Published on 22-Mar-2013
Competence. Fairness. Trust. The INTER Versicherungsgruppe (insurance group) has stood for these values for over a hundred years. Besides the group’s focus on private customers and mid-market trading, INTER has also traditionally been closely connected to people involved in healthcare and craftsmanship. Headquartered in Mannheim, the INTER group primarily comprises INTER Krankenversicherung aG as the parent company; and INTER Lebensversicherung AG, INTER Allgemeine Versicherung AG und Bausparkasse Mainz AG (BKM) as fully-owned subsidiaries.
The INTER group wanted to match the mainframe development capabilities of large companies in its sector while using significantly fewer staff. It also wanted to motivate young developers to embrace the world of mainframes.
By deploying IBM® Rational® Developer for System z®, the INTER group gained a development environment that offers the benefits of a modern toolset with support for mainframe processes in the Eclipse development environment.
Increases efficiency and productivity in software development using consistent integration and automation. Enables productive collaboration between the IT team and the technical departments. Modern tools and processes lower the barriers to entry for young developers.
To read a German version of this case study, please click here.
Competence. Fairness. Trust. The INTER Versicherungsgruppe (insurance group) has stood for these values for over a hundred years. Besides the group’s focus on private customers and mid-market trading, INTER has also traditionally been closely connected to people involved in healthcare and craftsmanship.
Headquartered in Mannheim, the INTER group primarily comprises INTER Krankenversicherung aG as the parent company; and INTER Lebensversicherung AG, INTER Allgemeine Versicherung AG und Bausparkasse Mainz AG (BKM) as fully-owned subsidiaries. Freie Arzt- und Medizinkasse VVaG (FAMK) also belongs to the INTER group.
An efficient software development environment is in many ways similar to a good manufacturing plant. The platform strategy for manufacturing plants and the processes involved in standardisation, automation and error reduction can easily be applied to the design and requirements of a software development environment. The desired effects, such as productivity increases, quality improvements, cost savings or opportunities for specialisation are equally desirable in both worlds.
Improvement through continuous innovation
The management of the INTER group made targeted investments in the development of a highly efficient Integrated Development Environment (IDE), as the first steps on the road to permanent improvement through evolution rather than revolution. This approach enabled the group to evaluate new technical developments with confidence and to avoid bad investments.
Every new technology creates possibilities for designing innovative products and ways of working. However, to ensure a sustainably successful implementation it is vital to properly evaluate the new technology’s effectiveness and efficiency, and the outcomes relating to its implementation.
Since innovation occurs very quickly in the IT sector, it is important to manage the innovation process professionally. The INTER group made a strategic decision to implement Eclipse as the core development environment for its mainframes. Eclipse is unique in that different tools can be docked onto it as plug-ins, so that developers do not need to switch platforms between the different stages of development.
IBM technology enables a smooth transition
To develop the Eclipse platform into a full development environment, the INTER group implemented IBM Rational Developer for System z with the help of external consultants. With the Rational solution in place, the company can use innovative software development approaches easily, and also continue to use various tools and procedures which have proven their quality over time.
By mapping the architecture of the new software development environment to that of the IDE on a 1:1 basis, the INTER group was able to to modernise its capabilities while simultaneously minimising the costs, which are usually high for projects as large as this one. As a further advantage, the application developers were not required to adopt completely new procedures. This means that the INTER group can benefit from both the advantages of the previous software development environment and the modern features offered by Eclipse and IBM Rational Developer for System z.
Success through integration and automation
Over the years, the INTER group had built up a highly-acclaimed industry-leading IDE for mainframes. The company was able to sell one of its important components (the INTER development interface) and its accompanying tools to several financial services providers, including two large German banks and two large insurance companies, for a six-figure sum.
One of the key features of the INTER group IDE is its high degree of integration and automation. The various components - such as the development interface, data processing, the source administration and the metadata repository - are connected to each other in a best-practice way. This means that the developers can stay within the same environment as they navigate the various stages of their work. They can initiate many procedures at the touch of a button, including the compilation of open-source programmes or components, and the creation and deployment of new innovations. Everything else runs automatically.
Before starting any given procedure, the developer does not need to laboriously compile all the changed components involved in the programme that is currently running. This is done by the metadata repository, which supervises and flags all the changes made to components during the development stage. The repository uses this information in the generation and release stages of software development.
The high degree of automation in the IDE significantly increases the quality of development work. It also means that the developers do not need to worry about the functionality of the tools, their configuration and how they run. Instead, they can concentrate fully on how to meet departmental demands and convert them into technical solutions. This significantly increases productivity in software development.
Collaboration ensures exemplary results
The implementation of suitable technology can effectively support collaboration between the IT team and other organisational departments. This leads to employees gaining a better understanding of the business, process simplification and ultimately an increase in the overall productivity of the business.
For this reason, the IT department at INTER decided also to provide IBM Rational Developer for System z to those employees working on projects for the health insurance line of business. In addition, the group uses the solution to calculate life insurance premiums. A shared platform for the description of requirements, documentation and interdepartmental communication was born.
The links between the special description of the business case and the resulting programme in the repository have proved their practical value, since they allow specialist departments to give structured descriptions of their requirements by way of explaining the desired functionality to the programming team. If maintenance is required, the relevant application developer can directly access the special documentation. This process has been praised by auditors as being exemplary in terms of IT due diligence.
A work environment for a new generation
By implementing IBM Rational Developer for System z, the INTER group aimed to keep the mainframe environment attractive, particularly for younger employees. The INTER group made this investment for two reasons. First, even if many front-end applications have moved to other platforms, mainframes remain the cornerstones of the information infrastructure in the financial services sector. Second, mainframe programmers are becoming increasingly rare.
As competition for good employees continues to heat up, companies with a modern technical environment are the more likely to win. INTER group’s software development environment for the world of mainframes is considered excellent by new employees who have worked with different development environments in their previous jobs at other companies or who were previously consultants in the sector and have a broad overview of various IDEs.
Increased productivity and quality; lower costs
The design of innovation processes can have a significant effect on the company’s success. For this reason, the IT management of the INTER group entrusted the conception and development of its IDE to a central department in accordance with the check-and-balance principle. This enables the group to specialise in the development of technical applications while standardising the overall structure and construction of the IDE components.
The IT department ensured that successful modernisation enabled higher productivity and better quality in software development. The INTER group wants to keep software development efficient and cost-effective even in the later stages of software development innovation.
The aim is to be able to develop and maintain as many applications as the large companies in the sector, while using significantly fewer developers. Thanks to its effective software development environment from IBM, the INTER group has come one step closer to this goal.
Products and services used
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013. IBM Deutschland GmbH, 71137 Ehningen, Deutschland. ibm.com/de. IBM Österreich, Obere Donaustrasse 95, 1020 Wien. ibm.com/at. IBM Schweiz, Vulkanstrasse 106, 8010 Zürich. ibm.com/ch. Produced in Germany. February 2013. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Rational and System z are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. The client is responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations applicable to it. IBM does not provide legal advice or represent or warrant that its services or products will ensure that the client is in compliance with any law or regulation.