Michelle DeCarlo, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Delivery Practices, Lincoln Financial group

Michelle DeCarlo, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Delivery Practices, Lincoln Financial group

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the constant need for organizations to respond quickly and nimbly to changing customer and market conditions. Yet truly accelerating company-wide transformation and achieving meaningful results takes an evolution, not a revolution. During the implementation of a multi-year digital strategy, QE and DevOps became essential to Lincoln Financial Group’s business agility—and how the organization evolved its operating model to get there. Consider these lessons learned to increase the success of digital transformation in your own organization.


When Lincoln created an enterprise-wide digital strategy four years ago, it focused on driving an outcome-based model that would deliver a compelling customer experience for the future. As leadership considered how to accelerate performance, improve time to market, modernize technologies and shift IT from a cost center to a value center, the team broke work into three main areas:

1. WORKFORCE AND CULTURE: Simply, how does work get done? Leadership introduced a new digital operating model focused on delivering business outcomes through a test-and-learn approach, incorporating Agile, DevOps and data. Supporting this cultural change required placing a strategic importance on both attracting the best talent and nurturing continuous learning among our existing employees through deep-dive virtual learning sessions on Agile and DevOps, cloud, data, architecture and digital and cybersecurity.

Part of this cultural shift involved establishing a formal digital adoption framework. Defining metrics and goals for successful adoption before work gained approval not only improved outcomes, but also enabled accurate measurement of cost savings to reinvest or carry forward.

2. ENGINEERING CAPABILITIES: This entailed building the engineering muscle within the organization. Shifting from quality assurance to quality engineering enabled DevOps and the continuous delivery pipeline. The strategy embraced a cloud-first approach, particularly for all net-new apps. It’s stitching together these distinct capabilities that has unlocked true value for the business and our customers.

3. OPTIMIZATION AND EFFICIENCY: The digital strategy placed a hyper focus on automation to optimize and increase efficiency. That meant not only applying continuous improvement principles to business processes but also looking for opportunities on the technical side. For instance, delivering an automated pipeline and in-sprint automation are essential capabilities to drive efficiencies. Teams also implemented acceptance-test-driven development and automated data management practices. Essentially, we explored opportunities for automation wherever manual work existed.


The shift to an Agile operating model quickly extended into DevOps. An Agile approach demands a genuine partnership between the business and IT, with shared goals and, for perhaps the first time in many organizations, shared success criteria.

The new emphasis on iterative delivery and a truly outcome-focused model impacted the way the organization viewed software testing and delivery, making clear how quality engineering acts as an invaluable enabler for DevOps. Traditionally, software delivery and testing are siloed. The newly reoriented mindset entailed a proactive method that emphasized collaboration between the business and IT, then applied lean delivery principles to drive efficiencies.

Mapping the strategy revealed an overlap of key business outcomes, as well as complimentary technical ones, between quality engineering and DevOps. To accelerate the delivery process, the next step was introducing continuous testing, integration and development. Implementing automated processes and linking to an automated testing suite reduced code testing from hours to minutes—a major leap forward in business agility and responsiveness.


It’s a truism in the industry that the vast majority of digital transformation efforts fail. But by following these best practices from Lincoln’s successful digital transformation, you may improve your odds:

1. SET CLEAR LEADERSHIP IMPERATIVES. Within the IT organization, Lincoln ties these values to a quarterly recognition program. The emphasis is on challenging the norm by being a respectful disrupter; empowering talent by removing impediments; and executing with urgency by showing results, focusing on outcomes, demonstrating value.

2. PRIORITIZE WITH DISCIPLINE. Continuing to meet expectations from your customers and business partners while you enact change requires a disciplined approach. Choose your efforts based on how well they anchor back to your overarching strategy.

3. BUILD ON YOUR WINS. Nothing accelerates change like success. You’ll know you’re making progress when business partners begin inviting you to their ideation sessions and seeking out your expertise to solve their challenges. Soon, you may not know which team members are from IT or from the business in meetings, because they’ll use common terms and share a vision for success.

The successful transformation journey at Lincoln Financial has enabled us to meet the needs of the business and our customers faster and more effectively. As you evolve your digital operating model and leverage strategic investments to improve our customer experience, keep in mind that bumps along the road are to be expected as you pursue a test-and-learn approach and keep your business agile.

Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates. LCN- 3544737-041221.

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