There are a great many assets available on the internet that talk about what DevOps is and how far DevOps adoption has come. So we will not repeat the “what” and the “how far.” Instead, we will focus on the road ahead and future of simplification and transformation at banking organizations and the role DevOps is likely to play in the same—in all three areas of “Run the Bank (RTB),” “Change the Bank (CTB)” and “Transform the Bank (TTB).”
In this article, we take a look at what shape we think DevOps-driven simplification in financial organizations can take in the near future and also some opportunities for such simplification. As depicted in Figure 1, with DevOps maturity, the siloed processes of CTB, RTB and TTB will come closer together, allowing common activities and processes to be carried out in one place. The others will get simplified and automated thereby reducing elapsed time of cycle from ideation to production and application management drastically. This will yield benefits not only in terms of cost and time, but also in terms of feature availability to business.
In banking, the early adopters are leading the march with a lot of good practices such as standardized tooling for specific technology areas, orchestration, feedback loop setup, process and technology rationalization, etc. The focus needs to continue on the same.
We think that the challenge that DevOps architects need to now focus on is to be able to use DevOps to help financial organizations bring down the non-discretionary spend by simplifying the previously ignored maintenance, operations and infrastructure realms. The core of this DevOps driven simplification is needs to be move cost of maintenance to its lowest possible and hence releasing funds to discretionary areas in “Change the Bank” and “Transform the Bank.”
While the point of arrival for DevOps-led transformation should be “full automation” and “zero maintenance” but they are a bit far in the future because the return on investment (ROI) on the monies and effort required to make that happen needs to justify the same. We see the focus shifting to value delivered to business by transformation of an application or suite of applications. Figure 2 depicts the core repeatable activities of a DevOps-led simplification exercise while keeping in mind these improvement cycles need the setup of feedback loops at each stage.
This brings us to our next idea, that the road map to DevOps-enabled simplification needs to be paved with metrics and measures and these metrics cannot be randomly chosen. These metrics have to be actually measurable and be divided into two areas of business metrics and IT metrics as we explain below and need to be diligently tracked to aid course correction.
For example, release orchestration processes for applications are mostly complicated, need a lot of manual effort, have strict compliance requirements as well as security mandates, need to be carried out more frequently nowadays because of shorter deployment cycles and have to manage ever-increasing complexity of component interaction (upstream and downstream). Now, release orchestration is also a very important step in the entire CI/CD pipeline. So standardization and simplification of release orchestration process makes immense sense. But how does one measure success and quantify improvement?
As already stated, intelligent insights (metrics and measures) are important in this process for both business and technical team members so that everyone has single source of truth for current status and distance from end goal. This kind of automation also helps focus on the continuous improvement pillar of DevOps adoption by logging everything that matters, have frame-by-frame data for everything that helps. This collection of metrics aids analysis of success as well as failure thereby furthering the cause of continuous improvement.
Continuing with the example of release orchestration, there are many important best practices that help ensure that wheel is not reinvented. Some of the important learnings that only practitioners will be able to let you in on are as follows:
- Tools that need scripting will not be able to help you scale and create low-maintenance solutions.
- You need to invest in tools/orchestration solutions that help you visualize, get intelligent insights in a jiffy and can report in a variety of forms and shapes.
- Tools need to be able to capture and track business metrics, too.
- You need to spend effort on organization level compliance and security.
- Strive to automate your most effort-intensive and/or lengthy processes.
Each step on DevOps maturity scale will have many such learnings and best practices that must get shared across the length and breadth of the organization.
DevOps and Banking: Future Trends Prediction
Based on our understanding & knowledge of financial organizations, we believe that the following areas will see focus in the next few years:
Continuous Improvement within Federation
- Technology teams will need to enable and encourage localized innovation within a federated boundary of toolsets that will, in time, bring Dev and Ops toolsets to near mirror images of each other.
- By federation, we mean a detailed homogeneous blueprint that gives flexibility but within an overarching boundary of tools and procedures while encouraging continuous improvement.
- This must also inform relevant stakeholders about areas for continuous improvement that make the most evolutionary impact to business and use metrics suitably to track and reward improvement.
- We also think that DevOps adoption needs to be driven by outcome management with evidence of impact taking the driving seat for road map management.
- Focus will be on point of arrival (POA) and continuous measurement of business and IT metrics for outcome management.
- We also believe that Culture-Automation-Lean-Measurement-Sharing (CALMS) model of DevOps will find more believers.
Evidence of Impact
- Metrics and metrics-based course correction will become the Holy Grail in the simplification exercise. The metrics collection will need to focus on areas of both business and IT. The metrics and measures will need to be redefined as:
- Business Metrics for business value delivered or improved such as new products / services launched, conversion rate, net promoter score (NPS), customer retention rate, CSAT, ESAT, etc.
- IT Metrics for value improvement and value management such as cost performance index, reduction in defect debt, reduction in lead time to change, etc.
- We believe that the next big disruptor in this space will be bringing design thinking into the mix to ensure that DevOps-led automation is more customer-centric and iterative.
- We see focusing on test data management (TDM) across the organization as an important step to ensure continuous delivery.
- In our opinion, the testing process will undergo complete rethink with support of processes such as risk based priority and risk based test case design, test bed splits, TDM and so on.
KM, Training and Governance
- Tools and processes for knowledge management, training and governance need to ably support the DevOps-led simplification.
- These processes will need systemic focus to create and nurture self-learning technology teams.
- Transformation of the way of working to rationalize processes such as collaboration for lean and improved handover of work packages.
- Security will be extremely crucial in the process of DevOps-led simplification. All the automation, cloud adoption, pipeline creation, IoT adoption and more is throwing up many new security concerns, thereby leading to a focus on DevSecOps.
- Security processes will potentially need to move their execution points up in the CI/CD pipeline and be divided into stages based on iterations sizes and deployment cycles.
- Focus on shifting left application security and role-based security.
The next wave of simplification of IT spaces in banking organizations will be aided by DevOps. To look for opportunities, a systematic approach toward DevOps will help—it will be perilous to ignore detailed assessment of existing spaces that will detail the current state, point of arrival simplified state, road map for simplification and the key guiding principles for the transformation.
Carrying out pilots and proof of concepts in DevOps is not a problem; the challenge is with scaling—in all areas: tooling, training and processes. The key is to manage the horizontal and vertical spread of same/similar toolsets that also help drive efficiency associated with scale and standardization. DevOps-led simplification will need changes to processes, technology and people management (culture). The current role structures might need to be demolished to ensure there are no fiefdoms and cross-functional teams handle all requirements of Dev-Test-Ops. Finally, all the changes need to be able to define the new way of working so that Change-Run-Transform organizations can be brought together.
This article was co-authored by Babu Unnikrishnan, Head, Banking & Insurance Technology Group at Tata Consultancy Services.