Brian Dawson, DevOps Evangelist, CloudBees

Software in the Banking Sector – Big Challenges, Big Opportunities

The banking industry faces a three-headed monster: ever-increasing regulation, the continuous threat of cyber-attacks and disruptive innovation from outside of the sector. Add to this the upheaval in demographics and generational changes in wealth distribution, and a picture emerges of an industry beset with immense challenges.

At the same time, the very nature of money has radically changed. It’s become normal for consumers to never actually handle physical money. In reality, we are moving to an era where all companies in every industry are becoming software companies. This transition means there needs to be an accelerated focus on creating new applications quickly and efficiently. Businesses in all industries now have the ability to innovate in record time. The old saying, “He who hesitates is lost,” has never been more apt. Applications have to be developed, put into production and delivered to market in record time.

More Applications, Faster, with Less Cost and Risk –  the Role of DevOps

Innovative banks that satisfy customers and achieve robust growth can only do so with the continual delivery of new and improved applications. In the race to offer new and enhanced services, bank executives demand speed and innovation without sacrificing quality. Application development and operations teams are under great pressure to meet the demands of the business. Development and operations organisations are being tasked to build, test and release both new applications and incremental updates to existing applications in shorter cycles. Adopting DevOps practices has been a key enabler for companies that want to deliver a continual stream of new and improved applications.

DevOps practices promote a culture of collaboration that reduces application delivery time and improves quality through higher productivity and efficiency. DevOps practices emphasise methods for more effective communication and collaboration between development, operations, testing and quality assurance teams. However, integrating DevOps into an IT organisation requires an organisational culture shift. Ironically, an increase in regulatory compliance mandates is supporting the acceleration of internal collaboration.

Jenkins – The Open Source, Reliable Tool for Continuous Integration

Jenkins is an open source automation server used by millions of IT personnel around the world to support continuous delivery processes. Jenkins enables development teams to continuously deliver secure and tested code in a production-ready state at all times. To accomplish continuous delivery, application delivery teams incorporate automation to deliver software more rapidly and with fewer errors.

Jenkins is already the de facto continuous delivery tool of choice. According to a ZeroTurnaround survey published in 2016 by RebelLabs, 60% of developers use Jenkins. Why? Jenkins is open source software, and is supported by a robust and active community.  In addition, Jenkins has an extensible architecture, giving it the ability to work with virtually any tool and technology. Jenkins is ubiquitous around the globe and is being used by software delivery teams within the enterprise – including many global banks and financial institutions.

Figure 1: Java tools and technologies landscape 2016 - from a survey conducted by ZeroTurnaround’sRebelLabs
Figure 1: Java tools and technologies landscape 2016 – from a survey conducted by ZeroTurnaround’sRebelLabs


Continuous Delivery and Banking – Success at the Enterprise Level

In the world of large enterprises, banks are unique. Their products are essentially exchanges of data; and much of this data is sensitive, regulated and highly proprietary. The stakes for banking executives are high, meaning that the stakes for application developers are just as high. Success in leveraging the benefits of continuous delivery depends upon several best practices.

These best practices include:

    »    Ensure a strong, ongoing commitment to DevOps practices.

As banking IT organisational practices swing from centralised to decentralised and now back to centralisation, executives and IT teams need to ensure that DevOps practices are built into the application lifecycle.

    »    Extend meaningful collaboration to include line-of-business executives.

Banks should model themselves on the software industry. The mission-critical nature of banking applications, along with ongoing enhancements to them, requires developers to understand the business. By collaborating with banking executives, developers will gain a better understanding of requirements and executives will gain a better understanding of the software delivery process.

    »    Use tools that are designed for enterprise use.

This means development and deployment tools need to have the scalability, predictability, manageability, high availability and support that businesses require.

Banking Trends

Just as developers should extend their sphere of collaboration to the line-of-business executives, they should also be aware of emerging banking trends – which will likely become application development priorities. As DevOps teams rise to the demands of delivering applications faster and faster using tools like Jenkins, they should also be aware of what lies ahead. With awareness comes preparedness, and the possibility of providing input at the ideas stage – early in the software delivery process. Top trends currently include the shift to banking as a platform, improving the customer journey, leveraging big data, and the expansion of multi-channel delivery.

DevOps Adoption in Banking 

The importance of DevOps to the banking and financial markets is evidenced by the adoption levels of DevOps practices in the industry. It’s an industry increasingly relying on business-critical, mobile, customer facing applications which need to react quickly with minimal downtime. The table below illustrates DevOps practices in the banking industry, compared with the wider market.

Figure 2: 2017 research from IBM Market Development & Insights on DevOpsadoption
Figure 2: 2017 research from IBM Market Development & Insights on DevOpsadoption


The Way Forward

These are truly interesting times the banking industry is living in. The threats and opportunities are real and immediate. These are also interesting times for those who develop and deliver applications for banks. Much rides on the ability to provide new applications and updates at an accelerated pace never experienced before; at the same time, new practices, methodologies and tools can be applied to meet the challenge.DevOps could hold the key to many financial organisations in their efforts to differentiate offerings, and stay on top of the competition.

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