A changing and disruptive technology landscape is driving organisations to become customer-focused and provide their customers with easy-to-use, trusted and personalised services, that are available whenever they are needed.
National Australia Bank Divisional CIO, Dayle Stevens sees this as a huge opportunity to use underlying technology to deliver mobile apps and online banking experiences that are simpler, faster and packed with features that its customers now expect.
Stevens’ team at NAB has achieved just that. “As customer expectations move to 24/7, agile and reliable technologies, I needed to transform my own team and the technologies we rely on,” she says.
“I challenge all of my teams, working with them to chase ambitious plans, bravely experimenting and pushing through barriers, and encouraging collaboration.”
Stevens’ division at NAB is made up of more than 500 people who test NAB’s technology change, including digital banking and apps, core banking and regulatory change for the entire bank. A “culture and mindset shift” towards the bank’s three part technology strategy – to provide reliable and stable service, to deliver faster, and to architect for a simpler experience – is now bearing fruit.
“All of my teams have risen to the challenge. I’ve seen innovative and disruptive experiments paying off in data and analytics, in service management, and more.”
From testing to release management and environment management to data, Stevens has “put innovation into everything NAB does”.
“What is unique about the innovation in my team is that it is all encompassing,” she says. “There is no one single innovation to point to, rather it is a series of innovations that collectively have changed the way we work, the services we provide and the experience of our colleagues and customers. My teams set goals and, without exception, are achieving successes.”
Innovative and agile
Using agile development methods, scrum, automation testing and moving the testing quality engineers to work in co-existence with the development process – a method inspired by the fintech and start-up sectors – means there is now a better understanding of the end product and end user requirements, Stevens says.
Mobile and device testing, for example, now runs overnight, without intervention, for all devices compared with the previous 71 days. Cross browser automation testing has been enabled and is saving eight to 12 weeks of development time for every project. Crowd-based exploratory testing in one example saw more than 80 bugs found in under two hours, resulting in defects being fixed before the product was released into pilot.
NAB’s release management team set a goal to move from quarterly enterprise releases to 27 in the past year. Stevens’ environment services team set a goal to reduce the cycle time in testing of its end to end batch to enable faster deployment and quality changes. What previously took up to two weeks, now takes under 16 hours.
Another example of an innovative and agile approach providing huge benefits to the bank is in data and analytics.
“The appetite for data has grown exponentially and innovation across the industry has seen an almost 100 per cent shift in the last five years,” says Stevens. “We needed to shift our core from traditional data warehousing to be able to leverage the industry innovation. My data and analytic teams, who provide the data and analytics platforms and tools for the entire bank, are innovating on our core to move to an integrated data hub.
“This is unlocking the key to data and analytics in the provision of, and access to, data to enable our colleagues across NAB.”
Embedded in everything
The appetite for transformation in NAB’s testing team has permeated through to those working on core operational systems as well.
“Continuing to improve the stability and reliability of our platforms cannot be achieved simply by doing the same things that we have always done,” Stevens says. “Looking at these same problems with an innovation lens creates new opportunities. For example, applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to our incident or test defect analytics has created new opportunities to prevent them in future.
“I do not separate innovation from vital system activities. Innovation, vital system activities and operational excellence don’t just co-exist, they are an ecosystem that enable each other.”
A team-wide innovative mindset doesn’t happen overnight. It takes training, communication and leadership. There has been design thinking training sessions with Stanford’s school facilitators and NAB’s human centred design lab. There have been internal and external hackathons, innovation funds, town halls, blogs, Yammer posts and celebrations of achievement.
Stevens also co-founded National Australia Bank’s Women In Technology program in 2014. The program is an initiative that is successfully addressing the gender imbalance in the technology sector and is creating opportunities for women who work in technology at NAB.