“… We can more easily plug new solutions in and out of our DevOps toolchain as things change, so we’re not locked into anything and have long-term flexibility. – Per Hansson, DevOps solutions architect, Folksam
Folksam is one of Sweden’s largest insurance providers, offering a broad range of financial services. As a mutual insurance company, all of its profits are either invested into improving its services or refunded to its customers. Folksam’s core goal is to continue to expand its share of the insurance and savings market in Sweden through continued innovation. Like all modern enterprises, digital capabilities are key to its ability to drive innovation and growth.
The mainframe has sat at the core of the IT ecosystem that supports Folksam’s digital capabilities for the last 50 years. “Our mainframe is a crucial part of our business infrastructure, managing customer data and complex applications for accounting, calculation, payments, insurance reimbursement, claims, and in different savings and insurance products. The back-end applications supporting these processes are the core fabric of our business—they were custom-built for us decades ago, and put simply, they’re irreplaceable,” says Per Hansson, mainframe DevOps solutions architect, Folksam.
As customers have come to consume more of Folksam’s services digitally, its back-end mainframe applications have needed to integrate with a growing array of front-end web services. However, as more of these services have been layered on top of its core systems, it’s become harder for IT to trace application transactions and truly understand user journeys from beginning to end. As a result, it’s more difficult for the mainframe team to innovate quickly without increasing risk.
This challenge was compounded by outdated mainframe development tools and environments, such as IBM 3270 terminals and custom-built functions, which did not support modern ways of working. With limited documentation of how these processes worked, and its mainframe team working in a silo, it was increasingly difficult for Folksam to safeguard the future of its critical back-end systems as experienced developers retired. Migrating away from the mainframe was not a viable option, as the complexity of Folksam’s application landscape, and the benefits the platform delivers, rendered this a high-risk, low-reward approach.
“Our back-end services need to change all the time, but our old toolchain included a lot of manual, time-consuming steps that made it difficult to deliver these changes as fast as the business needed them. We can write COBOL just as quickly as other teams can create their own code in Python or Java, but it’s the complexity of our environment and the tools we use that hold us back. We need to be just as agile on the mainframe and play as much of a role in innovation as any other team, so addressing that complexity was paramount,” adds Hansson.
One of the core challenges with Folksam’s mainframe development toolchain was that its Source Code Management (SCM) solution dated back to the 1990s, making it difficult to integrate with modern Agile approaches. Its mainframe team was using CA Endevor alongside a range of custom-built processes, internal scripts, and external repositories to progress code through the development pipeline and into production. The complexity and manual effort involved in that process required a big team to support it, and reduced developers’ ability to accelerate innovation. It also made it very time-consuming to identify the cause of any problems or code quality issues that arose, adding further delays to innovation.
Folksam realized that it needed a more modern approach to mainframe development that would make its crucial back-end systems easier to understand and work with. It identified two possible options; to spend 12-months rebuilding its entire toolchain to work more effectively with Endevor, or to switch to a modern mainframe SCM solution with Compuware ISPW®. Folksam already had experience with Compuware, as a long-time user of its Xpediter®, Abend-AID® and File-AID® products, as well as the Topaz® Workbench. The positive impact those solutions had created for its developers made it an easy decision to go with Compuware ISPW.
“Newer developers are more open minded about the mainframe and they’re willing to work with it if we give them a modern interface and tools resembling those they’re used to for Linux and Windows. We chose Compuware because its proactivity in partnering with other CI/CD companies and open source tools such as Jira and Digital.ai makes the whole DevOps lifecycle more real. It’s great that our developers can use all the CI/CD tools we use for other systems along with a modern SCM tool, through a single Eclipse-based mainframe environment,” continues Hansson. “That also means we can more easily plug new solutions in and out of our DevOps toolchain as things change, so we’re not locked into anything and have long-term flexibility.”
Using Compuware’s ISPW SCM Migration Services, Folksam successfully migrated all 150 of its core mainframe applications to ISPW. This process was efficient as it employed Compuware’s state-of-the-art migration tooling and expertise ensuring a smooth migration to ISPW. Part of this process was to also roll out the solution to Folksam’s team of approximately 50 COBOL developers. Compuware helped to ensure the rollout ran smoothly through a series of training workshops to educate developers on the solution’s capabilities and ways in which it could be used most effectively in combination with Topaz Workbench. This helped drive faster adoption of the new solution and to more effectively phase out processes and methodologies that had been ingrained in the IT department for decades.
“Compuware adds huge value through the commitment, skills, and helpfulness of its professionals—who assist customers implement its solutions most effectively—and the ongoing support it provides. Compuware was able to demonstrate clearly to our developers the amount of time we could save by embracing a new approach, so they instantly saw the value and liked it. There are one or two of our developers who still like their 3270 terminals, but the overwhelming majority couldn’t wait to switch to our new Eclipse based environment with Compuware,” explains Hansson.
Since the rollout of Compuware ISPW, Folksam has seen significant benefits, including:
“The mainframe team was the first in the entire business to create a fully automated deployment process through the entire lifecycle. It’s great to be able to show teams working on platforms that are considered to be more Agile how it should be done, and how much more efficient Compuware enabled us to become. It’s also enabled us to collaborate better with our outsourcing partner, so we can deploy our code faster and resolve any quality issues with greater speed and efficiency. That’s a win-win for everybody—we can deliver faster innovation for the business, and our partner can focus on more satisfying, value-adding tasks, rather than getting tied-up in complex, outdated processes,” says Hansson.
As it looks to build on the successes it has achieved with Compuware ISPW and Topaz Workbench in particular, Folksam plans to expand its use of automation to cover more of its testing processes. It is set to trial Compuware Topaz for Total Test to evaluate the potential gains that can be achieved by automating test cases and data management processes to further speed-up mainframe software delivery.
“We’re looking to speed up testing and simplify it significantly, while instilling a higher degree of quality in our code. Automating that process as much as possible will help make our developers faster and more effective, and allow them to roll out changes without needing to wait for someone else. Eliminating the slack time between developers finishing their code and a QA team picking it up for testing means they’re empowered to just push it straight out to production when they’re done. That’s where it delivers value to our customers and helps us to drive innovation and growth for our business,” concludes Hansson.