Modular architecture is a system of programming that does exactly what it sounds like–uses a system of modules that can be deployed, combined, and reused as needed in order to quickly build out new solutions. The benefit of modular architecture–or component architecture–is that it not only makes applications easier to build, but also provides an easier way to update multiple applications at once by updating a module instead of going into the code for each one.

In this blog post, I’ll explain why we at Humana adopted a modular architecture approach and how it played a crucial role in helping us overcome the challenges brought by COVID-19.

Changing Mindsets: From Product to Platform

As one of the largest insurance providers in the country , people depend on our team at Humana to connect them to healthcare. That’s why we work hard to create digital channels such as our website and mobile apps that they can use to find pharmacies and doctors nearby.

As we began to rethink our approach to digital, we spoke to our development team and customers to better understand their needs. This led us to the realization that we needed to shift away from thinking of each health service as a separate product and begin using a platform approach.

The premise was simple: by moving from a product mindset to a platform mindset, we’d be able to build on our product skills to empower a new level of flexibility and adaptability. In doing so, we would gain the level of responsiveness and adaptability required to meet the quickly-changing needs of the marketplace.

We decided to put this idea into action with our Finder Platforms. These are tools that allow our customers to find all types of care providers, from doctors and dentists to vision specialists and pharmacies.

Why Choose Modular Architecture

Up until then, our different finder apps were created by different teams as we added new services like vision, dental, and pharmacy. Each team created their app in a silo using unique technologies, data resources, and back office operations. Not only was this costly to build and maintain, but it created a bifurcated, inconsistent customer experience. Finding caregivers is one of the top five things people do when they come to our website or use our apps, so this was vitally important for us to solve.

For Humana, our initial product need was a pharmacy finder app. Rather than build out a pharmacy finder app as we normally would, we took a step back to think about our need for search overall. After all, our customers also need to find things like dentists, doctors, and specialists. Rather than build those as separate projects, we decided to use a modular architecture approach to build a finder platform.

We started out with the pharmacy finder platform, as it was our simplest use case. We brought in an AI and machine learning-powered search engine called Coveo, while using the OutSystems platform to power the user interface, all our APIs, and our integration with Coveo and our other systems and data sources.

As we worked, we created modules around themes like search, content management, and back office. This would allow us to drop in new systems as needed when we worked on other finder apps. Forms, layouts, header, footer, analytics, and search functionality were designed to be dynamic to reflect the needs of future apps down the road.

As a result of making the shift from a product to a platform approach, everything we built for the pharmacy finder app was able to easily be repurposed into other finder apps for vision, dental, pharmaceutical, and other medical providers. This allows us to take these apps to market much faster than before, helping us better serve our customers.

Advantage of Modular Architecture in Times of Crisis

This platform mindset made it much easier for us to respond once the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We had everything in place that was required to launch a new product–in this case, a COVID-19 testing locator app–before we ever could have predicted that we’d need it. By taking advantage of modular architecture, we were able to start with the base elements and develop a full-functioning COVID-19 testing locator app in less than a month. After it launched, the app was able to keep up with the rapidly-changing requirements of the crisis, such as changes to locations for mobile sites and hours of operations.

If we were still using a product mindset, we would have had to build an app from scratch in order to help customers find testing facilities. But with a platform approach, we were able to quickly pivot and create a way to help both customers and our internal staff in call centers find COVID-19 testing locations.

Preparing for Anything with Modular Architecture

Thanks to a modular architecture approach, we quickly met the needs of our customers despite the chaos and confusion of the pandemic. In addition, we are now able to use the core platform we created to explore functionality beyond provider search, such as providing educational content or pharmaceutical information.

The lesson is that a modular architecture approach is not only a more efficient way to develop, but is increasingly a necessity for being able to respond to the fast-changing needs of customers and the market. Rather than develop products in a silo, you should instead focus on building platforms that allow you to quickly roll out products that are cohesive and comprehensive.

By using modular architecture to expand from a product mindset to a platform mindset, you can respond at the speed of new opportunities in this fast-moving world while building products that continue to deliver innovation.

To learn how OutSystems can help you embrace a modular, component-based architecture, watch Bruce’s full session right here.

And to discover how Humana and other organizations are delivering innovation as fast as the business demands join us in our upcoming event NextStep on November 16!