“We make use of all the ISPW features—it’s so visual! The developer can’t get lost; it gives us a simple way of managing code.” – Devi Moodley, Executive, Enterprise DevOps and Release Management, Nedbank
Nedbank is one of the largest banks in South Africa, serving both the commercial and retail banking sectors in addition to the insurance market. Established in 1831, the bank is steeped in tradition, but is keen to provide customers with modern experiences and respond to mounting pressure from new entrants to the market. With this in mind, the bank started on the road to digital transformation over three years ago by adopting Agile development methodologies before making the shift to DevOps in 2018.
“We could see unicorns and fintechs coming in which were offering fewer traditional solutions, far more agile than us and closer to their clients’ needs. We recognised that we needed to evolve and start adopting different practices that would give us greater agility in getting new products to market more quickly while also delivering the incremental changes that allow the business to run smoothly and effectively. DevOps was the obvious answer. We started small, doing lots of experimentation on the front end and then started to work on the back end,” said Devi Moodley, Executive, Enterprise DevOps and Release Management, Nedbank.
Leveraging the Mainframe’s Virtues
Nedbank runs its entire back-end core banking system on a mainframe. After reviewing its back-end transformation options, the bank decided to refactor and continue to leverage its mainframe. This meant a key part of the wider digital transformation journey required having the capability to modernize on the mainframe as well as on distributed systems. Nedbank’s mainframe team therefore needed to adopt Agile processes to align itself with the other teams in the organization.
“Our mainframe is our core banking platform. While we did assess our options, the reality is that nothing processes as fast as a mainframe does,” said Moodley. “We’d also learned lessons from seeing competitors trying to compete with fintechs by building new digital capabilities away from their core banking platform, which resulted in huge cost burdens. While we don’t have a cross-platform team—with front-end, back-end and mainframe engineers all sitting together—our mainframe teams work using the same Agile principles and practices as their distributed colleagues to keep up with the pace of transformation across the wider organization.”
A New, More Agile Solution for the Transformation Journey
The bank soon realized that its legacy Source Code Management (SCM) tool was not able to support its need to embrace Agile development, and it needed a new set of tooling designed for the modern age.
“The previous tooling used wasn’t fit for purpose in our Agile approach,” said Moodley. “The review process took too long and we couldn’t do parallel development or manage contentions effectively. We also didn’t know who had checked out code already so multiple teams ended up working on the same source code, increasing the risk of errors and duplication. Branching, merging and versioning were difficult, and errors often weren’t identified until the end of the day.” Additionally, the bank found that it had to almost retrofit the product to do its own code promotions, which involved a lot of manual effort. Ultimately, it took a long time to deliver anything, significantly hindering progress on digital innovation.
The Importance of an Evidence-Based Approach
After realizing that a new solution was needed, Nedbank conducted a thorough review of its options. Compuware was identified as a potential solution provider. Compuware recommended and facilitated a Value Stream Mapping (VSM) workshop to identify what Nedbank was looking to achieve and help it to define clear success criteria for the POC and solution. This involved identifying the key pain points that squads were feeling, which were then ranked and prioritized to create a top 15 list. From there, Nedbank identified two teams—Core Banking and Payments, as these teams had the largest number of mainframe components—to evaluate three potential solutions: Compuware on its own; Compuware with an analysis tool layered on top; and a Compuware competitor.
Teams were given up to three days to learn how to use the solutions effectively and identify story points to work on. They then conducted time trials with each solution to see how quickly and effectively they were able to resolve the issues. This enabled both quantitative and qualitative feedback to be gathered from each team. They were asked to score each solution against a set of criteria that had been defined through the VSM workshop. The solutions were also compared through a cost lens along with other factors such as ease of ownership (i.e. the complexity of integration), how many sets of tools would be needed, the size of team needed to implement and maintain the solutions, and what kind of support would be needed from each supplier.
“It’s important to take people along on the journey rather than just mandating from the top,” added Moodley. “If you actually work with the squad and walk them through the process, the anxiety of doing something new and different dissipates; they know you are there and they are part of the decision rather than having a new solution forced on them. Taking this factual, evidence-based approach removed any emotion and allowed us to get a user viewpoint.”
The DevOps Dream
Following the VSM workshop, Nedbank quickly identified Compuware ISPW as the ideal solution for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) on the modern mainframe. ISPW ensures mainframe code pipelines are secure, stable and streamlined throughout the DevOps lifecycle, giving teams confidence that they can quickly and safely build, test and deploy mainframe code. This gave Nedbank’s mainframe teams the ability to:
The technical rollout of Compuware ISPW went smoothly. The more challenging aspect of the project was the planning and management side, but the support from Compuware was superb and meant the rollout was a great success.
“The technical rollout was a dream, as the Compuware team made itself accessible by being on-site to ensure everything went smoothly,” said Moodley. “Compuware’s DevOps engineers and technical specialists sat side-by-side with our scrum teams for a week or more and were on hand to answer any questions. They helped with conducting practical tests and guiding specific story points through ISPW. There was a lot of training and coaching to ensure our people were comfortable. I have to say that ultimately, the product spoke for itself! Its design and interface meant our developers could quickly see how easy the whole process became.”
The bank was also challenged to prioritize what aspect of the solution should be adopted and when. “We created a project plan to support the rollout, setting deadlines and holding application owners accountable to those timeframes,” said Moodley. “Having strong senior executive application owners who fully supported the journey and adoption of DevOps made a huge difference. It was about much more than just adopting new tools; the ‘left shift’ needed to be embraced into the Nedbank culture.”
Surprisingly, Moodley added, “While other platform teams adopted DevOps earlier, adoption on the mainframe was a lot faster!”
Innovating Faster to Keep Pace with the Market
Since adopting Compuware ISPW, Nedbank has benefitted in many ways. In particular:
“The main advantage to the business has been the ability to deliver code faster, as this allows us to become agile and move with the market,” explained Moodley. “We make use of all the ISPW features—it’s so visual! The developer can’t get lost; it gives us a simple way of managing code. The open architecture of the solution has contributed to speed and put accountability back in the hands of our development teams. They are now responsible for their own code and don’t have to rely on other teams to get things done. They can easily see the code interdependencies and, as a result, avoid contention issues.”
Next Steps: Automating Testing on the Mainframe
Nedbank is committed to continuing its work with Compuware and is already looking to expand its relationship by adopting more Compuware solutions. “Culture is such a big part of making DevOps successful and with Compuware you get more than a tool, you get the team – it makes all the difference,” said Moodley. “Compuware understands our business and its unique needs. They can help us along our own DevOps journey because they’ve been there themselves.
“We are currently working with Compuware to explore new ways to automate our testing processes on the mainframe to save our developers even more time,” she added. “Yet it’s not just about the product—Compuware is helping us to create functional tests and manage the data that goes into them, and they’re incredibly open to requests to enhance the product to meet our specific needs more effectively. Ultimately, Compuware helps us compete more effectively in the modern marketplace and deliver a better service to our customers.”