Why DevOps is driving internal change at Liberty Mutual

Source – siliconangle.com

The cloud, copious amounts of data generation, analytics and the Internet of Things are disrupting organizations by changing the foundation of how they deliver products and services. In a digital world, insurance companies are beginning to establish new business models around developer operations, and many are becoming software development companies as they shift to new ways of assessing risk and serving customers.

“Our world is changing; technology’s driving a lot of that change. We know that we’ve got to be a big player in that area as well. We’ve got to become one of those software companies that can actually sell insurance opposed to the other way around,” said Mojgan Lefebvre (pictured), senior vice president and chief information officer of global specialty at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

The CIO’s role at many insurance companies is also evolving into supporting their businesses through software development. Lefebvre is one CIO who is leading the change at Liberty Mutual Insurance to bring development and the business together.

She spoke about the impact the digital transformation is having on the industry with Stu Miniman (@stu), John Troyer (@jtroyer), co-hosts of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE’s mobile live streaming studio, during the Cloud Foundry Summit in Santa Clara, California.

This week, theCUBE spotlights Mojgan Lefebvre in our Women in Tech feature.

Changing business and changing minds

The insurance industry is facing many challenges in the digital age. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s “Top Insurance Industry Issues in 2017” report, moving to the cloud is imperative for many insurers to improve infrastructure, expand their technology ecosystem, introduce new products into new markets, innovate product development and mitigate the talent shortage.

Most organizations are housing legacy systems and infrastructure that cannot support new technology or the demands of the real-time interactions that agents and customer have come to expect. So many companies are taking a greenfield approach to replacing legacy systems and just beginning in a cloud environment to upgrade the information technology infrastructure.

One challenge Lefebvre faced was deciding what goes to the cloud first. She had to learn as she went through it, and she noted that while a greenfield environment was ideal, looking at the existing environment raises many questions, such as weighing the effects of moving dev environments in terms of how it will interact with the production environments and multiple cloud support.

“The global applications always make it much more difficult as you think, ‘How do you replicate among different clouds in different geographies?’ Those are some of the blockers that we’ve got to tackle and make sure that we get around,” she said.

Competition from new players in the insurance industry and the invasion of technology companies in the market is changing the company from the inside out, Lefebvre stated. The insurance industry needs to enable new business applications to meet its constituents’ demands.

“Our employees, our consumers now have all these other software companies that they have experience with, and so their expectations are very different. You know, they’ve got one experience when they’re at home and then they come into the workplace and it looks like … they’ve gone back 100 years. So that paradigm needs to change,” Lefebvre said.

Developing from within

The developers within Liberty Mutual led the company to Pivotal Software Inc. and Cloud Foundry, an application platform for cloud computing, to accelerate its transformation. There were pockets of developers who were already sold on the company and the platform, making it easier for other developers to adopt, according to Lefebvre.

In terms of the “business” being responsive to Pivotal, Lefebvre explained that the tech company helped to shift the business mindset from thinking about making it happen all at once to transforming in iterations.

In a “2017 State of DevOps Report“ by Puppet (formerly Puppet Labs) noted that “the ability to develop and deliver software efficiently and accurately is a key differentiator and value driver for all organizations.” With this in mind, Liberty Mutual’s  IT leadership team created the company’s IT manifesto about a year ago and added some “bold, audacious moves” to extend the reach of its challenges. A DevOps/IT strategy evolved that is now driving many of the company’s goals.

Lefebvre and her team are creating a developer culture within Liberty Mutual, and they are moving the heavy lifting of infrastructure and maintenance to cloud companies like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

“We truly mean it when we say we want 75 percent of the [IT staff] writing code, and we don’t want them to have to worry about the infrastructure. We definitely want to be independent of [AWS or Microsoft’s cloud], and I would say something like Cloud Foundry definitely allows you to do that,” Lefebvre said.

Making that strategy happen is another story. The shortage of developers is a major industry concern, and finding and retaining developers who can work with the business units is not easy now and will become more demanding in the future, she added.

So when Lefebvre calls for 75 percent of her staff to be coders, she is putting her money where her mouth is by bringing the team to events like the Cloud Foundry Summit and fostering the coding community from within her own company by providing the tools and education necessary to get to that number, she pointed out.

“It’s up to us to make sure that we’re providing the tools and what’s needed for that to happen. Our goal is to get anyone on our staff who really wants to get there and is willing to put the sweat in, to be able to do it. Getting our own employees that we value greatly to be able to do that transformation is critical for us,” she said.

Gartner predicts that by 2020 half of the CIOs who have not transformed their team’s’ capabilities will no longer work for their organizations’ digital leadership teams. So what is the future of the CIO? Lefebvre believes that the role will be enhanced.

“I’d say there’s probably more and more need for very business-oriented, strategic CIOs. They’re the epitome of someone who understands technology and is the head of engineering, but also making sure that they can work very well with the business and understands the impact of technology on the business,” Lefebvre concluded.

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