Online insurer Esurance recently moved to Microsoft® Visual Studio® Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server for more comprehensive application life-cycle management. Consequently, the company has reduced development costs by approximately 20 percent. It also has improved the quality of its applications, because developers now have visibility into project business requirements and status, and they can avoid rework.
One of the top names in online automobile insurance in the United States, Esurance offers automobile insurance to nearly 90 percent of the country’s population. The company was an online insurance pioneer and, as such, continuously looks for ways to improve its customer experience.
A major competitive differentiator for Esurance is its ability to quickly bring new insurance products and services to market. To do so, the company employs 90 licensed on-shore and off-shore developers in its development organization, which is divided into six parts to align with its business units. Together, the developers deliver an average of 50 projects a month to the business; these can range from an update to an existing claims application to a new mobile framework for expanded customer access to Esurance services.
Until recently, Esurance supported its development process with a set of discrete tools, making it difficult for developers and managers to know the status of projects. “We suffered from a lack of integration among the different parts of our development organization,” says Deepak Srinivasan, Director of Systems Engineering for Esurance. “We faced particular challenges linking a project’s business requirements to the various work items that were needed to meet those requirements, and then tracking project progress across the organization.”
The delays in project development that Esurance experienced made it more difficult to properly set expectations for business users. “We wanted a better way to handle end-to-end application life-cycle management so that we could improve the speed and quality of our development and cut out all the time wasted on inefficiencies,” says Srinivasan.
Having determined that it needed to implement an effective application life-cycle management solution, Esurance looked no further than Microsoft® Visual Studio® Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server integrated collaboration server. “Team Foundation Server had all the capabilities that we were looking for and more, so it didn’t make sense to look at anything else,” explains Srinivasan. “Plus, our developers already worked within a Visual Studio development environment, so we knew they’d be comfortable with the solution.”
||We’re getting our products to market an estimated 20 percent faster because of the efficiencies that we gain using Team Foundation Server.
Director of Systems Engineering, Esurance
In September 2008, Esurance worked with Accentient—a Microsoft Registered Partner, member of the Visual Studio Team System Inner Circle program, and specialist in application life-cycle management—to establish a plan for how best to structure Visual Studio Team System Team Foundation Server. Says Ritu Trakru, Project Lead for Esurance, “Over the course of two weeks, Accentient made valuable suggestions about how we should set up our branching strategy and the best way to modularize our code base.”
In January 2009, Esurance chose as its pilot application for Team Foundation Server a stand-alone application that insurance buyers access online. Developers migrated the existing online application from the Microsoft .NET Framework version 1.1 to version 3.5, and also to Team Foundation Server.
To make the migration process easier, the company opted to convert its pilot application as a fresh baseline version. For test purposes, Esurance restricted access to Team Foundation Server to 24 developers in three locations. Although the company wasn’t able to use the Continuous Integration functionality in Team Foundation Server because of an issue with the test application’s code packaging, developers found that the check-in and unit test capabilities made it easy for them to accommodate the test application’s requirements.
After success in its testing, Esurance put the application into production in March 2009 and has started to migrate other applications to Team Foundation Server. “Our goal is to have all of our applications in the new system by October 2009,” says Srinivasan.
Now Esurance has a powerful way to support comprehensive application life-cycle management. Through its use of Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server, the company is increasing development speed and quality while reducing costs. “With Team Foundation Server, we’re enhancing the quality and agility of our product-delivery process,” says Srinivasan. “Ultimately, we’ll improve the business results of Esurance as a whole.”
For Esurance, the solution offers:
- Faster development speeds. Having a clear way to handle its development process has resulted in a dramatic increase in time-to-market for Esurance. “We’re getting our products to market an estimated 20 percent faster because of the efficiencies that we gain using Team Foundation Server,” says Srinivasan.
- Improved product quality. The company is also experiencing superior development quality with the addition of Team Foundation Server. “Not only can developers use Team Foundation Server to manage their work items more effectively, but also those work items are now integrated with the project’s business requirements,” says Srinivasan. “Managers and developers can quickly and easily see a project’s status, ensure that it meets the business needs, and minimize the number of defects to enhance our product quality.”
- Better resource utilization. Because Esurance now has accurate reporting on project status, the company can make better use of its on-shore and off-shore developers. “We have more timely, integrated information about where a project stands in terms of meeting its timeline,” says Srinivasan. “So if a project is falling behind schedule, we know to add more resources and catch up right away, rather than scrambling later.”
- Reduced development costs. Thanks to its use of Team Foundation Server, Esurance expects to significantly decrease its development costs. “We’ll save approximately 20 percent on development, which means that we’ll be able to deliver more products to the business, with lower overhead,” says Srinivasan.