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How Lean and Agile principles will transform Financial Services

By Phil Farah, AVP Head Digital Transformation Services, Global Accounts at World Wide Technology (WWT)

The financial services industry is going through profound change, as organisations ready themselves to welcome the next wave of digital technologies. The pandemic has also placed additional pressure on financial services to implement new digital technologies that can meet the ever-changing customer expectations. CIOs are now expected to anticipate and prepare for what the ‘next normal’ will bring. It has traditionally taken IT teams up to 18 months to roll out a new product in financial services, which, in today’s age, is far too slow. Upping this pace of change is a key challenge for the financial services industry.

Lean and agile processes, which are used by the biggest tech companies in the world, can help. Adopting and implementing these principles will help teams to become more efficient.

Leading by example

In an industry where the service offering is a key competitive differentiator, the emergence of nimble fintechs, using agile principles, has placed pressure on other financial institutions to match them. Fintechs have shown that Agile and DevOps can accelerate the rate of innovation and reduce time to market. It is up to the rest of the industry to react to this.

Companies now understand they need to adopt lean and agile principles as it will help speed up the process of replacing legacy technologies with digital innovations. But how do large financial institutions adopt the lean and agile principles that will enable them to evolve and compete? One way is through the cloud.

Cloud as an enabler

Cloud service providers now offer products that provide a seamless extension of the enterprise private cloud into the public hosting sphere. This includes tools to manage an agile development process, such as Kanban, but more importantly provides a link between app development and infrastructure operations. This means developers can stand up infrastructure on demand to accelerate development and deployment of new applications in support of business opportunities. Also, this integration gives financial enterprises the option to deploy at scale without maintaining a sunk cost in private infrastructure.

However, migrating to the cloud also poses challenges. A move to cloud-based collaboration requires cultural change. This is an age-old challenge, and a difficult one. For example, automation can carry a risk when it comes to operations and security. Therefore, it is easier to get developers rallied behind DevOps than security or operations.

Organisations are working hard to combat these obstacles, and the ones who have strong leadership and a solid strategic plan in place, will be the ones to thrive in the new cloud-enabled culture.

The lean and agile tech revolution

Aside from the cloud, there are other key innovations on the horizon that will help financial services adopt lean and agile principles.

Financial services organisations’ need for observability, analysis, automation, and security will drive several key trends. AIOps, DevOps, DevSecOps, GitOps, Design thinking, and Agile development are all examples of this philosophy.

‘Infrastructure as code’ is another key area. This is an effective DevOps practice for creating and managing infrastructure in a descriptive model by utilising modern software development techniques. It allows practices and tools to be tested and verified before they are integrated into business-critical systems. As a result, infrastructure as a code helps increase business value by decreasing environment wait times and configuration drift, increasing infrastructure reliability, and self-service capabilities.  

There are many hurdles to jump over when adopting lean and agile processes. Therefore, it is imperative the financial services industry starts thinking about adopting lean, agile processes now. Ultimately, using lean, agile principles and methodologies, means becoming agile in your way of working. This will add tremendous value to financial services organisations and to their customers.



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