How 3 Chicago Dev Teams Keep Their Tech on the Cutting-Edge

by Alton Zenon III
September 13, 2019

Future-proofing your work while taking advantage of existing team members’ skill sets — that’s how Tom Majchrowski, VP of information technology at National General Insurance, said he stays ahead of the curve. We think that’s an excellent way to keep your team on the proactive side of “cutting-edge.”

We spoke with engineering team leaders at three fast-moving Chicago companies to learn how their tech stacks have changed over time, and what they’re doing to remain competitive in their fields.

 

DFIN team chatting at a conference room

DFIN’s tech stack is varied, but the risk and compliance solutions company stays organized by thoughtfully planning ahead. Vice President of Software Engineering Christopher Benes said his team devises game plans on a quarterly basis to keep them executing efficiently and on time, which also affords them opportunities to be inventive.

 

How has your technology evolved since the early days of the business? 

DFIN’s engineering team uses git, C#, .NET, SQL, Slack, and numerous services in Azure such as DevOps, monitoring, Elasticsearch, Cosmos DB, Redis, and more. We are emphasizing serverless computing in our SaaS architectures. We’ve inserted a quarterly planning cycle into a traditional Agile software development process. It’s helped us prioritize what value to deliver based on the business opportunity and to execute on that delivery. By aligning on what we need to deliver and when, we’re able to make more room for creativity and initiative.

We’ve inserted a quarterly planning cycle into a traditional Agile software development process.”

 

What will the next evolution of your tech look like?

Venue is integrating more predictive AI into our platform with functionality from a product DFIN recently purchased called eBrevia. We see Venue as a content services platform, and leveraging data and user behavior in the platform to help users complete financial transactions more effectively is a key business opportunity and strategy. I see us deploying to Azure five or six times a day — independent of the time of day or the environment — due to highly automated continuous integration and delivery, and continuous deployment.

 

National General Insurance team members smiling in a conference room

National General Insurance’s Vice President of Information Technology Tom Majchrowski said his tech team’s infrastructure is heavy in its use of Microsoft-based systems. Front-end and back-end work at the company are done with Microsoft’s tech as a foundation — and that work is varied across many systems. 

 

How has your technology evolved since the early days of the business? 

Quotit and AgentCubed systems run on and are developed with Microsoft technologies. The Quotit and AgentCubed services use Microsoft Server Operating Systems. The back-end platform is Microsoft SQL server. The front end is a combination of Classic ASP, .NET Web Forms, Model View Controller and .Net Core running on Microsoft’s Internet Information Server.

Our system started on SQL Server Version 6.5 and progressed through versions 7, 2008, 2008R2 and 20012. Today, the system is running version 2014 and 2016. On the front end, the Quotit system started in ASP Classic and AgentCubed started in .NET Web Forms. Our current development technology for both platforms is MVC .Net Core with Angular.

Our system started on SQL Server Version 6.5 and progressed through versions 7, 2008, 2008R2 and 20012.”

 

What will the next evolution of your tech look like?

We recently switched to using MVC .Net Core with Angular for new development work.These technologies were chosen to enable us to future-proof our systems while taking advantage of existing developer skills.

 

Cloud5 Communications team members chatting at dinner

Using your hardware and software to manage the WiFi network of an entire hotel is no easy task, especially since many travelers regularly stream videos. Senior Vice President of Product Management and Development at Cloud5 Communications Neil Schubert said the company has advanced its own capabilities alongside the change in their hotel guests’ viewing behavior, and will continue to do so in the future. 

 

How has your technology evolved since the early days of the business? 

Network equipment capacity and features have improved dramatically since the company started; however, customer demands on capacity and features have kept pace, even exceeding those demands. Networks have become more complex as video streaming has become mainstream. Software has migrated from monolithic applications to collections of microservices. Contemporary software developments anticipate change, and integrations between applications enable best-of-breed software selection.

We anticipate growth in the use of networked staff security devices carried by housekeepers and other staff members.”

 

What will the next evolution of your tech look like?

We anticipate growth in our business from the constant growth of networked devices and the internet of things. The pervasive need for WiFi throughout a hotel enables a platform to interconnect devices far more cost-effectively than legacy building control technologies. Our strategy is to enhance our software as a comprehensive management platform for all the devices a hotelier chooses to enable on their hotel network. Over the next 24 months, we anticipate growth in the use of networked staff security devices carried by housekeepers and other staff members, and growth in streaming content to guestroom televisions.

 

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