Thoroughly Modern Mutual
Published: September 29, 2023
The progress of technology is relentless and exciting. Application developers and engineers know firsthand how challenging it is to keep development skills up to date. Mutual of Omaha has used various computer technologies, incorporating the latest languages and tools for each new system developed. This continuous IT evolution represents the history and progress of applications that keep business humming along.
Many companies go back and forth trying to decide whether to continue enhancing current code or to rearchitect or replace legacy systems — making the process seem like remodeling a house while living in it. It's a difficult and long-term decision to commit the resources required to modernize applications.
Mutual of Omaha recently decided to rearchitect and replace legacy systems, embracing Technology Modernization (Tech Mod). For this ambitious initiative to succeed, ongoing coordination and support are key.
“We created a workgroup consisting of senior leaders from individual business segments, service, finance and corporate operations to work alongside Information Services to deliver strategy and roadmaps,” said Heather Kretschmer, principal program manager for the Tech Mod initiative.
For developers and engineers, Tech Mod has been an opportunity to learn and use cutting-edge technologies, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), MuleSoft, Python, Snowflake and more.
“Everybody’s jumping on,” said Matt Olsen, an engineer in Senior Life Solutions. “Everybody takes basic required learning just to get on AWS. Several team members have completed initial training in MuleSoft, test automation, our continuous integration pipeline and Python. There’s a ton of learning going on.”
Olsen, who has been with the company for 24 years, is pleased to see newer team members picking up knowledge of business processes at the same time. “We have regular learning sessions — time scheduled for knowledge transfer and overview sessions,” Olsen said.
For Khwaja Muhammad, a software engineer working on Senior Health Solutions e-apps, learning new technologies has been the most enjoyable part of supporting Tech Mod.
“I like challenges. I’ve attained my AWS architect certification. My on-the-job experience definitely helped with the exams,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad has also been impressed by the level of support from Mutual of Omaha when it comes to the growing pains of using new technologies and tools.
“We did many proofs of concept, experimenting with the technologies we might use, laying out a basic foundation,” Muhammad said. “Management has been super encouraging. For the first product, we wrote the same application using three different architectures. We wanted a good baseline. It took us a long time to complete, but because we were allowed to experiment and find the best way, we finished the code for the next two products very quickly.”
Jon Trejo-Cruz and Cale Cortney, both software engineers working on electronic data interchange modernization, are rewriting legacy systems in an event-driven, microservices architecture.
“When we first started a year ago, everything was still in our private cloud,” Trejo-Cruz said. “The team had to learn Docker, Kafka and Liquibase for managing our data schemas. Most legacy databases get maintained by database administrators, but in the new microservices architecture, we manage integration so we own the schemas.”
“When it comes to AWS in general, it's very robust,” Cortney added. “I’m continually learning more about it.”
Jeff Poggensee, a software engineer, is currently working on a Tech Mod project to enable claims processing by a software as a service (SaaS) vendor for new products.
“Services are running on AWS as serverless lambdas,” Poggensee said. “We use event processing. The SaaS vendor invokes an API on our end that extracts requested data. Our APIs are written in TypeScript and defined using the Cloud Development Kit (CDK), so we have no manual AWS setup. We’ve followed the architecture pattern of process API, experience API and system APIs.”
Poggensee’s team is bringing over claims for insurance products that are currently administered by a system he worked on 39 years ago when he started with the company.
“I get to help decommission an app that I started adding functionality to in the ‘80s!” Poggensee said.
Tech Mod progress continues to accelerate, thanks to the hard work of developers and a high level of collaboration among senior leaders.
“Business segments, shared services and IT are working more closely than ever,” Kretschmer said. “Rather than operating in silos, we work together to take productivity to the next level. Witnessing technology modernization is exciting. Our optimism grows as we see how these advancements positively affect our customers, business partners, and associates. I’m grateful to be involved in an initiative that will positively impact the company for years to come.”
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