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The Race to Recovery – Speed of transformation will determine winners in the financial sector

By Anthony McMahon, Regional Director, APAC, GitLab

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed every company in the financial services sector to take stock of their digital journey. While banks in Singapore have built impressive digital platforms to integrate financial services into everyday activities of individuals and enterprises, the pandemic has spun the digital transformation journey on its head.

Banks have found themselves in a critical position for their customers and employees, as the pandemic continues to bring long-lasting impact to people’s health and finances. They had to address customers’ urgent needs now – reassurance, security and safety – as well as the longer-term issues head-on, including stabilising systems and operations to ensure they have what they need to thrive and compete in the months and years ahead.

Coupled with the emerging competition sparked by open banking standards and new fintech players, traditional banks and insurers need to rethink their brand promise to consumers, which will be driven by the acceleration of their digital readiness. For traditional financial institutions to win the race for customer engagement and loyalty post-pandemic, they need to deliver on digital experiences and features in an efficient, safe, timely and cost-effective manner. The evolution of traditional software practices today will need to happen far more quickly to stay ahead of the competition.

As industry leaders across the region are working quickly towards helping customers and employees adjust to new working and living conditions, IT leaders should be asking the question “What is fast and how does my team go faster?”

Measuring speed through cycle time

To compete with open banks and their promise of speed and experience in meeting changing customer needs, banks need to build greater flexibility in both their technology processes and ways of working. Beyond architectural and system changes, banks need to shift to a new operating model and culture and adopt a dramatically different way of developing, securing, and managing software.

The first step in preparing for the digital transformation is to look at how you measure speed: cycle time.

According to iSixSigma, cycle time can be defined as “the total time from the beginning to the end of your process, as defined by you and your customer. Cycle time includes process time, during which a unit is acted upon to bring it closer to an output, and delay time, during which a unit of work is spent waiting to take the next action.”

In a nutshell, cycle time is the total elapsed time to move a unit of work from the beginning to the end of a physical process.

It’s important to note that cycle time is not the same as lead time. Cycle time tells you how efficient your development and delivery processes are, and lead time tells you how long customers wait for a new feature. If you have a lot of ideas in your backlog, you could have a short cycle time, but a long lead time due to the backlog. However, if you can improve your DevOps lifecycle to achieve a fast cycle time, you can then rapidly respond to new business priorities, at the same time reduce lead time delays.

Anthony McMahon
Anthony McMahon

Put another way think, “Idea-to-Code-to-Cloud-to-Consume”.

Identify gaps in the delivery process to make it faster and more efficient

It starts with understanding where your current delivery process has problems – where you’re creating bottlenecks, rework, or merely waiting for someone to do or approve something. The objective of value stream management is to define, measure, and improve the flow of value to your customers. In the case of IT and application delivery, value stream management starts with your backlog of feature requests and ends with the delivery of the features to your users.

GitLab’s fourth annual DevSecOps survey revealed opportunities to address bottlenecks along the stream, including better collaboration between developer, operations and security teams and technology choices that improve DevOps practices and speed up software release cycles.

The survey found that the lines are blurring between developers and operations teams as 35% of developers say they define and or create the infrastructure their app runs on and 14% actually monitor and respond to that infrastructure – a role traditionally held by operations.

There also continues to be a clear disconnect between developers and security teams, with uncertainty about who should be responsible for security efforts. More than 25% of developers reported feeling solely responsible for security. In the new world, silos between these teams and responsibilities can’t be tolerated anymore with security increasingly built into the development process at an earlier stage.

In order to reduce cycle time, IT leaders need to identify some of these gaps and improve processes, automate and streamline your value stream, including moving beyond multiple legacy tools to manage the complex process of developing software.  As you improve your cycle time, you’ll be able to lower your lead time, because your delivery processes will be faster and more efficient.

As markets around the region begin to ease restrictions and focus on the new normal, the enhanced digital customer experience is not just desirable anymore, it is a necessity for banks. Technology now needs to be front and center of your offering as competition is coming from unexpected sources. By measuring, understanding and improving the process, banks can enable their teams to go faster, more securely and deliver greater value.