A modern approach to application development helps Humana adapt and thrive in the new normal

Gone are the days when you only needed a website and a mobile app to deliver a great customer experience. CIOs who have been slow to address this have had to accept this due to the global pandemic. Customers now expect to interact with organizations on their own terms, using their preferred channel, device, or mode of interaction. Whether you want to do business using a desktop computer, mobile device, handheld device, voice assistant, or chatbot, your customers want a consistent experience across all interactions.

Companies stuck in old software development methods will struggle to switch from channels to moments. This is because traditional application development requires multiple development teams, each with different skills, to repeatedly create the same functionality for each application or channel. It’s a slow process that slows development and hinders innovation.

Some IT teams use off-the-shelf software packages to speed application development. What they gain in speed, however, they lose in scalability and customization. Shifting control of the customer experience to a pre-built solution carries enormous risks in today’s highly competitive environment. As software evolves, changing or updating it can be costly and time-consuming, often avoiding the savings made by having the out-of-the-box solution.

Overcoming app dev challenges

Speed, scalability, and customization were the biggest challenges at Humana, a Fortune 60 health insurance company with more than 16 million members across the country. As a digital channel manager, I believe that as an agile company, you often have to launch new applications and functions.

But it was easier said than done. Our teams had no shortage of designs, but old application development methods slowed down versions. With multiple teams working with multiple technologies, it took months or years for the applications to work. Something as simple as updating our branding guidelines would take nearly a year to replicate across all properties. Like a funnel, many initiatives have reached the top, but few have slowly worked their way out of the funnel to reach the market.

Last year our team decided to move to the modern OutSystems application development platform, which automates repetitive tasks and uses visual development to accelerate application development. With the OutSystems platform, developers and designers can create application components once and reuse them across channels and applications. This provides a consistent approach to application development that optimizes the customer and employee experience.

From funnel to pipeline

Our agile transformation continued with an app we developed to support annual patient fitness. Since this is the only time that many patients see their provider, we wanted to proactively engage patients through an app that would provide providers with tools and materials to share with patients during their annual visit.

As word of the project spread experienced web development designers who were part of our previous OutSystems projects requested to work on it. With the help of training and support materials from OutSystems, they were able to quickly catch up and work on the project in their spare time. Originally slated for 2020 due to competing IT priorities, the app launched in the fall of 2019 and, as our designers created it in their spare time, there were no associated costs.

In the past, creating consistency across channels or devices often meant relying on the lowest common denominator. Using the OutSystems platform, we were able to digitally replicate the experience of face-to-face interactions, creating a highly personalized experience to meet patients on the fly on any channel or device.

Building on an agility backbone

The backbone of agility provided by OutSystems allowed us to turn around quickly when The pandemic broke and we wanted to help customers find test sites. Our call center was having issues and was using a huge spreadsheet to direct customers to COVID-19 test centers.

Because OutSystems makes it easy to reuse components that were created previously, we were able to turn the table into an application in just one weekend. We then extended this app to a full suite of back-office apps that allow more than 30 employees to track test sites across the country. Additionally, we have added the ability to download test site data from third-party sources by simply uploading the files to the back office. Finally, we have developed a client-centric app that our members can use to perform a Google-like map search to find test locations on their own. With the ability to create and reuse components just once, we were able to build all three apps in 30 days. Not bad for a month of work.

Leveraging this new generation of application development platforms has turned our role funnel into a pipeline. Our backlogs are decreasing and now we have to “keep pace with the construction crew.” We see ideas come to market in days rather than months or years. For example, our brand guidelines were updated this year through January 12. The IT team has cleared the project backlog and can focus on spreading good ideas. For developers, it’s like taking off the handcuffs to let their imaginations run wild.

Building an agile organization

The companies that innovate are often the companies that win. A platform where everyone works together enables Humana to serve customers in new and innovative ways. By solving speed, scalability, and customization issues, OutSystems is helping Humana truly deliver on its promise to provide Humana support.