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Building Blocks: GDF's Modular Building Block Approach

 

Building Blocks - looks familiar to you, doesn’t it? A very simple and popular game from childhood times with tiny colorful blocks. Build anything with one kit, no matter if it is a family house, a farm or a castle. The standardized small blocks allowed countless variations. Why should we not use the simplicity of this popular building block system to master complex digital challenges?

Every day, Allianz faces the needs of 83 million customers in more than 70 different countries. By this diversity we are confronted with the challenge to adapt each digital experience to the specific needs of each target group. Defined UI components have to be changed and every single step has to be configured and adjusted separately from ABS to frontend. This often means not only a loss of consistency it also causes a lot of extra work.

To prevent this, our GDF experts, mainly around Jochen Supper as Head of Development and Anette Voigt as Head of Digital Asset Rollout, are working together with Jose Luís Guart Garrido from Allianz Technology Barcelona in a collaborative spirit on a modular building block approach. The approach is connecting our backend code and Allianz Business System (ABS) system with the frontend UX/UI Design of each standard component currently available to Allianz Operating Entities (OEs) within the UI library. Awesome, right? The approach gives us the chance to increase reusability by decreasing repetitive work. Finally, the need for changes in the code of an element will be eliminated and meanwhile many options for configurations will be left. You now might ask yourself, what a building block is. This question will be answered in the following sequence.

What are Building Blocks?

Didn’t we all love playing around and building awesome things like houses, ships or whole imaginary worlds with the well-known colorful blocks? Of course, when we are talking about building blocks in the IT area, we don’t mean the building blocks who accompanied us through our childhood. However, the building block approach gives our users the ability to build an application or a portal by simply using different building blocks. A building block is a set of standardized components built together as a block based on a specific logic and reusability.  

Reasons for Building Blocks

To bring it in perspective: As software components from past journeys were not reused, almost similar software components were developed to suit the different customer needs within Allianz. For instance, we recognized that the same address field component can be used for motor journeys as well as for home journeys – it only has to be adapted to country specific address-layouts. Before, developing such a solution was not only time consuming, it also resulted in two application components that are similar but not quite the same, which again led to a lack of standardization.

In the future, a building block aims to comprise all business requirements related to that component from Allianz OEs and combines it into one standard component that easily can be configured. For example, some OEs require a section for providing a policy number whereas others may need a section for uploading documents. While the main structure, which has been reviewed by UX/UI experts, will stay the same, these components can easily be added or removed.

Besides reducing complexity in development and local configuration, building blocks can be used and configured by an OE without real programming knowledge.

Benefits of Building Blocks for different Stakeholders

In a nutshell: The main benefits of building blocks for all stakeholders are the increased standardization and faster configuration of solutions.

The increased standardization is reached by our UX/UI experts who make sure that standardized, New Digital Brand Experience compliant components are put together. Once this is done, the building block only needs small adaptations for different journeys which again leads to a much faster configuration. However, the UX/UI reviewed main structure will stay the same.

Undoubtedly, building blocks have also advantages for our developers because they can reuse solutions from past journeys with much less effort. You are not an IT specialist? No problem! Building blocks can even be used by OEs without coding knowledge.

Stay tuned for more details on how building blocks make digitalization in different areas at Allianz even easier.