The Dutch insurance company Achmea wanted to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction. Developers often had to rebuild applications that did not meet customer requirements, and it was difficult to estimate costs and timelines. To improve control and visibility, Achmea is implementing an application lifecycle management solution based on Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. The new solution can be used for all stages of the project lifecycle, which will improve workflow for more employees. Achmea can ensure traceability from requirements to the finished product and can estimate costs and schedules more accurately, so customers are happier. And by improving project management, Achmea expects to cut rework time in half for all of its projects.
A leading insurance company in the Netherlands, Achmea has approximately 22,000 employees. Its offerings include pension services and liability, health, and life insurance. Achmea is a subsidiary of Eureko, an insurance firm with operations in 11 European countries.
||By using Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, the first iteration of our software will be of a higher quality, which means much less rework. I expect that we can cut our rework time in half.
Achmea has multiple teams, with approximately 200 developers that handle development based on Microsoft software for all of the business groups. The teams create customer-facing applications in addition to software that is used internally. They handle approximately 50 projects concurrently and continually look for ways to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction.
For example, the teams wanted a more structured approach to development. In particular, they sought better traceability throughout the development process to ensure that customer requirements were met at all stages. “We lacked transparency in our development process,” says Max Laoh, Development Manager at Achmea. “As a result, when a customer tested an application and said the software was not what it asked for, we would have to do a lot of rework.”
Because rework on an application was a typical part of the development process, Achmea often had difficulty determining how long a project would take to complete. This, in turn, made it challenging to estimate development costs. And without tools to effectively manage requirements, it was hard for Achmea to predict how changes would affect the timeline. Laoh says, “We needed a way to show customers which requirements changed and why, and also how proposed changes would affect development.”
To gain better control of its development processes, Achmea implemented Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server and started using it to track work items and control versions. Next, the development teams wanted tools that would link customer requirements to work items and other steps in the development process. When Achmea learned about the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate development system and Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, the company realized that it had found the solution it needed for handling application lifecycle management (ALM) more efficiently.
Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 includes the agile planning workbook, which Achmea could use to simplify implementing agile development methodologies. And for the first time, Achmea would be able to establish and monitor the relationship between requirements, work items, and test cases.
The company also sought to manage testing with Visual Studio 2010. “We have always managed testing separately, and we would like to make it part of the ALM process—that’s another reason we are moving to Visual Studio 2010.” For example, by using Microsoft Test Manager 2010, a new tool for manual testers, Achmea would be able to plan, create, and run manual test cases, and then view the results as part of a test plan. “The new testing capabilities in Visual Studio 2010 are very persuasive,” Laoh says. “Most of our testers will find everything they need in this solution, and we will be able to move to a more centralized way of working.”
With help from Microsoft Services consultants, Achmea started a pilot project in October 2009 using beta versions of Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. An Achmea healthcare division asked one of the development teams for a new application, and the team decided to develop the solution as the pilot project. The software would be used to administer approximately €60 million (U.S.$81.6 million) in insurance payments annually. By taking advantage of the solution’s lifecycle management features and support for agile methodology, Achmea reduced rework activities by half and delivered the application on time to a satisfied customer in January 2010. New projects are already under way.
||The best part is the tracking between requirements, work items, and changes. Everything is traceable. Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 is all we ever wanted in a management tool.
Project managers track work items with the agile planning workbook and reporting tools. “The new dashboards on Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 team portal are part of what makes the development process so transparent,” says Laoh. “We can point customers to the portal, and they can follow the project in real time.” Team members can use hierarchical work items to find information relevant to their roles. For example, developers can look at their tasks, project managers can view user stories, and customers can follow their project’s progress.
Achmea plans to deploy Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 companywide on a high-availability cluster in April 2010. The solution will be available to approximately 200 developers throughout Achmea. Laoh expects to standardize the entire ALM process, including project management and testing, with Visual Studio 2010 tools.
By implementing Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, Achmea is better able to satisfy customer requirements. It also expects to cut rework time in half and improve workflow in all stages of the project. Developers have more control of the project lifecycle and produce higher quality work as a result.
As an insurance company, Achmea is in the business of controlling risk. Laoh and his team are achieving a similar goal in software development with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. Now, the team can better predict how changes will affect the project and maintain a clear link between tasks and the original requirements. “The best part is the tracking between requirements, work items, and changes,” says Laoh. “Everything is traceable. Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 is all we ever wanted in a management tool.”
Achmea is also making its customers happier with more accurate cost estimates and better insight into ongoing projects. “For the first time, I think we exceeded our customers’ expectations. Nothing is hidden, and customers can see what developers are working on,” says Laoh. “We are on the right path with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, and our clients are even happier than we are.”
By ensuring that it can satisfy customer requirements more easily, Achmea can also simplify development and complete projects faster. “By using Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, the first iteration of our software will be of a higher quality, which means much less rework,” Laoh says. “I expect that we can cut our rework time in half.”
Laoh predicts that Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 will be widely adopted at Achmea because people at all levels of the development process will discover collaboration features and tools that improve their workflow. The integrated solution can be used for all stages of the project lifecycle, from identifying requirements to releasing the final product. “When you show project leaders the management capabilities in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, they learn how to use it in a few days,” he says. “The same is true for others with the testing and debugging tools. There is a flow from one feature to another through the whole solution.”
Laoh continues, “Microsoft has put a lot of effort into this solution, and it really works for us. With Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, we can finally focus on the lifecycle process, the methodology, and the way we like to work as developers. And that’s where we gain the most benefits.”
Achmea has already noticed changes in the way people work. For example, the new transparency means that developers have more control of the project lifecycle and a better understanding of how their work affects it. “Developers are more concerned about the quality of their work because they can see how it influences the project,” says Laoh. “The whole process of working with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 in an agile environment encourages accountability.”
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Document published March 2010