Sept. 30, 2021
A Startup Embarks Digital transformation Journey- Flycatch experience
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Digital transformation, the buzzword, has stood out in the internet and software space for quite a few years and is still flying high. Past years, software service providers from medium to enterprise segments focused on disruptive ideas and digital transformation solutions across verticals. The Internet is flooded with a lot of content in this regard. However, small players in this space have to cross a lot of hurdles to attain maturity and claim something credible.

For Onlookers Digital Transformation is as easy as implementing a process, cloud migration, automating most of the cumbersome manual work, lightweight data platform to enable ML and AI or building a custom web or mobile application. Step into the arena of digital transformation demands pretty decent ground work to address the unprecedented. Having a “go getter mindset” has been the primary driving force for Flycatch to choose the road of digital transformation journey.

Fundamentally digital transformation is a package of shifting all aspects revolving around the business ranging from the processes, structures, operations to the existing or legacy technologies. From the business point of view, this shift does involve high risks, as the internal changes should not lead to a trade off in the values delivered to the customer.

Here I am sharing the first journey of Flycatch being a digital transformation partner for an insurance broker company turned Flycatch from a mere software service provider to a “Value Engineering” partner.

Indeed the initial preparation involves attending a lot of sessions and conducting proper awareness programs to enable and equip the managers and team leads to steer the ship to not hit the iceberg.

Remarkable advice from the veterans, Our team could zero in the failures marked by organisations in the past and prepared with the solutions for the mistakes others registered in the past.

Among the advice and readings from credible resources, we educate the entire team to be aware of the below.

  • 1. Technology adoption is always secondary, the crux part is transforming the “hearts and minds”.
  • 2. The shift entails a concrete strategy of educating intentional resistance and subtle wisdom towards transformation. In turn the long array of why’s and how’s are quite usual and expected.
  • 3. The past experience of many organisations in this front struggle to articulate their aspired agile culture and make it happen in real life. So cultivating an agile culture is pivotal in the process.

Stage 1: Understand the status quo

Below are some of the highlights of what Flycatch assessed for “Status Quo” understanding.

  • 1. Learn the business processes,
  • 2. Know the IT systems supports the businesses and manual processes.
  • 3. Process of business stakeholders inter communication.
  • 4. Operation and infra management.
  • 5. External dependencies and integration.
  • 6. Cyber security data protection.
  • 7. Data management and reporting.
  • 8. Data support systems and reporting.
  • 9. Processes, project management and documentation.

A lot of questions framed with “How” are asked. A lot of propositions suggested with a lot of “Why not this”. Both these correlated questions and propositions on the right mix helped us to understand the mindset of the client.

Targeted outcome: To understand and assess a right “Bending Angle” of change which can be injected to the processes and technologies.

Stage2: Discuss about the future business plans

This was a pivotal stage for Flycatch to collect as much information about the future business plans, executions and how the envisioned IT system aligned with these plans.

Having the old one from Stage 1 and future plans in stage 2 provided us a clear vision of how the digital road should be constructed. However, the challenges were to convince the client on the below aspects such as cost benefit analysis, the need for them to change so that the massive envisioned change for the future can be managed well and how good they should be prepared to be ready for the change etc. If anyone think “Digital Transformation” is not merely IT landscape change, rather it is a “Cultural shift”

Stage 3: Stakeholder communication and create enthusiasm for a most awaited change

Flycatch is well aware of , Digital transformation is not a technical landscape change, it is not merely a IT tool change, the success of it relies in the hands of the people take decision, run the day to day show in the business, staffs who supports it and after all business entities and clients comments as “far better than before”. We have started from the top management spend more time with them and advice them to inculcate this “change should happen” mindset to each of the department so that end of the road the changes should be received as a “Most awaited Event”, no better reception can happen for such a bumper to bumper massive facelift in the organisation.

Stage 4: Requirement Gathering & Planning ( Silent ignitor for change)

Flycatch initial assignment to build a new system for the core insurance brokerage business. Being aware of the “somehow get it done” nature of the client, Flycatch takes an easy and eco-friendly approach of “No Explicit..No Jargon” policy on the ground as we already assessed the “bending angle” of the client and their readiness for change. Flycatch introduced confluence to the client as “just a tool” to manage their documentation. We have started as POC and documented all the requirements in confluence, every day started to publish the changes and finally submitted it for clients review. Labelling, tagging and structured documentations etc. were literally a new experience for the client. Needless to say that the client was impressed and that was the green light to wholeheartedly adopt this platform. This made our job a lot easier to get into the planning phase.

Our proposal was to use another “interface” of Atlassian to link, plan and execute the project and a great tool for them to see “What's going on” in the project. So Jira has been introduced dramatically. Requirements were converted to granular components, naming them backlogs tied back to the requirements in Confluence. It was another feel for the client to witness a seamless integration between their requirements and the technical components that are going to be delivered. Product owner became all the more enthusiastic. Though “Agile” is a common term, at client place Flycatch embarked on a journey with them to Actually building Agility Across the board. Still we stick to our policy of “No Explicit..No Jargon A naturally evolving Digital Change”

The product is empowered and we have inquired the client what he would like to see in his product at the earliest. Like any other typical product owner the client didn’t surprise us and his answer was the usual “Everything”. Flycatch was trying to explain the fact “better be early than being late”. If looking for everything in a row, “forget everything for 6 months till the product is ready” if not we can plan for MVP and add features gradually. Product owner can go to the backlog and select what he needs.

Now he is Agile, Flycatch introduced the term “Agile'' for the first time here and the entire planning has happened in a succession. Now we have a beautiful, realistic sprint plan ready.

Stage 5: Integrations and inter system communication

The client has a complex array of systems running in silo which are completely unknown to others what’s inside the box. Stage 1 & 2 consultation gave us a good understanding of underlying facts and future. This learning helped our team to tailor a robust middle communication layer along with a futuristic outlook for the platform. Our team architected a highly secured, seamlessly integratable and manageable microservice based platform.

Being an insurance broker, the platform had a multitude of external touchpoints where in Flycatch defined unique interface design, consistent interface definition, robust SSO and unique login protocols which would pave the path for the client to seamlessly integrate and reuse a lot of components across the board.

This is the time, business stakeholders started sensing the true value of digitization for their future plans. We were not really keen to introduce any too advanced solutions like AI or cognitive features; being such a massive shift is going to hamper the system stakeholders' trust. We have learned the fact that “Digital transformation should be graceful, it is not always about AI, ML and advanced analytics”

Stage 6: Automated Infra management and light weight Devops

Infrastructure management and operations were one area where Flycatch noticed a lag in the entire process. “Cloud First” being our strategy, with this client we could easily propose a “Infra As a Code” mechanism. The first of such kind of an implementation, first terraform and Ansible script won the heart of the stakeholders. Instead of repetitive messages and emails, a script spinning out the entire environment for them is a “Massive Shift” in Infra Management. Slowly DevOps became a norm rather than an innovation.

Step 7: Worries About Continuous Deployment and Ensure the Quality

Ongoing practice for deploying applications and Integrating with earlier releases were managed manually. Having the sprints and documentations are already in Atlassian; Flycatch proposed Jenkins based Continuous Deployment and integration platform. There were worries about uncontrolled deployment that could happen. As a solution Flycatch demonstrated the entire mechanism of how Github is integrated,

ensured quality of code using “Lint Rules” and authorization features of “Code integration” by approval email brought complete confidence to get a “Go” from client side.

Final Leg of the Transformation Marathon :

After closely working with 8 months of initial engagement, Client see the “Agility” in application development, faster deployment, quick Infra provisioning, automated testing practise helps recurring regression testing, Lint rules enforced standard programming , end to end documentation, seamless document to code/feature linking and cloud reduced overall infra spending.

Technologically we enabled cloud first strategy, DevOps, agile delivery methodology and infra automation. The fundamental focal points of any digital transformation journey. Further with the base built on robust state of art IT delivery practices, Flycatch is driving our client to AI/ML Journey to bring a competitive edge and make them establish as “First Digital Insurance Broker” in the region.

Written by
Muneer Muhammad
CMO
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