Elanco accelerates development at lightning speed with GitHub.
- 30m for developers to achieve productivity
- 5 days of time savings to spin up new developer instances
- 1,000 days of onboarding saved
- Healthcare & Life Sciences
- Number of Seats
- Greenfield, Indiana
Elanco needed to ship code faster to meet evolving customer demands, but silos left different teams doing redundant work and made it difficult to assess company-wide security posture.
Standardizing templates on GitHub encouraged Elanco’s teams to embrace innersource and helped developers to onboard more quickly, all while enforcing security standards and enhancing security visibility.
From mental health to nutrition to food security, animal health is inextricably linked to many of the global issues society faces today. For example, preventing or controlling infectious disease outbreaks in animal populations can reduce food shortages and prevent disease spread. Meanwhile, reducing methane emissions of livestock could allow the world more time to address the more complex and long-term CO2 challenges. And pet owners everywhere understand the tangible benefits a furry (or scaly) companion can have on mental health. Elanco Animal Health is doing its part to help the world’s pets and farm animals thrive by innovating and delivering products and services to prevent and treat disease, creating value for farmers, pet owners, veterinarians and society as a whole.
Though traditionally known as a pharmaceutical company, digital products and services play an increasingly important role in animal health and in Elanco’s business. Today, Elanco has more than 40 developers working alongside a fleet of contractors on more than 2,000 projects across the company's digital infrastructure.
Elanco’s digital transformation kicked off in earnest in 2019, with an initiative to streamline and unify their development efforts to deliver new products and services in a rapidly changing market. Historically, Elanco took a more decentralized approach to technology, with separate R&D, IT, and manufacturing groups. There was little collaboration or code sharing across organizational lines. "We were building the same services over and over again," solutions architect Calum Bell explains. Meanwhile, each group worked with their own vendors, making it difficult to assess the company’s overall security posture.
Elanco saw the potential for GitHub to become the common DevOps platform across the company and improve its developers' experience. By standardizing on GitHub, Elanco’s developers are now able to fully embrace innersource development, helping them reuse code across teams and projects instead of reinventing the wheel.
"Now innersource is the default for any new repository, though fine-grained permissions allow teams to take a project private if it has intellectual property that shouldn't be shared outside their group,” Calum says. To help developers foster an innersource culture, Elanco created templates that demonstrate best practices, such as how to do single-sign-on verification properly, how to deploy containers and how to enforce good practices within the software development lifecycle. "The templates really help teams get started—we're seeing them used in nearly all new projects," Calum says.
GitHub Actions is central to Elanco's automation processes. Elanco is a multi-cloud company and Actions makes it easy to work with multiple cloud providers, acting as a central hub to automate disparate services. "We're all in on GitHub Actions," Calum says. "We use it for each and every deployment.”
We're all in on GitHub Actions. We use it for each and every deployment.
Composite actions—actions that combine multiple workflow steps into a single action—have been particularly useful as they enable the creation of standardized workflows across the company. "They ensure that we have certain guardrails for each application," Calum says. “For example, we’re able to enforce best practices by default and run security tests automatically.”
In 2022, the company adopted GitHub Advanced Security, partnering with GitHub to deploy secret scanning with push protection across all repos. These features are now activated by default for all new repos and help Elanco’s developers to shift security left. "We're able to push changes automatically now because we're able to check for common mistakes when a developer commits code," Calum says.
Previously, vulnerabilities were surfaced during the security operations team’s regular code review, leaving developers to mitigate issues days after they wrote the code in question. Now, security issues are surfaced before developers can merge or close pull requests with known issues, thus catching vulnerabilities in real-time, while the related code is still in developers’ minds, preventing them from ever making it into production. The security team still does manual code reviews, but now they’re able to focus more on architectural issues and design software with security in mind.
Meanwhile, GitHub Codespaces turbocharges developer productivity. Now Elanco can rapidly onboard new developers and avoid the time-consuming process of manually installing and configuring development environments. "It used to take as many as five days to set up these environments," Calum says. "If you multiply the time savings across 200 people, that's 1,000 days saved with Codespaces."
In addition to saving time, Codespaces boosts new developers' confidence, because they know they have the right tools to do their jobs. They can get started right away with work without having to worry about whether they're missing a few minor packages. “GitHub is a big part of our automated development framework, which overall has managed to reduce time from ideation to productivity from about 30 days to roughly 30 minutes,” Calum says.
GitHub is a big part of our automated development framework, which overall has managed to reduce time from ideation to productivity from about 30 days to roughly 30 minutes.
After testing GitHub Copilot in beta, Calum is excited about the prospect of using it to help entry-level developers enhance their skills and help them code faster. Copilot is an AI pair programmer that uses the OpenAI Codex to suggest code and entire functions in real-time. “We think it will help developers understand new frameworks and languages where they might not yet know the best practices,” he says. "For example, it makes it easier to see the best ways to write certain types of functions."
Thanks to automated tests and security scans, near-instant onboarding, and AI-assisted coding, Elanco developers are writing better software faster. "Our IT ecosystem is now leaps and bounds beyond where it was a few years ago," Calum says. "We're really starting to see a return on those investments."
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