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When The Hartford (Hartford) acquired Navigator’s group in May 2019, it faced the usual data center consolidation imperative as it added the company’s specialty lines and reinsurance business to the existing commercial, personal and group benefits units in its Global Specialty division. The carrier undertook a consolidation initiative to simultaneously drive a new cloud operating model for the enterprise, migrating more than 100 applications, 16 services and 6 databases into the cloud within nine months. The initiative, recognized by Aite-Novarica Group’s (Boston) Impact Award, enabled the retirement of three data centers, saving 10 to 15 percent in infrastructure costs.
“In the last five years, insurers have gone from skepticism of cloud to embracing ‘cloud-first’ infrastructure strategies,” comments Matthew Josefowicz, Head of Research Councils, Aite-Novarica Group. “The Hartford’s case study demonstrates one way forward, by migrating one unit as a proof-of-concept for further expansion.”
One of the technological challenges of acquiring a company is phasing out data centers that come with that business, which often duplicate existing resources and add unnecessary expenses, notes Steve Lord, CIO, Global Specialty, The Hartford. “With the acquisition, there was no need to maintain the expense of the three additional data centers that came with the company because we already operated primary and backup sites with the ability to support the acquisition’s new applications,” he says.
The project commenced in March 2020, with a decision to undertake a total cloud migration in the early in the second quarter of the year, following a cost/benefit analysis, according to Lord. Planning was complete by the end of Q2, whereupon The Hartford proceeded with an application discovery phase, followed by a build and pilot migration wave. The final phase of the project was the institution of a cloud migration factory.
The project’s ambitions fit within what Lord characterizes as an aggressive technology agenda whereby the company is expanding digital capabilities, simplifying processes and platforms, and applying data and analytics to enhance products and services. “A large part of our technology is focused on reimagining and elevating customer experiences through digitization,” Lord elaborates. “Our technology—which includes the latest in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things as well as development, security, and operations—amplifies innovation. Our ‘cloud first’ strategy for new applications is part of those initiatives and we are migrating other business units to the cloud in a similar fashion.”
As Global Specialty’s CIO, Lord served as sponsor of the initiative, gathering an IT team of over 100 associates from application development, enterprise architecture, cloud infrastructure, data security, quality assurance and product owners. The Hartford brought in Slalom (Seattle) as its cloud migration partner.
Aite-Novarica Group’s summary of the initiative notes that The Hartford’s target cloud environment was AWS. AWS tools included CloudFormation, EC2, EBS, CloudTrail, Control Tower, Lambda, Cloudwatch, S3, and FSx. The team used Ansible for automation, Dynatrace and TrueSight for monitoring and optimization, and SumoLogic for management and analytics.
Global Specialty’s IT team faced challenges related to resource constraints, skill sets and scope, according to Aite-Novarica Group. Changes in established practice were required in order to begin delivery when not all design elements were known in advance.
Support from senior leadership proved critical to the initiative’s success, given the need for prioritization and alignment across multiple IT units, and the need to develop new standards, templates, and policies to govern, manage, and support cloud, Lord told Insurance Innovation Reporter. “The Hartford senior leadership has been eager to invest in innovation activity to foster value creation and cost efficiencies, and also to further The Hartford’s technological competitive advantages,” he stresses.
The initiative successfully concluded within a planned 12 month overall period, including a three-month planning and piloting phase prior to execution, and nine months for the actual migration, according to Lord. In addition to the basic goal of migration to new infrastructure, the initiative has put Global Specialty’s IT organization on a new footing
“We are not only operating more efficiently from a cost perspective, but now can make significant deployment changes with impressive speed—such as adding capacity or enabling elastic load balancing,” Lord says. “We have easy access to cloud services and will be incorporating them into refactors of our applications, for example to better leverage Lambda serverless functions across Global Specialty. We’ve vastly expanded our cloud skill fluency within both our development and infrastructure teams, and excitement is at an all-time high for the future potential of the platform.