Aegon's AWS cloud migration

Aegon's cloud migration strategy: challenges, technologies and the roadmap ahead

Aegon is breaking free from legacy systems with its new AWS data platform. In the first article about our cloud migration strategy, you could read more about how our architects and developers decided to take a step forward by building data solutions in the cloud. Pepijn Lagerberg, Product Owner Cloud Platform Management at Aegon Netherlands, explains the purpose of the data migration to the cloud, where Aegon currently stands on the roadmap, and the challenges faced along the way in this second part of the series.

Using cloud technology to work with one single source of truth

For several years, Aegon has been on a journey to move all its systems, applications and data to the cloud. Customers expect high levels of service and 24/7 online services, while their data is processed securely. Aegon wanted to meet these expectations, but was constrained by its IT environment.

“Our biggest challenge was that customer data and other information was fragmented across more than 280 applications and systems”, Pepijn explains. “This meant that a customer would appear multiple times in our IT environment, for example with an insurance, mortgage and pension product. Our data migration strategy aims to bring all of that customer data together and create one single source of truth.”

Moving to a cloud-based data platform

Many of Aegon's systems were outdated and worked in multiple code languages. This made it difficult to link them together, make quick backups and process data. It also affected the availability of applications for customers. Pepijn: “Pension overviews were not available in the evenings or at the weekend because it took hours to make a backup, while customers were busy with their pensions at that very moment.”

“In recent years, we have been busy connecting over 280 applications to the AWS data platform”, Pepijn continues. “We have also phased out obsolete apps or replaced them with a cloud service. In this way, we built a data lake in which all our structured and unstructured data came together and served as a source for the data platform. Meanwhile, this has evolved into a fully functional cloud-based data platform.”

Aegon's cloud migration strategy: current status

Now that all the data is coming together within the data platform, everyone can work with it. “We have now reached the output phase, which means that our data analysts and business users can get to work with the data”, Pepijn says. “Regular reports are provided to teams via an API, while other teams retrieve their own data, for example to conduct a financial risk analysis and report the results. All processed data eventually flows back to the data lake, so we are constantly expanding our source of information.”

Pepijn: “Not only the business benefits from the steps we have taken in our cloud migration strategy. Our developers and analysts are also given complete autonomy to get started. They are free to develop their own data models, test data and develop solutions. They can do that in any programming language they choose, like Python, R or Java. Aegon puts the teams in charge: now that all the data is available in the cloud, what would you like to do with it?”

Use of new cloud technologies

The move to the cloud opens up plenty of new opportunities for introducing innovative technologies. The data platform, for example, is built in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. “AWS is developing rapidly, and we examine each new service that becomes available to see if it is suitable for us. We use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to convert repetitive tasks into workflows by automatically processing data. We also use machine learning to process large amounts of data, for instance to manage claims and customer contacts.”

“By creating dashboards and reports of the available data themselves, the business can get started with business intelligence”, Pepijn adds. “Blockchain technology is more common in reinsurance with other insurers and larger amounts at corporate level. Of course, we are also very busy with data security. For this, we have created our own cloud-based application: Hawk Eye. It oversees the internal secure use of the AWS data platform. The app detects unusual activities, allowing us to spot potential hacking attempts.”

Pepijn: “It is not necessarily the case that everything we develop has to be immediately of value to the business. We hold quarterly innovation sprints where we work with cutting-edge technologies primarily to learn about them and have fun. For example, we built the game Capture the Flag, in which you have to find the flag using code techniques. It is very popular within our developer community.”

The challenges of developing a data platform 

Of course, moving to the cloud is not always a simple process. Not every system, for example, is capable of transmitting data in real time. “When a customer changes his or her data, it seems logical that this is visible in the customer portal within 15 minutes”, Pepijn illustrates. “However, this could take several hours. So, we added an intermediate layer in order to meet the customer's expectations and improve the customer experience.”

“Moreover, technological developments are so rapid that a solution we developed four years ago can already be considered a legacy”, Pepijn continues. “It is a challenge to keep up with all these developments and daring to say that we have been surpassed by them. Fortunately, as an organisation we are able to respond quickly. If our developer community suggests that a different solution would be preferable, we listen and choose to go in a different direction.”

Aegon's cloud migration strategy: the roadmap ahead

“We have already achieved a lot in terms of breaking free of legacy systems and responding flexibly to customer expectations”, Pepijn says. “Because in the end, that is what it is all about: being able to better serve our customers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in an efficient way. And by migrating to the AWS cloud, we are much more agile, we have valuable insights at our disposal and we have complete freedom to build different solutions in-house.”

The current cloud-based data platform provides a strong foundation for future growth. “There are still plenty of wishes”, Pepijn concludes. “You can compare it to building a house. You ensure that it is painted and that a nice bathroom and kitchen are installed. Then you want to work on the attic or install a dormer. And after that, it turns out that the kitchen is already outdated. The same goes for our AWS data platform. There are always new developments that we can work with.”