Creating a cloud-first platform for innovation

Creating a cloud-first platform for innovation

nib is one of Australia’s fastest growing health insurers, providing health and medical insurance to over one million Australian and New Zealand residents, with a mission to provide healthcare to people when and where they need it.

DiUS partnered with nib to help them create a cloud platform that would enable the business to continually innovate, experiment and build competitive advantage, as well as enable the business to live its value of challenging the status quo.

The faster the car, the bigger the brakes

With a culture of innovation and experimentation, in a highly regulated industry the pressure on nib’s infrastructure, both physical and virtual, to be able to support experimentation and product development, while maintaining integrity and security for the core systems was intense. It was difficult and complex to automate and adopt the DevOps approach required to continually innovate, and the business was continually hitting capacity limits and found it difficult to spin up new business segments quickly.

To relieve the pressure and help enable the business to achieve their ambition, nib decided to move from looking after physical boxes and infrastructure to building a cloud platform reflecting their cloud first strategy that would allow product teams to experiment and build applications to ensure they could continually challenge the status quo.

Proving value first

Starting small, the DiUS and nib team first looked at migrating the nib existing digital assets to the cloud through a proof-of-concept (PoC) to test the various scenarios against the AWS environment. The initial goal of the PoC was to demonstrate that a critical shared infrastructure component could be safely iterated on by multiple development teams, rather than having all changes forced through an ops team bottleneck.

Applying an infrastructure as code and open source approach using microservices and APIs, enabled nib to build services on top of other services - which increased both speed to market for new products and features, but also delivered confidence. Automated disaster testing and simulated outages mean no more weekends set aside to test disaster recovery, as the platform enables a simulated outage to be run, enabling the DevOps teams to assess and fix problems without impacting live systems.

The DiUS team acted, and continues to act, as a partner through the transformation process and beyond, providing specialised solution and development support around the use of BuildKite, GitHub Enterprise, Packer as well as AWS technologies such as CloudFormation, EC2, S3, RDS and CloudTrail. As a follow-up phase, the team enhanced the platform to support Docker-based deployments onto ECS.

Creating a platform for innovation

Since the proof of concept in 2015 nib moved to the first production release on AWS in April 2016, received PCI compliance enabling it to take and manage card payments in May 2017 and by August 2017 there were 100 applications live on the new platform. In December 2017, nib’s first customer innovation project, nibby the chatbot, was live.

A key objective of the ongoing partnership with DiUS was to help nib to grow its internal delivery capability; giving the health insurer the ability to use its cloud strategy and platform as an innovation tool, enabling continuous improvement and business agility now and into the future.  

Driving innovation in healthcare

With a solid cloud foundation laid, nib is now looking beyond reducing infrastructure costs and improving effectiveness towards the more strategic benefits of leveraging the cloud: driving innovation and competitive differentiation through product development and customer experience.

The cloud platform enables experimentation to leverage the power of emerging technologies. For example, DiUS partnered with nib to build nibby the chatbot using Amazon Lex in just four weeks. The chatbot reflects the next generation of customer service, giving customers the ability to interact with nib in the most convenient way for them by providing them with access to simple responses regarding their health insurance.  

nib has plans to push the cloud platform and AI use cases further than front-facing applications, investigating the value in improving operational efficiencies and augment existing teams for smarter decision making in areas such as customer retention, claims and fraud detection.

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