fully automated. The pipeline ensures that changes made to the software code by the developers actually make it to the end user as intended – as quickly as possible yet without compromising on quality. In the process, every single change is integrated into the entire system directly.

Rapid implementation of customer requirements within msg.Life Factory

The use of continuous delivery and continuous integration for the policy management system msg.Life Factory makes it possible to provide quality software releases on a daily basis or in just a few hours. Urgent changes can be delivered at short notice without the customer being forced to wait for other features to be completed. Customer requirements can be implemented quickly and flexibly. msg life uses continuous delivery in standard and custom projects, meaning that changes and adjustments to a standard project are also made to custom projects. This guarantees consistently high quality in both standard and custom projects.

The use of continuous delivery dramatically lowers the risks of delivering a release. Automating the entire process drastically reduces the amount of time and work required, which in turn leads to significantly lower costs.

Benefits of continuous delivery
  • Shorter release cycles for more frequent software launches
  • Hotfixes are released quickly
  • Continuous quality improvement and assurance
  • No release acquisition risks (in terms of deadlines, quality, budget, migration, etc.)
 
  • Fewer manual processes; manual testing takes place in parallel
  • Continuous, rapid feedback allows for instant troubleshooting
  • Customisation can continue simultaneously without being interrupted by switches to releases
  • Lower costs due to fully automated process

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Policy administration system for life insurers msg.Life Factory