How AppDynamics Assures Guidewire Software

Guidewire Software delivers the industry platform that property and casualty (P&C) insurers rely upon to adapt and succeed in a time of accelerating change. The company provides the software, services and partner ecosystem to enable its customers to run, differentiate and grow their business. Recognized as a market leader by Gartner, this rapidly growing software company serves about half of tier-one insurance companies, trades publicly on the NYSE, and has more than 350 customers across the globe. Consisting of several products for managing the lifecycle of insurance, Guidewire offers a strategic platform for insurers’ digital transformations, helping its clients meet their customer demands and discover new revenue channels.

Guidewire’s partnership with AppDynamics was created in a most unusual way. In 2013, a Guidewire customer approached AppDynamics and asked us to measure the availability and performance of a new system. Since this solution interacted with many non-Guidewire systems, visibility was critical—from browser to backend—for rapidly identifying, isolating and remediating issues.

Enter AppDynamics

AppDynamics’ sales engineering team was brought in and quickly determined a way to instrument Guidewire software using our Java agent. But this was no easy feat. Guidewire had created a language called GOSU that runs inside the JVM. This custom language introduced challenges by reducing visibility in some areas. Nonetheless, AppDynamics’ APM solution was able to provide great operational benefits, particularly in end-to-end monitoring.

After a couple of successful implementations, the number of Guidewire customers using AppDynamics increased dramatically around the world. To help these customers, we needed greater visibility inside GOSU to understand the JVM better. Two years ago, we approached Guidewire and began working with its technical, product and development teams. The results have been excellent. We’ve made many improvements to our Guidewire integration since then—hard work that has driven adoption of AppDynamics across Guidewire’s install base. Today AppD and Guidewire have more than 30 mutual customers, and that number continues to grow.

A Growing Partnership

The relationship between Guidewire and AppDynamics has grown even closer in the past six months. One Guidewire customer, for example, deploys AppDynamics across its enterprise. This company, a traditional shop with infrastructure and applications on-premise in its data centers, recently embarked on a CIO-driven initiative to digitally transform and adopt public cloud technologies. The company began working with its trusted providers, including Guidewire, to explore a move to SaaS. It wanted assurance that AppDynamics could provide visibility into all production systems within its environment, including Guidewire. Our previous work with Guidewire made this possible.

At the same time, Guidewire itself began researching APM tools for in-house use. The fact that AppDynamics had done extensive work with Guidewire software made us an ideal choice. This long-term relationship, combined with our industry-leading solution, helped us become a provider of APM for Guidewire, both in preproduction (development, performance testing and QA) and production.

We’re looking forward to continuing our work with Guidewire Software and ensuring that users of Guidewire’s cloud offerings have the best experience possible. AppDynamics would like to thank Guidewire for its partnership, and we look forward to growing together in the future.

Migrating to AWS Without Losing (Too Much) Sleep

As my fellow CIOs are well aware, the rapid changes to our digital economy can seem daunting.

Despite the challenges of our digital world, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the world’s largest hotel franchisor, executed a significant digital transformation requiring change from our North American hotel owners that ultimately enabled them to provide better service to their guests. We succeeded without losing loyalty from our owners or guests, and with the right partnerships, support and strategy in place – you can too.

New research shows that only 22 percent of technologists are optimistic that their organization is ready for the rapid pace of technological advancement and 67 percent of IT professionals worry that technology innovation is outpacing society’s ability to harness it and adapt to change.

In light of these statistics, it’s easy to feel like these obstacles could create real problems for your customers and your business.

But it doesn’t have to.

For those of you in travel and hospitality, you understand the criticality of seamless digital experiences, especially on mobile. Consumers can book their flight, order room service and schedule guided tours – and owners can change rates, respond to guest requests, and see what competitors are doing – all from the touch of their phone.

At Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, we are on a mission to democratize travel for guests and the people who serve them with a portfolio of iconic hotel brands strategically designed to offer a wide range of compelling experiences and price points for guests.

We know our hotel owners are the platform for our growth, and together we serve the everyday traveler; as the stewards of our brands, owners are vital to delivering the experiences our guests want. That’s why we believe in providing our owners with the best technology resources. We knew we needed to evolve our digital platforms to meet our owners’ changing needs, enabling them to give the best travel experiences possible to their guests.

Supporting that business mission, here are three keys to a successful digital transformation.

Evaluate your company’s strategic direction

The first step in our digital transformation was to re-evaluate our existing capabilities and direction. After reviewing all of our options and conducting plenty of due diligence around scale, security and performance we decided to migrate many applications in our existing datacenter to AWS so we could innovate faster.

While we knew leveraging the speed and flexibility of AWS was the best way for our owners to receive the reliability and accessibility they need to manage digital information about their properties (from photos, to descriptions, to rates), we knew we had to mitigate any negative impacts a migration of this size and complexity could have.

We needed the right partner to protect our brand and accelerate the process.

Choose the right partner

Wyndham prides itself in partnering with like-minded companies that are customer-centric, nimble and experts in their fields.

We found AppDynamics and discovered our teams were drawn to an AWS-based approach at the same time, and we saw the potential of cross-enterprise monitoring. By partnering with AppDynamics, we were able to migrate 8,400 hotels across 18 brands with confidence by rapidly and securely adopting AWS’ cloud-native architectures, maintaining ongoing performance throughout the migration, ensuring equal or better customer experience in our new hybrid environments and driving business objectives while maximizing value.

The powerful level of visibility and real-time diagnosis provided by AppDynamics helped us deliver high quality service to our owners before, during and after the move to AWS.

Put the customer experience first

Not only was AppDynamics critical to the success of our cloud migration, to support our larger digital footprint, they enabled us to segment customer experience by category, track user sessions to understand how much time users spend at each step, filter and analyze by geography, device type and receive proactive alerts and analysis before the customer was ever impacted.

These additional insights gave us a holistic view of our applications and how our users interact with our apps, down to the design and feature level. This enabled us to focus on other critical improvements, accelerating user acceptance testing (UAT) during the migration process while maintaining application performance throughout.

Since our migration to AWS with the support of AppDynamics, we’ve seen an increase of 75 percent in mobile bookings. Together, AppDynamics and AWS are hugely strategic to our company’s continued innovation.

The digital economy today presents the opportunity to become an agent of transformation for your business.

With the right partners, culture and leadership in place, you too can drive the innovation necessary to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change, while maintaining and growing customer loyalty and your business at the same time…allowing everyone to migrate peacefully and without losing (too much) sleep.

IT Leaders Reveal 6 Key Trends Driving Digital Transformation in the Enterprise

The future of information technology is happening right now. And, as the IT industry continues to change at a rapid pace, the decisions that enterprise companies make today will have the potential to establish them as leaders in the space tomorrow.

As part of the recent AppDynamics U.S. Global Tour, we had the opportunity to connect with customers and IT leaders in both Boston and Chicago to hear more about what they’re doing to drive digital transformation, optimize DevOps, and make the most of cloud investments in response to the changing technology landscape.

1. The need for faster — and more — innovation.

EBSCO Information Service is the leading discovery service provider for universities, libraries, and other research institutions, serving millions of end users in over 100 countries. EBSCO solutions enable researchers and clinicians to quickly find the content they need to find answers and accelerate time to discovery.

Like many other organizations, EBSCO has adopted a DevOps model to help the company innovate faster and better serve its users. But this approach is only successful if there’s a high level of accountability within an organization. And, according to Dipankar Biswas, Agile Development Director of Enterprise Engineering and Operations for EBSCO, that accountability comes in the form of team ownership.

“We have service level dashboards where every department team is responsible for a given set of software components and are accountable for the health of their own releases and services. We don’t have dedicated standalone QA teams. So it’s all DevOps. It’s all development teams releasing and being accountable for their code. They won’t be successful if we don’t enable them with the observability and measurability they need,” Biswas explains.

Innovation happens as a result of empowering teams to own their work, and leveraging tools like AppDynamics to provide accountability and measurement of key KPI.

“AppDynamics was successful in helping us drive cultural change around these initiatives. The platform made it possible to make our goal a reality,” he says.

With AppDynamics, EBSCO development teams can quickly pinpoint issues early on in the development process.

“The development teams are now able detect things earlier, which lowers costs and speeds up development cycles. And those are huge wins for us,” says Biswas.

2. The desire for cross-functional visibility.

In the world of tax and government reporting, there’s a lot at stake when systems go down and deadlines are missed. That’s why Sovos is on a mission to protect leading global brands from the burden and risks associated with compliance. But the team could only do that by first ensuring total visibility into performance of its own software platform.

That’s why Amit Venugopal, Vice President, IT Cloud Operations, at Sovos turned to AppDynamics.

“Performance is obviously crucial to delivering world-class customer experiences with our software,” explains Venugopal.

“So when we had a customer who experienced performance issues for six months, we decided to evaluate AppDynamics with their situation in mind. We ended up putting them on AppDynamics to evaluate the platform. Lo and behold, we were able to identify the specific long running transactions, and more accurately locate the exact functional code logic associated with the transactions. We had been trying to resolve an issue for months and were able to identify the cause, and have a fix in production by the end of the week,” he explains.

Service teams use AppDynamics to provide cross-functional visibility, rally around customer issues, and quickly reach resolutions.

“We have several service teams, so for us, the desire for visibility really drove our adoption. And AppDynamics was pivotal in identifying hotspots and activating the right teams, at the right time,” he explains.

3. The ubiquity of cloud migration.

Agero provides roadside assistance solutions for leading auto manufacturers and car insurance providers. They’re driving the next generation of vehicle and mobile technology forward, and that means embracing digital transformation that includes a full IT migration to the cloud.

“Moving to AWS, we did a big lift and shift migration last year and we started using AppDynamics just before the lift and shift move. It was incredibly important to us to have a tool like AppDynamics to ensure the move was going smoothly,” explains Karen Hutchison, Director Information Risk and Security Management.

Hutchison and Agero aren’t alone in this regard — migration to the cloud is still an area of growth, with many enterprises still in the process of determining the right strategy for approaching it. That’s where tools like AppDynamics play a significant role in helping to ensure a seamless process.

“Agero couldn’t have made the migration without a tool like AppDynamics,” explains Hutchison.

4. The ability to reduce mean time to resolution (MTTR).

During an outage of any type, every minute counts. That’s why reducing the time it takes to resolve a service-impacting issue — or lowering the “mean time to resolution” (MTTR) — is an important goal for many enterprise companies.

That certainly was the case for JLL, a leading global professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management and runs a complex IT environment.

“We’re running close to 300 Tier 1 applications all tied to different business verticals to different applications teams, processes, and owners. AppDynamics helped us wrangle in that dispersion,” explains Mike Phillips, Manager Cloud Tools and Automation, IT Operations, JLL.

“Most developers will need to write some fairly complicated code that interacts with many points in several systems, but can now determine what ‘this line of code’ is actually calling and doing from an operation standpoint. It’s a lot easier for us to engage the right folks and teams to drive down MTTR in the process,” he says.

Geoffrey Mecoy, Vice President, IT Operations at JLL, says he’s not only able to run a more efficient and productive team, but he’s able to demonstrate measurable wins to executive management with AppDynamics.

“Measuring the hours, measuring time that we’re saving — when you roll that up to the CIO, [AppDynamics] becomes an easy pitch. We can save thousands of hours of developer time per year,” Mecoy explains.

5. Identifying problems before they become system-wide issues.

American Hotel Register is a leading global supplier of hospitality products. Matt Pacholek, Manager of eCommerce IT, and team are charged with ensuring that customers can purchase supplies to run their businesses seamlessly.

“We run a very lean IT organization, so we needed something we didn’t have to monitor all the time. So with AppDynamics, we’re able to set up alerts based on thresholds that tell us something’s going wrong before it actually becomes an issue for our customers,” explains Pacholek.

Pachelok shares, “Being able to see those trends and how they’re trending over time helps us be proactive about resolving potential issues.”

6. The need for a common language across groups.

Discover is one of the most well-known brands in U.S. financial services. Kurt Schneider, Senior Manager of ESM Tools at Discover, shared insights around how AppDynamics has helped his organization drive business value and team unity around solving issues.

Schneider explains, “A few members of our team are on many critical rapid response calls (RRT). AppDynamics gets people aligned by sharing the screen with all people in RRT, so we all speak the same language and see the same data. AppDynamics became a great visibility tool between peers, between teams, and between different organizations,” he says.

Making Digital Transformation Possible With A Powerful APM Platform

Digital transformation isn’t possible unless your entire organization can get behind the change. Often that means identifying the trends that are influencing adoption across your company, and highlighting how a potential solution meets the needs and can drive value for each and every stakeholder. When evaluated from this perspective, it’s possible for enterprise companies to deliver a powerful customer experience and drive value with the right APM solution.

Turning Digital Transformation into Digital Dexterity

The goal of digital dexterity is to build a flexible, agile workplace and workforce invested in the success of the organization. This dexterity allows the enterprise to treat employees like consumers—researching their challenges, goals and desired technologies—and then allowing the employees to exploit existing and emerging technologies for better business outcomes. This post advises line-of-business and product owners, already acting as agents of transformation inside their enterprises, on extending the metamorphosis into dexterity.

The Road vs. The Mountaintop

The journey begins with digital transformation, a road leading to multiple destinations. It is not a singular goal, but rather a way of life. Even digital-first enterprises continue to transform as they experiment with different business models or expand into new markets.

Enterprises executing digital transformations share three common goals:

  • Making analog tasks digital
  • Seeking new ways to solve old problems
  • Making the business better

While all three goals are important, the technical challenges of digital transformation often end up overshadowing the goal of improving the business. Transformation must leave the business not just different, but better. The transformed enterprise needs to be more agile in both application development and business. Digital transformation needs to result in a new company with digital ’savvy’, an understanding of the power of the data being collected, and the flexible and informed mindset required for digital dexterity.

Dexterity vs. Transformation

The real goal of digital transformation is to shorten the time required to transform business processes. How quickly can you spot a new or altered opportunity? Is the business digitally savvy enough to comprehend the possibilities of new technologies like blockchain, internet of things, and edge computing? Is your business now digitally dextrous?

Digitization without exploiting resultant data is a negative technical investment.

The next step in this journey—data extraction and data-driven decision making—mines the real value of going digital. The significant power of digital over analog is the ease of accumulating and assessing data, including data on each customer click, each cloud system executed upon, each line of code, and even each stage in a business process.

Often the first projects in digital transformation take long, lapsed periods of time. IT will need to rebuild itself first, and take many steps to respond faster to evolving needs. IT will also need to upgrade traditional waterfall models into agile development lifecycles with continuous integration and continuous delivery. Departments can restructure to create DevOps teams to reduce time from coding to deployment.

In the middle of long transformation projects, it is worth stepping back and asking anew: Why are we doing this? Digital transformation has been around so long, it may feel like it’s past the use-by date. Though some enterprises birth as digital-first, many are still struggling with basic analog-digital transformation. In the rush to deal with technology of multi-channel digitization, the goal often is missed.

(For more on digital transformation in specific industry verticals, read our AppDynamics blog posts on insurance, retail banking and construction.)

Digital Dexterity

Once your digital processes are generating data, the next step is to ensure you can exploit the wisdom of that data.

Achieving digital dexterity requires a new culture on both the business and technical sides. The technology team not only needs the technical skills to transform, but also the diplomatic skills to boost the organization’s digital dexterity. Amongst the “best coders on the planet” that you hire, you will want to seed the best communicators and evangelists as well. The business team will initially need your support in understanding what can be exploited with technology; the technical team will need to communicate using business terms. Similarly, these teams need to be presented with clear correlations from their application deliverables to business outcomes. Developing a multichannel awareness may be a new thing for your salesforce.

The real measure of dexterity is the enterprise’s ability to empower technical staff to make business decisions, and business staff to drive technical choices.

Challenges You Will Meet

Culture

Gartner’s 2018 CIO Survey reveals that CIOs believe corporate culture is one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation, followed by resources and talent. Those three elements make up 82% of digital business impediments, the survey says.

Consider expanding DevOps into BizDevOps. For this, you will need a nervous system connected to all parts of your enterprise to define common goals for both the business and technical teams, both of which need a common, shared view of data to allow differently trained participants to discuss and identify solutions.

Build a common vision and strategy across your business and technology leaders. Collaborative learning across team and knowledge structures is an effective way to help employees become dextrous.

Embracing diversity is a key action that adds a variety of viewpoints for spotting new opportunities. Make sure your strategy considers the employee experience (also a good time to preclude bias for gender, disabilities, etc.). Consider if the approach makes the employee more business-literate and more empowered to exploit new business processes.

Application owners need to continuously search out ways to improve employee effectiveness. The applications we develop should always listen to, interpret, and learn from their users. In the same way smart speakers were extremely stupid initially but self-improved over time, the enterprise application should consider user activity and create more efficient workflows for the user.

Technical Delay

As part of digital transformation, enterprises build out business intelligence frameworks, creating data lakes and gaining a rearview-mirror view of their business. Executives may even bring on data scientists to create models to predict the coming quarter. Each of these actions has value but excludes one key timeframe: today. Right now.

Why Aim for Dexterity?

Every company today is experiencing disruption. In fact, more companies experience disruption than act as disruptors. Right now, there’s a startup somewhere that will eventually flip to a business model that challenges yours. It might be a small change, or a permanent change in the marketplace. Your job is to prepare your enterprise by making sure your employees are empowered with self-serve, consumer-like technologies, and that they’re aware of the possibilities of change.

A dextrous enterprise can easily respond to market movements and disruptions. New businesses can be created with less struggle once it’s easier to connect departments and businesses. Employees with common awareness of the business—and the technology supporting the business—can readily identify, define and exploit new revenue opportunities. The holy grail alignment of IT and business will come through having all parties look at the same data to enable data-driven decisions.

Remember, the dextrous enterprise provides a consumer-like experience for its employees.

Transformation must leave the business not just improved, but better at surviving disruptions. The transformed enterprise is more agile in both development and business. It is able to rapidly integrate and partner with external businesses when the opportunity or need arises, and connect disparate business processes into a new buyer’s journey when a disruptor changes the marketplace. Digital transformation needs to deliver a new company that understands the power of collected data and the flexibility to harness the latest technology.

Digital dexterity is people using digital technologies to think, act and organize themselves in new and productive ways.

For more uses cases supporting digital dexterity, read how our customers are using Business iQ for AppDynamics.

Why DevOps Often Fails in FinServ

Financial services organisations are often late adopters of new technologies and methodologies. There are a number of reasons for this, some related to the way regulators and auditors operate in the industry, others to the difficulties of replacing old systems and practices, which often scale to such levels that it’s not always feasible to replace them without significant disruption.

Furthermore, banks and other FinServ companies are often some of the oldest and largest businesses around, making technological innovation much more challenging than it might be for smaller and newer companies.

Despite these hurdles, large FinServ firms have been investing heavily in digital transformation programmes over the last few years, as modernising the technology stack becomes a competitive necessity. These programmes are aimed at aligning the bank’s technology with recent industry standards, as well as looking for new ways to improve the use of said technology. They often involve the adoption of cloud services, improved automation, better scalability, usage of IaaS/PaaS, and adoption of DevOps methodologies.

A transformative journey is challenging in so many ways. This blog will take a closer look at the DevOps adoption hurdles facing FinServ organisations in their digital transformation.

DevOps Challenges

Why is it so difficult to introduce DevOps in large FinServ companies? I have already highlighted some of the reasons why digitalising large financial services can be challenging, but what specific difficulties do organisations face?

Processes and Structure

By the nature of their business, financial services are heavily process-driven, relying on bureaucracy and structure established over a long period of time. They are also heavily regulated and audited and as such, must carefully consider potential changes such as new methodologies.

One area that might limit the success of DevOps methodologies is the segregation between development and production services. This segregation is driven by role-based access control, which in many cases doesn’t allow software developers to access production environments. As a result, DevOps teams—comprised mostly of developers—can’t access the very software they’re expected to operate in production.

Segregation is caused not only by regulations, but also by historical structure across many FinServ companies, where management of the support groups and development teams is shared only at the CIO level, which means that connecting the Dev and Ops is not always feasible.

Another common theme that separates Dev and Ops is the company’s budget structure. Here’s where two acronyms come into play: Change the Bank (CTB) refers to development projects and budgets assigned for short delivery durations (usually annual projects), while Run the Bank (RTB) refers to operational budgets that get renewed annually.

RTB (or business-as-usual, BAU) support teams are usually handed over completed projects/products that are ready for operations. They will start familiarising themselves with the new products, whereas the CTB teams will most likely be dissolved or move on to develop new products. This approach can conflict with the expected continuity of DevOps methodologies, where a team shepherds products through their entire lifecycle.

Here’s another interesting angle about the way budgets are processed in financial services: budget approvals often require committed financial benefits, which means that newly funded projects are expected to drive future savings. This approach doesn’t always align well with the actual need for DevOps, which is mostly about enabling growth and continuation, and not always cost reduction.

ITIL vs. DevOps

ITIL is a set of detailed practices for IT service management (ITSM). Many articles have addressed the ITIL vs. DevOps debate—whether IT organisations should choose one over the other, or whether DevOps can work together with ITSM disciplines. I’m not taking sides on whether the two are friends or enemies; however, the way ITSM/ITIL is often implemented in FinServ might limit the benefits of DevOps.

One example is the frequency of releases, a core tenet of Agile and DevOps. It’s difficult to operate DevOps methodologies where there are frequent release freezes, or expectations that release cycles adhere to approval processes that may take weeks before a release can go ahead.

One FinServ organisation I worked with was aiming to drive their digital transformation programme as a standalone development entity with full autonomy. The teams were highly innovative and started developing products using cutting-edge technology and DevOps practices.

However, when the programme started looking into the practicalities of releasing products to production, the teams had to take several steps back and reconsider their technology decisions, some of which weren’t approved as part of the organisation’s technology stack. The teams were also required to prepare support handover documentation and follow existing change management procedures. Furthermore, they weren’t allowed access to production environments.

This example highlights the fact that even cutting-edge technology programmes must consider the existing technologies and methodologies used by the organisation, as they’re not likely to be allowed to ignore them.

Skipping the Agile Phase

Since FinServ firms are often late adopters of new technology, they have opportunities to skip, or leapfrog, incremental stages that other enterprises and industries have gone through. But while there are advantages to leapfrogging a few steps, these maturity phases are often necessary for successful implementation.

In DevOps, many organisations and industries have experienced long periods of introducing, fine-tuning and mastering agile development methodologies, which were later complemented by DevOps. While FinServ orgs are trying to move from structured, waterfall-based methodologies straight to DevOps, this transition introduces maturity risks that are not easy to overcome.

When speaking with colleagues in financial services on this topic, I often hear quotes like: “The terms ‘Agile’ and ‘DevOps’ are used as excuses for lack of planning.” I’ve also witnessed a few examples where projects were approved and funded with no clear target deliveries and dates—all on the basis that “This is Agile.”

How FinServ Can Make DevOps Work

Looking at the challenges described above, successful introduction and adoption of DevOps methodologies in FinServ sounds difficult. But being aware of these challenges—and carefully considering them as part of the digital transformation programme—can help prevent most known issues. Here are some suggestions and shared experiences.

Consider a hybrid approach: Don’t get caught up in a quest for DevOps purity, but instead focus on achieving successful agile development. Introduce operational methodologies that contribute to improved agility, mostly where role-based access control and segregation of duties are required by regulators.

Bring Dev and Ops closer: Focusing on DevOps can alienate production services teams, as their roles are theoretically under threat. However, the support of these teams is often critical to the success of new methodologies.

There are a few ways to achieve better relationships between existing support teams and new DevOps teams. Examples include:

  • Integrate support staff into the DevOps pods.

  • Introduce site reliability engineering (SRE) teams that, in addition to providing support services, also focus on DevOps autonomy and reduction of overhead. These teams can eventually integrate with production services.

  • Invest in skilled operations: For Ops teams to become agents of transformation, they need to have the right experience, exposure and skills. In addition to investing in experienced staff, you must provide existing staff with development opportunities.

Another way to introduce DevOps methodologies in FinServ is to identify independent business areas, projects and products that can be delivered and operated using DevOps practices.

There are a few examples in the industry where senior managers gave full backing to DevOps methods in certain projects or product lines. In these successful adoption examples, the DevOps teams managed to isolate their deliveries from the wider technology and process-related dependencies.

One caveat: Having such isolation during development, delivery and operations is rarely feasible in FinServ, so these examples are not common.

Investment in Tools

While the general use of technology in FinServ may lag behind that of other industries, budgeting for some of the best tech tools has never been a problem, and that includes DevOps tools.

The use of tools for development, deployment, testing automation, pipeline automation, analytics, etc., is a must-have for DevOps enablement. But it’s not only about the right tools, it’s also about the successful adoption and use of these tools.

A mature CI/CD process can encompass a significant part of ITSM requirements, and provide governance and confidence in the release process. And with good, well-adopted deployment tools, developers won’t need to access production servers during the release process. Successful adoption of the right monitoring and analytics tools will also provide the information that DevOps teams need to capture and troubleshoot potential faults—again, removing the need for access to production environments.

Summary

A significant gap remains between IT industry gurus who often live and breathe DevOps, and financial services enterprises which—despite their best efforts—face many hurdles when trying to introduce these methodologies. The good news is that FinServ can make DevOps work by embracing a pragmatic approach to DevOps, improving relationships between existing support teams and new DevOps teams, investing in the right tools for DevOps enablement, and other steps.

AppDynamics has been used by many of the top financial services organisations in their own digital transformation journeys. Learn more about how AppDynamics can help accelerate your own DevOps adoption.

6 Ways CIOs Can Drive Digital Transformation and Lead Their Companies Toward Revenue

Growing a digital business is essential for virtually every enterprise across every industry. Large enterprises and small businesses alike are digitizing their internal and customer-facing processes and services to increase efficiency, scale their businesses, and collect meaningful data. Yet, while many companies have launched digital services to collect data, we haven’t fully tapped into the potential of data analytics—even though studies suggest that digital will be a top differentiator in years to come.  Curious how you can get a better handle on digital transformation? Read on to learn why it’s so crucial, plus discover six key ways to digitize your business.

Why Digital Transformation Is Such a Big Deal

A recent survey of 573 senior executives from North and Latin America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region conducted by Forbes Insight and Hitachi shows that less than half of executives see themselves as advanced or leaders in data and analytics. The survey drew responses from executives across a wide range of industries, from technology and services to finances, telecommunications, and healthcare.

Even though the vast majority of companies—91 percent—that use data and analytics have experienced increases in revenue, only a third see themselves as leaders in customer experience. This gap highlights how underutilized data and analytics continue to be in the business world.

Researchers from the MIT Center for Digital Business define digital transformation as “the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises.” In a 2014 survey of 157 executives at 50 companies, researchers found the best-performing companies combined digital activity with strong leadership to leverage technology for transformation. According to the researchers, these companies had reached digital maturity—a differentiator that led them to outperform their competition.

The key areas where the MIT Center for Digital Business saw executives digitally transforming their processes were customer experience, operational processes, and business models. Additionally, as Forbes and Hitachi’s survey shows, these are also areas where IT leadership can lead the way. To be successful with digital transformation, CIOs need to steer their companies in two seemingly opposed directions. IT leaders need to take a bigger, long-term vision while executing on outstanding operational delivery within the organization. In order to fully transform their company digitally and ensure success, CIOs need to take these six steps.

1. Make data and analytics a top company priority

The majority of companies are already putting digital transformation at the forefront. Forbes Insights and Hitachi’s research shows that digital transformation is a priority for 50 percent of respondents. This focus is especially notable when it comes to how executives make investments that will benefit their organizations in the long term. The study found that, in addition to increasing their data and analytics capabilities, new technologies are the top investment priority of 51 percent of respondents for the next two years.

However, a not-so-small subset (49 percent) of companies still lags behind. In the years to come, this will be a huge differentiator between these organizations and their competitors as they rush to play catch up. This is because data, like a fine wine, improves in value over time. The more data an organization is able to collect and analyze over a longer period of time, the sharper their insights.

2. Design digital transformation around business goals

Forbes and Hitachi’s research also found that a changing business model was the top reason that 41 percent of respondents had begun the process of digital transformation. The availability of new technologies came second, driving 40 percent of respondents to digitize their businesses. This is likely due to the impact that digital disruption has made on a number of industries. Companies, such as Uber and Airbnb, seemingly transformed their industries overnight by leveraging cloud and mobile technologies to gain access to customers.

Savvy leaders are turning to digital transformation to modernize—before their industries are turned upside down. For instance, the ability to innovate was listed by 46 percent of survey respondents as the top metric used to measure the success of digital transformation, closely followed by revenue growth (46 percent) and cost reduction (43 percent).

3. Take an enterprise-wide approach

Digital transformation can’t be accomplished in a silo. Currently, the bulk of the work is carried out by IT teams—without the involvement of cross-function teams within the company. The focus on IT is partially because they were cited by 53 percent of Forbes and Hitachi’s survey respondents as the most prepared for digital transformation. Only a third of the survey respondents viewed other company functions as ready.

Instead of focusing solely on IT for digital transformation, companies should empower IT teams to collaborate with other departments on ways to digitize their systems. By partnering with other departments, IT teams can make an efficiency and revenue impact across the organization. If digital transformation continues to live in a silo, its effectiveness will remain limited.

4. Expand the role of IT

CIOs have a unique opportunity to grow and expand their influence within the organization. A survey from Gartner shows that 75 percent of executives expect digital to help double revenue. Digital transformation can give IT leaders an opportunity to expand their roles and oversee technology across the organization. To make this change, CIOs need to shift away from focusing just on operations and infrastructure to embracing a more consultative and collaborative role.

Much of IT spending happens outside of the IT department. When IT leadership oversees all technology spending, they gain a holistic view of what technology the company uses the most as well as redundancies and opportunities to innovate. IT leaders need to both manage traditional IT while also act as an advisor and guide for the rest of the company on what technologies and digital projects they should research and experiment.


5. Transform talent acquisition

The recruiting process at many organizations is one clear area where digital transformation and collaboration with IT can make a big difference for companies. Companies are constantly searching for the best talent, and it’s a challenge to find people with the right skill sets, especially when it comes to tech roles such as data science and DevOps. What’s more, the technology landscape constantly changes and there’s a high likelihood that this time next year, companies will seek people with an entirely different set of skills.

The right digital tools can help make the process of finding and connecting with candidates much easier. Solutions such as videoconferencing for interviews, sharing job openings on social media, and leveraging LinkedIn make recruiting and interviewing much more efficient—and not just for the IT department. Teams across the company can hire top talent more easily and efficiently by digitizing their recruiting process.

6. Prioritize employee-friendly processes

Just as digital transformation can’t flourish in a silo, new procedures and technologies that aren’t employee friendly will also fall flat. Busy employees will only be frustrated by technologies they don’t know how to use or those that need constant troubleshooting. When this occurs, they simply return to the old way of doing things. Instead, IT leaders have to think like user-experience professionals and HR teams. They need to assess new technologies based on user-friendliness, as well as educate, train, and support employees when new technologies are implemented.

Digital disruption brings change, which can be uncomfortable for employees—especially team members who are used to the old system. It’s important to be understanding and patient. Setting the right tone is crucial. For instance, let employees know that a dip in productivity is expected while everyone adjusts to the new system. There are also many ways to make learning new technology more enjoyable for everyone. Holding new tech trainings with snacks, games, and prizes, and allowing for some time to let everyone socialize can help the team relax and have fun.

Conclusion

The growing interest and adoption of digital transformation by the business world has created new opportunities for IT leadership to evolve their roles within their organizations. This gives companies more access to tech leaders who can steer their business toward higher levels of productivity and efficiency, which can increase revenue and decrease costs. To do this, CIOs and IT professionals have to make a shift toward developing more strategic and consultative roles for themselves. This is the only way they can effectively partner with departments across the company to enact change and drive digital transformation.

Digital transformation: Two words don’t fit all, or do they?

It’s only two simple words, but in the increasingly complex, customer-centric enterprise IT landscape, it’s a phrase that carries multiple meanings — to the point where some would probably observe, tongue-in-cheek, that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.

It’d be hard to argue that “digital transformation” hasn’t been pushed into buzzword territory by those of us who write about business IT, but I feel like that speaks more of the concept’s genuine relevance and importance to the success of today’s digital first enterprises than just simple hype. The sports media talks about the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavs, and their superstar players a lot, too.

Admittedly, we enablers and evangelists of digital transformation at AppDynamics couldn’t be considered the most unbiased lot. We wear our passion for the subject on our sleeves. But our rallying cries like, “Your applications are your business,” and “Every company must become a software company,” are phrases that are being backed up by plenty of anecdotal and statistical evidence. Maybe the biggest piece of personal evidence I can offer of how seriously digital transformation is being taken by the enterprise world is that we’re a quickly growing company with a lot of happy, successful customers — oh, and there’s that being bought by Cisco thing!

But, for some more unbiased proof, I’ll point you toward a recently-conducted IDG Market Pulse Study on the importance, challenges, and solutions on the execution of digital transformation. The infographic of the results, Embrace the Growing Power of the Application, posted below, is extremely thorough, and highly recommended to anyone involved in their own digital transformation who wants to see their colleagues’ experiences. Also not to be missed is a companion webinar, Digital Transformation & its Application Dependencies, led by Janet King, General Manager and SVP of IDG Research with commentary by Justin Vaughan-Brown, Director, Product Marketing of AppDynamics.

The survey results start with the issue brought up around 300 words ago, addressing the concept’s variety of meanings — essentially, what does digital transformation mean to your company? More specifically, the survey asked the 500+ director-level enterprise IT managers what they saw as the desired outcome of their digital transformation.

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The topic of measuring the success of digital transformation throws even more variety into the discussion:

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 2.25.35 PM.png

So, it’s pretty apparent that those two words mean a lot of things. Understandable given that every company is different.

As Ms. King will note in the webinar, one thing that we can all agree on is that digital transformation is all about doing things smarter, faster, and with more of a focus on customer happiness. How great is that for everyone involved, both customers and employees? However, as anyone knows, in today’s complex, multi-cloud world, full of customers with high expectations, that it’s much easier said than done. But us passionate drivers of digital transformation always have and always will have your back.

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Digital Transformation in the Construction Industry

Construction has been called the science of the practical. While designers and governmental bodies argue over the limits of the possible, leaders in the construction industry have simply continued to build along the most efficient path.

Construction was one of the last industries to get onboard with digital transformation, according to McKinsey’s study on “Imagining Construction’s Digital Future.” That caution serves as more evidence of the industry’s ingrained practicality. There’s no time to waste on chasing after technology that doesn’t perform better than existing methods.

That’s also why 2016 turned out to be the tipping point in the construction industry’s adoption of technology clusters, including mobile devices, data-driven performance metrics, and the cloud.

In the 2016 Construction Technology Outlook, 53% of construction professionals said that they either had a technology plan in place or they expected it to be in place before the end of the year. The possible has finally become practical.

Here are just a few of the ways construction found uses for new technologies in 2016:

  • Miners are using self-driving trucks to improve safety around explosives and heavy machinery. From a mobile office, engineers and developers use monitoring analytics to isolate, predict, and prevent breakdowns.

  • PlanGrid introduced a construction collaboration app, including streamlined processes for managing and sharing markups, potential issues, and progress reports in real time.

  • The Kespry company demonstrated a construction drone that can document 150 acres in 30 minutes and compile millions of data points into a functional 3-D model.

  • In Europe, RigScan by Atlas Copco controls thermal imaging cameras, embedded sensors, and other IoT devices to run performance audits and make sure equipment is operating within factory specifications.

  • At our AppSphere 2016 conference, a cross-industry gathering dedicated to advanced software, DevOps, application performance, and business outcomes, AppDynamics CEO, David Wadhwani, made a good point about the software-defined world: “A John Deere tractor has more software in it than the Space Shuttle. Every company is a software company.”

The last point is significant because most construction companies don’t think of themselves as software companies yet, even though an increasing percentage of their equipment and business processes depend on reliable, secure software.

Forces of Disruption

Looking ahead, there are five trends already in the deployment or prototyping stage that will define which construction companies come out ahead over the next few years. Here’s an overview of the new technologies detailed in McKinsey’s report on the future of construction.

1. HD Survey and Geolocation Devices

For years, many construction companies have been striving to find the best tools for high-definition (HD) photography and 3-D laser scanning of worksites. The use of drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have dramatically improved coverage and image quality.

One good example is photogrammetry, which takes HD survey images and rapidly converts them to images that are easy to share with other stakeholders. On the 3-D imaging front, light detection and ranging (lidar) is fed directly into project-planning tools and building information modeling (BIM) software.

Lidar is often deployed along with ground-penetrating radar and magnetometers to look at impacts both above and below ground. This minimizes the chance of work stoppage or disturbances before work begins in densely populated areas, environmentally sensitive regions, or historical sites.

Advanced survey techniques like these go into the generation of geographic information systems and area maps with overlays of GPS positioning data. A good example of where these technologies have been combined was a survey of potential riverside sites for a small hydropower plant in Southeast Asia. The surveyors used lidar maps to chart the terrain information and sent out HD drone-mounted cameras to image specific areas.

2. More Comprehensive Project Planning

On top of 3-D spatial inputs for BIM, new platforms add another two dimensions of cost and scheduling. This 5-D approach simplifies project scope and design parameters based on geometry, project specifications, aesthetic goals, thermal requirements, and acoustic properties. Companies, project managers, and contractors can get on the same page immediately on how changes will impact project costs and scheduling.

Three-fourths of those adopting 5-D BIM reporting saw positive ROI, with shorter project life cycles and lower material costs. Some governments, including those in Singapore, the UK, and Finland have mandated the use of these BIM technologies for public infrastructure projects.

The next step involves wearables with augmented reality technology such as holographic displays and screens that map out projects onto video feeds of the actual environment.

3. Digital Collaboration and Mobility

This trend has seen the greatest adoption rates by construction companies. Digital transformation to a paperless workflow and mobile devices has sped up decision-making and streamlined collaborations.

The most immediate results have been expectations for real-time progress reports, more accurate risk assessments, detailed quality control evaluations, and better outcomes all around.

Procurement and contracting tasks benefit from analysis of historical performance that wasn’t possible using paper forms and reports. Inadequate security and management of paper trails led to many disagreements between project owners and their contractors. In many cases, these new technologies have eliminated arguments over project completion, the implementation of change orders, and how claims are handled.

Around 60 percent of the venture funding in the industry has gone to collaboration tech and mobility solutions. One app can deliver real-time changes in construction blueprints to worksite managers, with site photos that can be hyperlinked to construction plans. It automatically maintains a master set of documents for reliable version control and cloud-based access to the latest data. Mobile time-tracking, cost-coding, geolocation of contractors, and streamlined issue logging are just a few more of the most popular advances.

4. Future-Proof Design

Some of the most exciting and exotic potential has arisen from the introduction of new building materials that have been in feasibility testing for years. Some examples include self-healing concrete, aerogels, and nanomaterials.

There are also many new approaches to construction processes, such as 3-D printing of materials as needed and the delivery of preassembled modules to the worksite. These materials and processes have dramatically lowered construction costs and shortened project schedules.

At the same time, some of these decisions are driven by tighter environmental oversight and calls for transparency on the worksite. Some stakeholders have put restrictions on projects for stiffer energy controls and a lower carbon footprint. Some of the related trends driving these changes involve:

  • Lean management principles that call for greater efficiency in material costs.

  • More flexible supply chains required by construction in remote or densely populated areas.

  • Reduced land available for building that increases the expected commercial life of projects.

  • Concrete cloth that can be formed in any shape to be used for channels, drains, and passages, then set in place with water.

5. IoT and Performance Analytics

Sensors, near-field-communication (NFC), and software-defined monitoring services have been instrumental in boosting productivity. At the same time, they’ve improved site safety for people and assets. Project sites are getting denser, which could lead to more accidents without careful supervision. Equipment is getting more expensive and difficult to repair, which could lead to work stoppages unless problems are anticipated and avoided.

That’s why data analytics based on the new information collected by a host of sensors are mission critical to safety and performance. One of the new developments involves “smart structures” that measure vibrations to determine the strength and resilience of structures. Wearables can monitor equipment operators and send alerts if a driver is tired. Sensors can also identify when high-cost equipment resources are being underutilized.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tech is also used for smarter logistics and inventory reporting. RFID chips are shrinking in size and dropping in price, making them more useful across the construction site. One construction company reports using RFID tags to keep track of its truck inspection schedules, monitor the usage of essential tools, and streamline training for new hires.

Optimizing Worksite Performance

The future of construction will certainly see more of the decision-making functions handed off to intelligent software and the devices that run on it. For the sake of employee safety, data security, and company profitability, that software demands the highest standards of performance possible.

 

 

Digital Transformation in the Insurance Industry

The insurance industry is well aware that digital transformation is coming, even if some CIOs can’t really say what their individual companies will look like at the end of it all. In a survey of thousands of C-level execs around the world, insurance came in among the top five industries that are most likely to see “moderate to massive” digital disruption within the next 12 months. Only 20 percent of business leaders felt that they had the talent they needed to transform the enterprise, though. Here’s a closer look at what’s coming next in the exciting new era of software-defined insurance companies.

The Growth of the Insurance Model

The basic business model of the insurance industry hasn’t changed much since Edward Lloyd opened his coffee shop for seafaring folk in London in 1688. In the decades after Shakespeare passed away, Lloyd’s of London became a hotbed of intelligence on which ships had been seen where, how they fared on the open sea, and how likely they were to come into port with a healthy profit. The management at Lloyd’s created marine underwriting, insuring the riskiest of enterprises at the time.

In the three centuries or so that followed, insurance spread out to cover risk in many aspects of life, but the business model stayed constant. Actuarial experts with specialized knowledge on consumer and business risk assigned fees, and intermediaries made recommendations to customers. Now that era has come to a permanent close.

The web, mobility, and social media have introduced new sources of truth for the modern consumer. Comparison of side-by-side alternatives are instantaneous and comprehensive. Mobile device apps have ratcheted up expectations for insurance services that are autonomous, fast, and simple. In many cases, recommendations from networks of friends and family have replaced the insurance salesperson entirely. Just as web-enabled airline websites devastated the travel agency industry, software-defined insurance companies are sinking the ancient insurance business model.

How Online Insurance Simplified Complexity

One of the earliest software-defined insurance carriers, Esurance, opened its web-based car insurance services in 1999. It solved the problem of the time-consuming quote process that tended to end up with non-comparable policies.

The biggest innovation of Esurance was to break up the policy into components that could be added or removed by the consumer, moving the locus of information control out of the hands of the insurance agent. Many other companies followed, competing on capabilities of their websites. By the time Allstate bought the company in 2011, Esurance was valued at $1 billion.

The next generation of insurance tech transferred greater information control into the hands of the consumer. At the same time, it gave insurance carriers better information to use in assessing risk and establishing premiums. This took the form of:

  • Mobile apps that allowed simple account management tasks, tracked repair updates, and offered answers on insurance-related questions. These were always-on and available whenever the consumer had time, instead of during business hours.
  • Greater processing power and big data analysis allowed carriers to crunch more data in less time.
  • Web-based tracking provided customer data that was funneled to email for lead generation.

More and more, the essential core-value proposition of many insurance companies subtly changed from writing the most accurate policies to offering the most customer-centric brand. Geico became the nation’s number one insurance advertiser, betting $1.18 billion in ad spending on its brand. For Geico and Progressive, this kind of branding has paid off, but others in the same vertical have not seen the same kind of results. The larger carriers have consolidated their market dominance through better tech.

How Insurance Companies Are Becoming More Like Software Companies

In many ways, almost all companies are now considered software companies to some degree. Thanks to software, here are a few of the ways that innovative insurance companies are more agile than ever before:

  • Policy overview: Most companies have a secure sign-on area of the website or in the app to review policy details. Because of the fluid identity of online viewers, it can prove difficult for companies to definitely identify all the policies of a single individual or family.
  • Mid-term adjustments: Policies normally don’t change over the coverage period, but sometimes a change is big enough to affect the price. For example, the change of a ZIP Code, or even different streets in the same neighborhood, can change the price of coverage.
  • Loss notification: Many apps allow customers to begin a claim up to a certain point. This is one of the biggest areas for developers to focus on in terms of responsive AI that can ask the right questions.
  • Checking claim status: Most insurance companies have a place to check the status of a claim, but it is usually a field that must be updated manually, so it is not always current. Many times, the information isn’t sufficient, prompting a call for clarification. This area deserves more attention for automation and back end integration with other stakeholders in the claims process.
  • Directory assistance: Some insurance apps add value by providing information tangentially connected to insurance, such as a garage finder for car repairs.

Still, a survey of U.S. policy holders found that only 39 percent said that their insurance providers communicated with them along their preferred channels, such as SMS, email, or mobile apps.

The Next Wave of Insurance Tech

In many ways, mobile devices were merely the first step on the way to the rapid adoption of wearables. It’s no wonder that many insurance companies are already looking for original ways to provide value across the tiny screens of wearables.

According to 2014 survey data by Strategy Meets Action, nearly a quarter of U.S. insurance carriers (22 percent) reported they are already developing a strategy for wearables. Claims assessments, risk management, and data collection for telematics are three of the primary use cases for wearables and other emerging technologies like IoT.

Along those lines, an insurance company recently conducted a test of a Google Glass-type technology for claims adjusters. Video and images of the accident site were transferred directly from the field adjuster to the catastrophe division for faster claims processing. In the future, augmented reality can provide two-way data streams for adjusters in the field and their co-workers at the back end for more accurate decision-making in real time.

New Languages for Insurance

Many people still think of programming for insurance in terms of mainframes, COBOL, and Pascal. While there are legacy IT pieces still out there, insurance today is about enterprise development, mobile apps, and the cloud. In fact, many mainframes are making the complex transition into de facto cloud data centers running the latest Java deployments.

The impact of the modern stack is clear in the fact that Java, Python, and C++ still reign as the top choices for enterprise development in just about every industry. Java has many enemies in the coding world, but it still leads for large-scale deployments. Surprisingly, .NET is another leader, identified as the number one preferred enterprise development platform in a survey by Forrester.

The expanding volume and velocity of data is also creating a need for insurance developers proficient in R, Julia, Hadoop, and Scala.

The Problem With Millennials

At the same time insurance companies are planning ways to make the best use of emerging tech, they are also trying to adapt to the life preferences of the largest purchasing block in the population today.

On the plus side, millennials are more than two times as likely to buy insurance online, according to the latest Gallup polls. Twenty-seven percent of millennials are comfortable with online purchasing, compared to 11 percent for all other generations. Overall, 74 percent of the total population purchased a policy after talking to an agent. Because of the growth of AI chatbots and the availability of streaming video, millennials are likely to possibly do more without agent interaction in the years ahead.

On the negative side, millennials represent the largest number of customers who are actively disengaged (27 percent) or indifferent to (42 percent) their insurance carriers. That’s a recipe for greater churn and engagement wars among insurance carriers. The primary way that carriers are looking to improve that engagement is through better customer experiences.

Gallup suggested that messages related to performance and security appeal to the millennial’s concern for protecting private information. Simplified flow for completing coverage changes was another way that millennials gauge performance.

How Insurance Companies Can Improve The Customer Experience

As more insurance companies adapt to the latest hardware and software, they are discovering a corresponding need for optimization and performance monitoring to deliver on the promise of the technology. Customers have come to expect peak performance, reliable stability, and uptime. This can be especially difficult because many insurance carriers still operate using a mix of legacy and custom development applications.

AppDynamics’ application performance management for the insurance industry is tackling challenges like these head-on, before they put a drag on the customer experience. These systems can’t be productive without careful attention to performance, usability, and availability. To end users, the digital experience of their insurance provider has an effect on their perception of the overall brand.

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Digital Transformation in the Retail Banking Industry

Like other industries did before it, retail banking is riding a bucking bronco of digital transformation. While customer satisfaction levels drop and government rules and regulations continue to expand, retail banking seeks new ways to adapt to the massive changes in how consumers interact and use financial products and services.

However, unlike other industries such as book publishing that have been rocked by the tsunami of digital changes in the marketplace, companies in the banking sector also have to comply with extensive regulations intended to protect consumers. In confronting this new landscape, banks are looking at better ways to use their existing data in real-time to improve customer experience and loyalty, comply with a growing number of government rules and privacy laws, and consolidate disparate IT systems in their current infrastructure. Banks must provide a seamless experience for customers no matter which product or service they choose.

Digital Banking

Retail banks have gone digital — using online channels (e.g., mobile, web, etc.) and new technology to improve customer experiences and employee productivity. Common programming languages used in banking include Python, C++ for speed, C# for trading platforms, Java, Scala, HTML5, and .NET. This allows the institutions to introduce new features and services rapidly without the need for constant updates from vendors. It also reduces errors that are due to lack of manual oversight.

The network becomes more virtualized — rather than each router and switch on the system with set data paths solely on the destination address, a centralized controller creates the optimal path based on predetermined criteria set by the network operator. Operations can be managed with a small set of software tools, allowing users to achieve business objectives and KPIs faster and easier as the organization becomes more adaptable to change.

In essence, banks are becoming technology companies — they want to embrace a software-defined business structure because they have no other choice. Customers don’t think of banks as an offline or online institution. To them, it is all the same, and they expect to have a positive experience no matter which channel they use to obtain service. If a consumer does all their banking through an app on an iPhone, that becomes their entire banking experience. Without a robust mobile app, banks are short-changing their future because customers will gravitate to more technology-savvy institutions.

Slow Adoption

One of the reasons banks are slow to adapt to a digital world is that it costs a tremendous amount of money and time to change out legacy systems. Integrating new digital technologies with legacy backend systems requires an enormous amount of capital investment. Furthermore, massive changes increase the risk of exposure to potential security problems, which are a constant threat.

Microservices and Containerization

Like many traditional businesses that have maintained legacy enterprise systems for decades, retail banks are stuck between relying on the tried-and-true monolithic legacy systems that already work and moving to provide innovative services and technologies to a mobile-first consumer community that craves the latest technology. One way retail banks meet this challenge is to adopt cutting-edge technologies such as microservices, containerization, and APIs.

Microservices are applications made up of independent processes that talk to each other using APIs. Each process handles a single small task, allowing developers to build highly modular software applications that can be rapidly developed, modified, and deployed — and also reflect individual business units and initiatives in contrast to mini-projects and individual features.

Containers allow users to run software on multiple computing environments without worrying about the type of underlying OS, network, or infrastructure. Each container has a full runtime environment — an app and its libraries, dependencies, and config files. This enables it to run on everything from virtual machines to a cloud-based PaaS.

Legacy Systems

One of the major benefits of these technologies is that a retail banking firm can implement them alongside their legacy system. They can adopt new ideas and approaches without threatening the stability of their current operation. This way, they will meet their obligations to government regulations such as Dodd Frank, Solvency II, and BASEL III. With containers and microservices, retail bank DevOps can rapidly update new features and functions without the threat of a company-wide outage or performance hits.

In effect, banks should be less concerned than they were in the past about owning and maintaining their entire IT infrastructure. Instead, different functions are broken into components, some of which will be managed by third-party providers. This reduces technological overhead and increases the number of resources available on a strategic level.

Lacking the Human Touch

Software-defined banking may reduce the trust of some consumers because of the potential reduction in human interaction. Traditional banks have an advantage over Internet-only banks because their customers can get to know the manager and employees at a local branch. If consumers have a problem, they can turn to people they know to help resolve the situation. Local branches may also provide some services that are not available to consumers online. This is especially important for local businesses that rely on banks to provide capital for purchasing inventory, equipment, and business expansion.

As software systems continue to evolve and become more efficient, the need to employ additional staff across the institution diminishes. This can have a drawback effect over time as customers who prefer to work directly with bank employees may discontinue patronage.

ME Bank Adapts to Digital

One example of a forward-thinking financial institution is ME Bank in Australia, which won a Mozo award in 2016 as the Expert’s Choice for Australia’s best bank. Owned by a consortium of super funds, ME Bank started in 1994 by offering home loans and has since expanded to offer credit cards, personal loans, automobile loans, insurance, and other services.

In a recent interview with Business First magazine in Australia, ME Bank’s CEO, Jamie McPhee, talked about the challenges of banks adapting in the digital era. He said that we are moving from the industrial age of mass production to a new era that uses data to create a better customer experience. The digital transformation, he said, is affecting every business.

When he took over the CEO position in 2010, McPhee immediately began employing digital tactics. His belief is that banks who survive in the new digital age can adapt technology to meet customer expectations and demands. While many banks are incorporating newer technologies, McPhee went a step further, creating a shift to a “digital first” philosophy.

He was also a leader in the move toward mobile banking. Early on, McPhee recognized the rise of mobile banking and the desire for consumers to complete transactions through smartphones and other portable devices. He noted the success of ING Direct, which launched in 1998 without any brick-and-mortar locations, yet garnered 5 percent of the retail banking market in short order. McPhee’s efforts have paid off. In 2014, ME Bank garnered a profit of almost $37 million (AUS).

ME Bank’s experience is instructive. They realized that successful banks, and indeed businesses across the industrial spectrum, must customize data to meet customer expectations, needs, and desires.

Management and Monitoring

Retail banks can minimize and prevent UX issues by deploying software that manages and monitors the performance of their applications, alerting them to problems well before they reach crisis levels. Application performance management (APM) tools such as AppDynamics alert your internal teams to problems in the critical transactions that power your business. By monitoring software and performance optimization, you can detect serious issues before your users do, which helps maintain the level of service your customers expect.

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