Redesigning a legacy platform with HAMBS

HAMBS is an organisation that provides health insurance software to about 70% of the Australian health insurance sector. Since 1991, its customers have shaped the direction of HAMBS’ offering, but the software had never had a major architectural refresh of how it delivered its content and capabilities. While it was still a functional and secure platform, it had accrued a significant amount of technical debt that would need to be overcome to be able to continue to meet customers’ requests in the coming years.

HAMBS engaged 9Yards to undertake current and target state assessments, develop a business case and provide support through implementation (currently ongoing).

Designing composable and sustainable solution architecture

Like many organisations, HAMBS’ priority to this point had been to update their software to support their clients’ needs; adding features as needed without undertaking a major architectural refresh of their platform. As a result, a point of no return was on the horizon – accruing levels of technical debt that, in coming years, would no longer be tenable. Taking the proactive step to undertake this digital transformation project was a significant decision, but mitigated the risk of running their software to the ground or interrupting their clients’ service or compliance.

To avoid approaching this position again in the future, HAMBS prioritised developing a contemporary and composable solution that better suits the “plug and play” nature of modern software development.

Determining actual level of technical debt and defining ideal future state

Our engagement began with a current state assessment, identifying the strengths, weaknesses and gaps of the existing reality. Here we identified that it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the level of technical debt surrounding the platform – the sustainability of this state moving forward was questionable.

When undertaking any current state work, we focus on the reality of the situation – there’s never any benefit in assigning blame or shame (an underlying fear of many clients). We simply seek to gain a balanced and true understanding of the current state so we can accurately map what it will take to achieve the target state.

To develop the target state assessment, we conducted extensive interviews with not only HAMBS internal stakeholders, but also the end users – as we like to say, the customer of our customer is our customer. By centering the target state assessment around solutions that meet the members’ needs, we know we are preparing for a composable software platform that will provide ongoing value.

Using the reference of both the current and target states, our team then worked to develop a business case – to secure funding for the four and a half year program of work, and to act as a guide to successful completion. This business case was approved the first time it was submitted to the board.

Combining strategy and intent for successful digital transformation

Our discovery frameworks put a strong focus on intent – contextualising the target state and every step it takes to get there. We find this is an effective way to translate architecture and design perspectives into good business decisions. Every activity during implementation aligns with the defined intent, meaning there’s nothing superfluous or redundant.

Just as important as defining what should be included in the target state is what should not be – allowing us to discern together whether there may be any aspects where it is a better business decision to outsource. For HAMBS, the composable solution will allow them to focus on their core and niche business, and open up the option to leverage other solution leaders in simple and controlled ways.


9Yards has become a trusted partner for our organisation. They have developed a sound understanding of our business, customers and industry and established a considered technology target state recommendation.

The team at 9Yards has become an extension to our organisation and beyond their broad and deep knowledge, they are great people who are very much aligned to our organisation’s culture and values’.

Paul Griffiths
Chief Operating Officer, HAMBS