At its simplest, DevOps is a set of practices to organize processes, software delivery pipelines and operational workflows. The movement represents a change in IT culture, focusing on rapid IT service delivery through adopting agile, lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach.
Between 2007 and 2008, the DevOps movement started to syncretize when IT operations and software development communities raised concerns about what they felt was a significant level of dysfunction in the industry. Today, around 83 percent of organizations are implementing DevOps practices, but 80 percent of those have fallen into a “mid-level evolution” category. Some companies have languished there for some time.
Transitioning to a Financial Services DevOps culture may take time, but it has the potential to revolutionize the activities of an organization, especially in industries like financial services.
DevOps in finserv
The financial services industry is a diverse and complex market. From small trading firms to the largest banks, the sector is pressed to meet customers’ ever-changing demands and expectations in a highly regulated environment without compromising on quality and speed of delivery. Organizations demand uninterrupted customer service and robust internal infrastructure for seamless operations.
Recently, major financial services firms have turned to DevOps practices to solve these challenges and enable faster, more stable software releases in the race to keep up with mounting customer expectations. DevOps allows financial services to enhance the quality and cadence of application releases while addressing compliance, security, risk and governance strategies.
As Chief Technology Officer at one of the world’s largest financial services technology providers, what surprises me the most is there is no supplemental direction in most DevOps practices besides “modernize and automate.” For any DevOps initiative, the desire to automate has become a requirement for achieving higher product quality, ensuring compliance, and enabling speed and scalability. However, without a fundamental direction and understanding of what the practice means, this hyper-focus on automation can hinder financial services organizations looking to innovate. This lack of leadership begs these questions, What am I doing? How am I providing value to my internal and external customers? How do I measure the success of a practice? Without this, companies can adopt DevOps frameworks in a bubble, and then all they have accomplished is more technical debt.
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I believe it’s time to move beyond “modernize and automate” to help companies succeed on a larger scale. So here are three tips for IT leaders in financial services to level up DevOps practice and work smarter and faster to deliver better quality to customers.
How to get it right
- Begin with the end in mind: Have a definitive understanding of the problems you are trying to solve. Assess if cultural and organizational changes are what you need to solve the problem at hand. Are you seeking process automation? Security? Internal functioning? Don’t dive in without clarity on your desired outcome.
- Customize to your company: Fully understand what DevOps means to you and your organization before beginning this process. You can read some books or a blog post or two, but you have to understand that DevOps is not one-size-fits-all for every company. Your experience will dramatically improve by embracing and understanding your organization’s unique needs, including its size, customer base, current processes, etc. If this feels daunting, I implore you to begin again with step one.
- Start with support: Make sure you have buy-in from various stakeholders across the business and executive leadership. McKinsey & Company suggests, “People—rather than technological—issues tend to be the biggest obstacles that keep companies from achieving their transformation goals.” Ultimately, you can align all parties by leading with empathy, thinking strategically, and presenting strong evidence.
In 2020, financial services organizations reported the highest levels of database DevOps adoption, with proportionally higher rates than any other sector. The industry will no doubt continue to innovate and respond to the ever-changing desires of its customers. As such, it is integral to evolve your DevOps practices in a calculated, customized, and supported way. DevOps implementation in this industry has excellent potential to provide increased reliability, security compliance, and cost savings – if only your organization can escape the “bubble.”
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