Insurer reduces risk in rolling out software

The IT department at insurance company Aon is using a technique called business technology optimisation to assess whether...

The IT department at insurance company Aon is using a technique called business technology optimisation to assess whether in-house developed applications are ready to roll out.

Business technology optimisation correlates the rate of errors in a software development project with the length of time required to build the application. Software that ships without adequate testing may suffer from poor performance if it is rolled out to too many users too quickly, or may crash more frequently.

Aon is using software from Mercury Interactive, which supports business technology optimisation, to determine whether an application is ready to install across the organisation. The tools are designed to give IT chiefs a way to convey to the business the risk of rolling out software early.

Adrian Dabell, chief architect and corporate programmes director at Aon, said the tools were being used to apply corporate governance to the software development process. "We can make a judgement on shipping and the ramifications of the application not being quite right," he said.

The software tools allowed Dabell to assess the risk of deploying software early, or to a subset of users, owing to pressure from the business. "If we deploy an application now which has 80% functionality but contains bugs, we can decide how to move forward," he said.

Through the governance process Dabell was able to focus on achieving specific goals for the application. "We can set a goal of a one second access time with 100 users [on the system] then assess the impact of adding 300 users," he said.

Dabell used the software in a project to roll out a new application to 400 users across eight sites. Phase one originally involved fewer than 50 users, but the business wanted more.

Dabell said the tools provided him with a way to tell the business how performance would degrade if the number of users was increased straight away. Using the metrics provided by Mercury Interactive, Dabell was able to convince business managers to meet him halfway on the number of users.

Bola Rotiba, senior analyst at Ovum, said Aon's business technology optimisation strategy was a sensible one. The tools gave IT managers a way to ascertain key functionality in an application to be tested. She said, "Aon's IT managers can express priorities in terms the business can understand."

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