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Green Flag creates serverless cloud native platform to help build a rapid, modern rescue service

Green Flag creates serverless cloud native platform to help build a rapid, modern rescue service

Case StudiesCloudDigital TransformationSoftwareTop StoriesTransportUnited Kingdom

IT modernisation is a must when embarking on a Digital Transformation journey, and to remain relevant. Shakeel Butt, Technology and Delivery Lead, Green Flag, tells us how the company modernised its IT infrastructure and upgraded its capabilities by working with Contino.

Green Flag is a roadside assistance and vehicle recovery provider, which is part of the Direct Line Group. Formed in 1971, as the National Breakdown Recovery Club as an AA and RAC competitor, it used a network of local garages and mechanics to deliver recovery and repair services, instead of patrolling mechanics. It has grown to become one of the largest breakdown services in the UK, helping over 2,000 customers each day. 

The challenge

Green Flag has high ambitions for the speed and quality of its services. However, the organisation’s existing IT systems and processes were proving to be a limitation. The challenge was twofold:

Firstly, its existing IT platform, which connected the business and customers, was outdated and inflexible. This meant that communication was slow, making changes was difficult and costs were high.

Secondly, existing in-house software delivery capability was limited, making it difficult to meet the demands of a modern software-driven enterprise.

Green Flag decided to undertake a five-year Digital Transformation programme to modernise its technology, create a vibrant engineering culture and in-source its software delivery to enable a rapid, modern, on-demand rescue and recovery service.

Green Flag’s vision encompasses the following objectives:

  • Customer experience: Quicker and more reliable service to improve customer satisfaction
  • Engineering capability: Build a modern, first-class in-house engineering culture to enable rapid digital innovation
  • Business success: Grow the business while maximising efficiency and minimising costs 

The solution

Green Flag brought in Contino to lend experience and expertise and after an initial week-long assessment, Contino devised a plan to deliver the foundation for the Digital Transformation five-year programme.

The technical foundation would be laid by a new cloud-native platform on AWS. This would be supported by starting to build out an in-house engineering function to maintain and iterate on a modern digital system. This would allow Green Flag to start delivering rapid digital innovation to meet its business challenges.

Cloud native platform on AWS

Contino designed and built a secure, scalable cloud native platform on AWS that will form the foundation for the rapid development of new digital products and features.

The platform is centred around an AWS Landing Zone, which is a set of Shared Service Accounts and services that creates accounts preconfigured with security and compliance guardrails, allowing users to access those resources in a safe and effective manner.

A series of serverless Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipelines were then deployed on top of the Landing Zone to form the foundation of Green Flag’s new in-house software delivery function.

As the platform is serverless, there is almost zero maintenance of the underlying infrastructure required. This leaves applications teams free to focus on their core task: creating the applications Green Flag needs to deliver a modern rescue service.

Build an in-house engineering function

The team supported Green Flag’s recruitment, helping its transformation programme to grow from an accelerated manner, across application and platform teams.

Contino trained representatives from each team in AWS best practices, DevOps tools and cloud-native ways of working before reseeding them into their own teams where they could propagate their new skills and knowledge.

The teams are now in a position where they can not only maintain and iterate on the new AWS platform, but use repeatable templates to build duplicate platforms for other areas of the business with no extra investment required beyond the additional AWS spend.

The result

In just five weeks, Contino helped Green Flag to build a resilient, scalable, serverless platform in the public cloud. At the same time, together they scaled the internal capability to an 80-strong Digital Transformation team, including DevOps and cloud experts.

Green Flag now has the technical and cultural foundation in place to advance its five-year transformation programme. Not only that, the project (which would typically take 12-16 weeks) was delivered ahead of schedule, giving Green Flag valuable additional time to begin other elements of the project.

Concrete business benefits include:

Rapid software delivery: New features can go from development to production in under 30 minutes

Accelerated IT processes: Reduced follow-up calls to support centre and accelerated rescue time for customers

Lower costs: Pay-as-you-go in the cloud is more cost-effective than on-premises

Reusable infrastructure: Green Flag can duplicate its AWS platform in other areas of the business 

Shakeel Butt, Technology and Delivery Lead, Green Flag, said: “The skills and experience that Contino brought to the table are second-to-none. I’m incredibly impressed at how it managed to design and build the platform, while upskilling our teams in only five weeks.”

The next phase will be to extend the work and provide additional training and upskilling to staff around cloud-native technology, processes and ways of working. 

We spoke to Shakeel Butt, Technology and Delivery Lead, Green Flag, to discuss the benefits of the solution in more detail.

Can you provide an overview of your role at the business?

I’m the Technology and Delivery Lead for Green Flag, which is a business unit that’s part of the Direct Line Insurance Group, and I’m responsible for all of the technology, architecture and solution, as well as the delivery of that same solution in Green Flag.

Why did you select Contino as the vendor?

We identified a partner to support with delivery but also to build capability within the programme as well. We went through a due diligence process internally and considered a couple of options and then settled on Contino, purely because of its track-record and level of competency in terms of the strong partnership it had with AWS – the main cloud provider we are using for the transformation.

What were the key factors behind implementing a new solution?

Green Flag has been running for 49 years and in that time, the technology stack has organically grown with the business over the years. We got to a point where we realised drastic investment was needed in the technology stack to enable the business to be fighting fit in the next 10-15 years. We considered a number of different options around how we would overhaul the technology stack and for us, the best option that provided a good mixture of agility, future-proofing as well as technology benefits available to the customer, ended up landing on building a new technology stack in the cloud using an in-house team. We looked at people, process and technology and bringing all of the resources online in-house.

How important is communication for the business and how has the solution helped to improve this?

Communication is very important to us because we’re obviously a standalone business, but we are also part of a big PLC group that does include other brands. So, there’s always a need to make sure that as a delivery team, we’ve got clarity on what the business needs are so that we are constantly aligned to those business needs and are solving problems for the business, rather than just building up technology solutions for technology’s sake.

Contino’s involvement has been the competency that it was able to bring into the business as an AWS partner with a very strong engineering heritage. We were able to bring in people who could hit the ground running which absolutely ticked the box on the acceleration needed.

What’s been helpful and unique with Contino is that it has a very good grounding of business needs and requirements – actually building technology to satisfy business needs rather than just building technology which very much aligned with the culture that we have within Green Flag and within our technology transformation. This meant that we were able to challenge ourselves and challenge each other – ourselves being our internal teams.

Can you explain some of the overall benefits the solution has provided?

Agility has been a massive benefit. We’re now in a place where we’ve got continuous delivery up and running.

The benefit of cloud and the underlying architecture of microservices and APIs and serverless compute have been really beneficial because we’ve been able to offload a lot of the responsibility you would traditionally associate with running a physical data centre, onto our cloud provider.

So, there are now things that I don’t have to worry about and job roles that I no longer need because we’ve been able to offload into the cloud.

We’ve also got access to a lot more data that allows us to garner better insight into customer needs and customer behaviour, which has been great.

Overall, the solution has been quite impressive and beneficial to the business on multiple levels.

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