Using DevOps in the age of digital disruption: “It feels like we are at a tipping point where the entire industry is teetering on the edge of a cliff and it is about to give way,” says Tom Blomfield, CEO of Mondo. “We have seen it with other industries: Blockbuster when Netflix came in or Kodak when digital took over from film, or Spotify with music. A lot of print journalism went the same way as well. So I do feel like there is an Uber moment for banks.”
Large retail banks are feeling the same pressures as many other industries who have been “ubered” over the last few years. Digital disruption is reaching into their business too – new payment methods, mobile transactions and the sharing economy risk leaving them redundant. There is a distinct shift in power and with the external environment changing at lightning speed, large retail banks are facing challenges common to many industries, including:
Accelerating application delivery speed to reach the customer faster and cheaper
Increasing threats from start-ups and fintechs trying to disrupt the market with innovation
Ensuring continuous operations
At the same time, they also need to expand their business – making more money and growing their customer base. So what can be done? This is where DevOps steps in.
A case in point is Lloyds Banking Group, UK’s largest retail bank, which transformed itself by adopting DevOps. They understood the need to change the game internally in order to take advantage of the changes happening in the marketplace – and go from disrupted to disruptor. Built over a number of years, the bank’s digital platform was well-regarded and successful, but there was constant pressure to release new business functionality. Recently, at IBM InterConnect 2016 Mark Howell, DevOps Lead, Digital Banking at Lloyds Banking Group shared how DevOps has been instrumental in shaping the bank’s digital transformation and creating a step-change reduction in application deployment times.
So how did DevOps work for Lloyds?
Was there a need to start from scratch or did they modify their existing systems? Mark felt that although DevOps works for them, the best part was that they could take from it what they needed and did not need to adopt it in totality. With legacy systems in place, they introduced DevOps to streamline their processes and reduce their time to market. For their internet mobile banking applications, they looked at their tools and processes, focused on where to bring DevOps into play to build applications faster and ensure they are tested with more success. The whole idea was to bring applications to their customers quickly. To ensure success, they looked at their existing culture noting that when working on an end-to-end process involving different teams, it is essential to bring everyone together on the journey to guarantee success.
Alan Shimel from DevOps.com, asked Mark how he was able to lead the cultural transformation at Lloyds, to which Mark replied, “It’s important to show people what ‘good’ looks like”. According to Mark, the developer community had become ingrained in their way of working, but when given the opportunity to receive early feedback on what they were coding, they were able to shift-left a lot of approaches, such as testing, enabling them to improve and make changes to their application quickly.
The Lloyd’s DevOps journey is interesting, as it shows how a large, 250-year-old organization has embraced change. But the important question is, what benefits did they see coming out of this change? Mark mentioned that through their DevOps journey they have been able to improve the experience of their development community, which has further enabled them to bring business change in front of the customers more quickly. “We want to go faster and cheaper while keeping a check on our risk appetite”, Mark said. Add to that, they have been able to perform complex deployments into test environments in three hours rather than three days, with far fewer manual hand-offs and delays. He also described how DevOps has been a catalyst for re-thinking deployment processes that have been built up over a number of years, and how significant benefits can be achieved even for complex systems where refactoring is not an easy option.
In the end, it all comes down to executive sponsorship and their commitment to the DevOps transformation cause. To this point, Mark gave credit to Lloyds’ executive management team, who provided ready sponsorship for DevOps. In the keynote session at IBM InterConnect 2016, Mark said about DevOps that, “Some things don’t need selling”. By providing greater improvement in time-to-market, reducing build and release times, showing better customer satisfaction, ensuring incremental business value, selling DevOps to management is simple.
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