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Nationwide Uses ARM for Dramatic Cost & Time Savings

Nationwide completes pilot test for full migration to ARM using Agile practices, company representatives said at a conference.

Steve Coleman, manager of IT analysis at Nationwide, faced a problem: His team was tasked with migrating more than 25 campaigns with legacy application to ARM architecture. Recalling the experience at Teradata 2013 PARTNERS Conference, he says the move met with increased time pressures because the traditional process waterfall (initiate, design and develop, test, implement) was not functioning as intended. Initiate and developing stages took much too long, in turn crunching the test time in order to meet implementation dates. More often than not, implementation was late, and the company had already moved on and in want of a something different.

Faced with the pressure of time, the migration was moved to Nationwide's new agile development center. Agile is a group of software development methods that require solution though collaboration between cross-functional teams. Per the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, Nationwide developers were told they would be talking a lot more, and that individuals and interactions were now valued over processes and tools.

It was apparent that many of Nationwide's base campaigns were between 80% and 97% — the same as other products, prompting the teams to automate the process and take advantage of repetitions. They set their sights on manual versus automated testing with ARM.

[Read more about Nationwide's analytics work with Teradata in an interview with AVP of customer information management Kathy Koontz]

"Testing was taking forever, defects were piling up, so we wanted to know how ARM could be tested, but still develop," said Wyatt Bales, Application Consultant at Teradata, "How could ARM be integrated into parallel campaign testing while still continuing to support? How do we do both in an environment where I can still design campaigns while support things I've already designed…" And more importantly, he wondered, "Does all this automated testing expedite the process but leave accuracy behind?"

To give more light to their plight, manual tests include manual searches for data that meets a requirement, submitting the campaign, and evaluating the result set. A real-world example would be seeding data manually, combing through 33 million existing customers by a query of first name, last name, to identify targets in the California area, and then, column by column look for those that may qualify for a campaign. With automated testing, developers design methods to fulfill requirement, use daisy-chain targeting to run after seeding, and benefit from pass/fail flags displayed at job completion. With automation, the search for qualified customers because as simple as a few clicks.

Making Changes through Agile

"Every two weeks we sit down and discuss what worked and what didn't," explains Coleman. "We have a process called Three Amigos - analyst, development, tester. Before anything goes to development we require the analyst and other two to have a session to tell a story, making sure they have all the same ideas, preventing defects later on."

The work environment is in pods, with workstations built to foster discussion and duel monitors that actually turn to face a coworkers desk, allowing two developers to work on the same project at the same time. "It encourages teaching, we're able to avoid defects and silos. One person won't be able to hold it up because at least two people know it… We also do some paring, every half-day you have to switch pairs. It creates collective code ownership. No one person knows it, we all know it."

The team feels the benefits of ARM conversion were well worth the initial effort, including the large amount of code that needed to be laid out before the first campaign. In Nationwide's example, 9,431 hours were used for manual testing a single campaign. With ARM automated testing, 10,690 hours have gone into 10 campaigns. "


Agile technology was not built for the purposes Nationwide had in mind, but it was deemed a worthwhile test as a result of issues with waterfall delivery, and a wish for more certainty in scope and ability to meet deadlines. "It was painful in the beginning because you're paying the tax of learning new methodology," says Coleman. "But we told our teams to keep doing what we say. 'Trust us, it gets better.' And you break through, eventually the wheel starts going." For Nationwide the tipping point was about four to six months in. "We're going into our October release with zero defects, and that's the first time we've had that high of quality with that kind of velocity." He calls it a "great culmination of quantity and quality."

Coleman adds that the trust and support of management, who were also asked to participate in the Agile practices, is essential to the pilot's success. "We're going to get a lot of reuse from automation. That thing that took us four to five weeks to build will go through a campaign in one week. We knew the code and they gave us the trust, it worked out, and we were able to deliver faster."

Becca Lipman is Senior Editor for Wall Street & Technology. She writes in-depth news articles with a focus on big data and compliance in the capital markets. She regularly meets with information technology leaders and innovators and writes about cloud computing, datacenters, ... View Full Bio

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