ANZ expands DevOps process overhaul after ‘fantastic’ early results

Automation, containerised testing and autonomous teams break down process bottlenecks

ANZ’s digital group will triple the reach of the bank’s DevOps transformation over the next four months after early results confirmed the initiative had produced “fantastic” improvements for 2000 business and technology people since it went live eight weeks ago.

The DevOps transformation grew out of New Ways of Working (NWOW): A top-line initiative floated last year by incoming CEO Shayne Elliott, who moved quickly to shake up established workplace inertia as a cornerstone of the bank’s increasingly digital identity.

The year-long process of reviewing and redesigning processes included three months spent documenting and timing every step required to execute a broad range of business and technology processes.

Scoping, configuring and spinning up a virtual WebSphere application server, for example, involved nine different teams and 11 handoffs between them – taking 15 business days, on average, despite only involving four days of actual work.

“You look at that and it’s just one process within the organisation,” ANZ general manager of Omni Channel Platforms Christian Venter told hundreds of banking technologists at the FST Media Future of Financial Services conference.

“That same thing is happening everywhere in the organisation – and when someone wants to get something done they go to each specialist team, all of whom are highly utilised and highly efficient. Those handoffs and delays are what’s killing you and slowing you down.”

The DevOps project addressed these delays by rearranging the management of tasks inside the organisation. Instead of working as specialised teams, the 2000 developers and related business people have been redistributed into 17 tribes, each made up of teams called ‘autonomous multi-disciplinary squads’.

“Each squad is empowered to solve a particular customer mission,” Venter said. “The customer is at the heart of every one of those missions – and the results we are getting from it are fantastic.”

Using previous processes, the digital team was producing roughly three deployments per week “and that was after a lot of work”, Venter said.

Bottlenecks in the application testing process had been a particular pain point, with limited availability of serial testing tools creating long delays: “we were getting 20 builds a day across 100 developers, and people would be queueing up for an hour for their build to complete and for the full test to run,” he said.

By building a containerised environment based on Red Hat OpenShift, Docker and OpenStack, “we are now able to run 165 builds per day in parallel, with zero wait time,” Venter said. “Not only does that increase your speed, but your quality goes up massively because you’re continuously testing your applications.”

“Now we can do three deployments per day – and we could do them every 20 minutes if we wanted to. But we just choose not to.”

Customer responsiveness

The NWOW-driven DevOps transformation has turned conventional processes on their heads – and allowed the increasingly agile bank to respond much more quickly to changing customer requirements.

After the bank made changes to its recently-overhauled mobile app, for example, customers were vocal in complaining about the absence of features such as emoji support.

The features were prioritised and added back into the next production run – earning rave reviews from the more than 37,600 customers that have given the app an average iTunes App Store rating of 4.7 out of 5.

“Our customers are telling us every day what they like and don’t like, and we now have the processes to respond to that very quickly,” Venter said. “By using agile delivery and DevOps transformation, we were able to respond at speed and turn around the changes really, really quickly.”

The success of the first tranche of employees has motivated the bank to add another 4000 employees to the initiative. The next targets include teams handling database operations and application support – who will be brought into the delivery team “so the people who code it are responsible for fixing it as well,” Venter said.

He noted the importance of three core tenets – simplicity, efficiency, and putting the customer first – in shaping a transformation that was fundamentally about addressing the rapidly changing needs of increasingly digital-focused customers.

“We had to do this because the market is changing,” Venter explained, “and customers expect very different things at a different pace than we have ever seen before. The best you can do is to create an organisation that has agility built into it.”

That agility, he said, has come to the ANZ through the combination of NWOW and DevOps, which have driven overarching transformation across the bank. But organisations wanting to change in similar ways didn’t need to try to boil the ocean. “You don’t need to spend six months to get this all right,” Venter said. “You just need to start, and test and learn, and test and learn. If you build it into your cycle, you’ll see the results.

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