Data automation is a key part of maintaining efficiency within business processes. Helsana’s data ecosystem needed modernising to shorten development cycles and make the company more agile, and with WhereScape it was able to automate and future-proof its operations.
Helsana is the largest health insurance provider in Switzerland with 1.9 million customers and a turnover of 6.4 billion Swiss Francs. The Business Intelligence (BI) team’s reliance on hand coding meant that scheduled releases took too long. Now, data automation allows it to use its existing infrastructure in an agile manner that vastly speeds up time to value and reduces expenditure on external resources.
Reliance on hand coding, manual handoffs and tribal knowledge meant that Helsana’s BI team could not deploy new data solutions and updates at the pace of modern business. The company’s data ecosystem needed modernising to shorten development cycles and make the company more agile.
Outdated tools and methodologies required Helsana to pay huge costs for up to 15 external resources at once just to keep up with scheduled releases. At that time, such complex releases took 30-40 person days to complete.
Gallus Messmer, Data Warehouse Architect at Helsana, said: “We had two different warehouses that were built by external resources without much automation, so whenever we did a fix or an update we had to work out where the source code would be. Sometimes, we were able to find it. Sometimes, not. Every release was a lot of work.
“We depended heavily on individuals. If they were on holiday or out, really the whole process stopped. In the past for projects we had a huge external team of resources. One of our major core systems has a release every month, and every third month there was a BICC release which means some parts of the data structures change. Each time it was 10 person days of work just to build and to configure the whole system, and the development work took 20-30 person days. It was a pain for us. We couldn’t work on any new requirements. We were just making sure our own data warehouse kept track of the changes in the core system.”
To address this challenge, Helsana was looking for a tool that could:
• Automate a lot of the deployment work
• Help the team to organise code and deliverables better
• Move development work in-house
• Reduce ETL expenditure
• Reduce the number of tools used
Before Helsana discovered WhereScape, the team consulted Swiss BI experts, IT-Logix, twice to review its processes on the SAP side. When Messmer visited TDWI Switzerland in November 2017, he saw that IT-Logix was co-sponsoring a stand with WhereScape – whose data automation capabilities were already on Helsana’s radar. Messmer joined WhereScape’s hands-on Test Drive workshop at the event, in which he tried data modelling tool, WhereScape 3D, and data infrastructure building and management tool, WhereScape RED, for himself. Under expert guidance and in response to real-world scenarios, Messmer built an automated data warehouse in just two hours.
With interest raised, Helsana contacted WhereScape which sent a Solutions Architect for a three-day proof of concept to show the effectiveness of WhereScape 3D and WhereScape RED with Helsana’s own data. The Helsana team tried out the software and saw how WhereScape enables complex data ecosystems to be designed, built and managed via a drag-and-drop development environment.
WhereScape 3D allows visual prototypes to be quickly spun up to confirm requirements with business users in order to avoid misunderstandings – potentially shortening development cycles from months to days. WhereScape RED then physicalises the models by writing thousands of lines of native code in seconds, committing the necessary changes to the underlying code without human error.
After the proof of concept and following satisfactory answers to some very technical questions, the Helsana team was convinced that WhereScape was the right tool for its requirements. The company also evaluated other software providers before choosing WhereScape, with IT-Logix as the local Swiss implementation partner. Helsana employed one IT-Logix consultant on a permanent basis to help internal staff get up to speed with WhereScape and the change towards an automation-first mindset.
Helsana has seen game-changing reductions in time to value for scheduled updates. Processes that once took 30-40-man days now take one or two, meaning work is completed much faster and big teams of external resources are no longer needed.
“With the last project, we had 10-15 external resources and two internals. Now with automation we have 90% of the project staffed internally, with some help from IT-Logix for staff augmentation. The idea is that our internal people can really become the masters and drive the whole process. That wasn’t possible before WhereScape. How much money do we save? It’s in the millions,” said Messmer.
Much quicker turnaround times from business request to IT delivery mean the BI team can now use agile methodologies to add value to the business, rather than just keeping up with it.
“WhereScape makes us agile. We are on the right track now. We want short iterations and to deliver new innovations fast. We have small monthly Scrum teams but the next step is to have nightly builds – that’s the target for our next sprint.”
All code is now automatically documented, so processes are repeatable and not reliant on individuals.
“Now the source code is properly stored with version control and we always know what version we have where,” said Messmer.
WhereScape’s ability to lift and shift entire data infrastructures to any on-prem or cloud database means Helsana is no longer locked into any data source or target.
“With WhereScape, we hoped that if we ever decided to change database, we should have less work because the code is generated by WhereScape. So now, we are future-proof,” said Messmer.