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How HealthSherpa Got Value on Day One with Code Climate Velocity

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By: Code Climate
March 13, 2023

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HealthSherpa is the largest marketplace for private health insurance in the U.S., with millions of customers enrolled each year. HealthSherpa offers affordable coverage provided by 40-plus insurance carriers and more than 45,000 agents nationwide. Their online platform is designed to simplify the insurance enrollment process for consumers.

As a software company, the engineering department at HealthSherpa plays a critical role in achieving business outcomes. HealthSherpa's VP of Engineering, Joseph Gefroh, believes data-driven processes are the key to healthy, high-performing teams. When he joined HealthSherpa in 2021, the company was still operating as a startup — innovative and agile, but not actively evaluating its practices to ensure repeatable success.

In working to mature the company’s DevOps practices, Gefroh said his initial assessments were intuition-based. He drew from more than a decade of experience in software engineering to implement best practices to streamline processes and align his teams with business goals. However, he quickly moved on to tackling more significant opportunities for improvement, but gathering data to perform proper evaluation proved cumbersome and time-consuming.

“I was building lists and spreadsheets using the minimal resources I had, but this consumed dozens of hours each month,” Gefroh said. “And I was still only gathering basic metrics like Cycle Time. I couldn’t even get data like Time to Merge, which would help us actually improve some of the bottlenecks in our process.”

Actionable Insights From Day One

HealthSherpa needed a better way to get accurate, actionable insights to drive improvements to their DevOps processes, and Code Climate’s Velocity platform delivered immediate value.

“Other tools for measuring engineering performance are complicated. Many of them use their own scoring system for what it means to be productive with a lot of data that isn’t relevant for my team and not based on industry standards,” said Gefroh. “Velocity has a user-friendly interface. It provides the metrics I actually want, and it’s easy to make correlations immediately.”

With access to accurate metrics, HealthSherpa was able to identify bottlenecks and surface trends that opened up opportunities for improvement. Within the first year, they were able to decrease Cycle Time by 31% and Time to Merge by 41%. As a result, PR Throughput increased 48%, Commit Volume went up 54%, and Pushes increased by 94%. They also saw a 62% improvement year over year in Time to First Review.

Gefroh said Time to Merge is a key metric, as it helps it identify issues that slow down development processes. HealthSherpa saw this data trending upward, which led them to investigate further. By viewing correlations between metrics within Velocity, they were able to find that their new, more rigid code review process had impacted their Time to Merge. Ultimately, that the team was more carefully considering code quality and non-functional requirements during reviews was a necessary, beneficial change, even if it meant an increased Time to Merge.

Comprehensive visibility has been essential to planning for the seasonal changes that are inherent to the health insurance industry. Seeing the immediate impact as seasons shift — and correlating that data with historical trends — enables them to intentionally plan for changes in the risk profile and increased demand, and intervene more quickly when issues arise.

HealthSherpa has also gained value from Code Climate’s continuous innovation efforts, particularly the recent introduction of DORA metrics into the Velocity Analytics module.

“Code Climate’s Velocity platform already played a critical role in improving the health of our engineering organization. With the insights provided, we could remove bottlenecks and reduce our Cycle Time from 120 hours to less than 48 hours,” said Joseph Gefroh, Vice President of Engineering at HealthSherpa. “Now, we can view DORA metrics in the context of the other Velocity data, which saves substantial time and provides a clear picture of our team's performance.”

Fostering a Healthy Culture of Ownership and Collaboration

Beyond the obvious performance benefits, Gefroh said that Code Climate helps to facilitate a more collaborative, healthy team culture in which engineering teams have what they need to make informed decisions. Engineering managers can see real-time impact, positive or negative, from process changes, and better evaluate their long-term strategy.

“Our teams know that the actual numbers matter less than what those numbers mean,” Gefroh explained. “Code Climate allows us to look deeper to understand the context behind changes.”

With ownership over performance, engineering managers are empowered to drive process changes, identify coaching opportunities, and foster a culture of collaboration. The result is less friction, happier teams, and better engineering outcomes.

“With less engineering pain, teams have more confidence in the processes and the work they are doing, which leads to better quality software, faster deployments, and more successful results. To achieve this, we need comprehensive, actionable metrics in real-time, and the only way to get those is with Code Climate Velocity.”

Learn more about day one impact with Velocity by booking a demo.

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