Sergey Nivens - stock.adobe.com
Zurich Insurance has reduced the time it takes to develop and roll out ServiceNow applications from a week and a half to a day and a half through a syncing tool.
About a year ago, faced with the end of support of a tool used to sync instances of its ServiceNow platform, Zurich Insurance turned to ServiceNow development partner Xtype.io for a replacement, which has saved its development team days every time new applications are developed and rolled out.
Xtype.io, which also has customers including Heineken and HP, provides technology as a service that provides visibility and continuous synchronisation of ServiceNow instances.
ServiceNow has become core software for Zurich Insurance after initially taking it on as an IT service management (ITSM) tool in about 2015, when it replaced outsourced tools. It has since broadened the use of ServiceNow to include SecOps, HR, service catalogs and more.
Lee Chapman, ServiceNow team lead at Zurich Insurance, who is responsible for production services for ServiceNow applications at the insurer, said the use of ServiceNow’s cloud-based platform has evolved into a workflow tool, and is “a much larger application than it was originally”.
Previously, Zurich Insurance’s IT service helpdesks were mainly outsourced, with the service provider owning all of its ITSM toolsets. Chapman said this made it difficult for the insurer to request changes and updates because it was only given a standard offering. “We were told that we could not configure the ITSM service for our use only, which we found hugely detrimental, so we decided to insource,” he explained.
It selected the ServiceNow ITSM platform, and worked with KPMG for consultancy and on the initial implementation.
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The insurer had to stand up a team from scratch, and decided to go for ServiceNow’s cloud-based service, working with KPMG on the initial implementation.
The small team of about five people was set up in Oklahoma City in the US, which has grown significantly to about 50 people today. The team includes developers, platform engineers, system admins, project managers, architects and business managers, as well as various tech leads. “Our use of ServiceNow, like all other users, has evolved into more areas, creating challenges for developers,” said Chapman.
The company only has a single instance of ServiceNow in production, but behind that it has about 14 “sub-production instances”, he said. These include sandboxes, development instances and user acceptance testing interfaces.
All these instances need to be kept in sync with each other. “We are potentially copying data between these instances to develop on live data,” said Chapman.
To do this, Zurich Insurance used a ServiceNow tool, known as Team Development, but when the software company announced the tool was coming to the end of its support, it looked elsewhere. “We were one of the very few users of that software [at the time], I think,” he said, adding that Zurich is “not in the habit of using unsupported software”, so it was at this point the team started looking for software that replicated what it did with Team Development to keep things in sync.
But the company wanted to go beyond that, and looked for a tool that would also allow it to clone data, more easily keep instances in sync and move software through that lifecycle.
Alex Cha, senior software engineer for ServiceNow at Zurich Insurance, said the ServiceNow development team was originally small, and with the demand it was able to live with the amount of time it took to develop and introduce new applications using Team Development.
“But over a period of about eight or so years, our instance has grown significantly, and towards the end period of using Team Development it was taking too long,” he said.
“A good week and a half would go by where none of the developers, project managers and stakeholders could do anything on the work that was in progress. It was at the time the only tool we knew of, and it was from ServiceNow, so we had a favourable view of it. But as time passed, it came to a point where there began to be more cons than pros, so when ServiceNow made the announcement that it was ending support for Team Development, we started looking around for other tools.”
After finding Xtype.io, it carried out a proof of concept of its software in its sandboxes, and after adopting the software, it has reaped the benefits. It would previously take a week and a half to do the whole software development lifecycle.
“It has cut that down to a day and a half to two days,” said Cha.