This is the largest reshaping of technology that Bank of New Zealand has gone through in the last decade, says Aaron Toatelegese, as he describes his team’s work over the past year.
“BNZ has been transforming our architectural blueprint to better enable innovation closer to our customers,” says Toatelegese.
He says the transformation programme is impacting his team in three dimensions: Technology platform; skills and engagement; and culture and behaviours.
“We have seen a focused shift towards two speed-IT, and a complete revamp of ways of working to establish continuous delivery teams that align to business priorities,” he states.
“We have moved from a competency-based resource pool model, to cross-functional teams, that are directed by business leads to ensure we are delivering change that aligns with the company’s strategic agenda. This is the largest reshaping of technology that BNZ has gone through in the last decade.”
He is forthright the greatest challenge they faced during the transformation has been staying true and focused on a new mindset and embedding new ways of working.
“This new world order is very different to the traditional metrics of managing IT, where it’s seen as an internal cost centre and service provider,” he says, “and transforming to a new world where IT is seen as an investment centre in which we measure velocity and impact of change focused on our external customers.”
Operational excellence is a constant even as the technology team moves into a new mode of working.
“Keeping the lights on is still our ticket to the game when it comes to maintaining trust and building advocacy with customers,” says Toatelegese. “We’ve continued to invest heavily in the right tools and capabilities to support an ‘always on’ agenda. These investments are spread across cybersecurity, resilience and innovation.”
Simplification and refresh of technologies supports our innovation agenda, he adds. “We must not lose sight of the importance of operations if we are to play a leading role in digitisation of the banking environment.
“We’re not just about running the bank (operations) and changing the bank (transformation) – we’re changing the way we run the bank.”
Toatelegese says a key focus of the technology gameplan is facilitating innovation.
This also involves partnering with others to direct our innovation so that it is channelled towards better outcomes for our customers, he states.
“Helping New Zealanders be good with money – so they can do good things with it! – is at the heart of everything we do and we are relentless in making sure the benefits of our innovation make their way to the customer experience,” he says.
Mobility is also a huge focus for his team, and has delivered benefits beyond the internal staff.
Across the bank, the mobility programme has improved productivity and externally it has changed the way we interact with one of our key customer segments, the SMB space.
More than 90 percent of enterprises in New Zealand are deemed ‘small businesses’ and a number of our products and services are designed to help these small businesses, and also help startups succeed, he explains.
The Small Business Acquisition Managers are on the road every day. A key challenge for them was the sheer volume of documents they had to carry with them – product and customer information – which would need to be processed once the team returned to the office.
“It’s fair to say it wasn’t creating the best experience for our customers, let alone our people,” he explains.
So the bank brought together a team of small business, Microsoft and technology representatives to work in this area. The business managers now carry a Microsoft Surface and a custom designed cloud-based mobile presentation application for easy access to BNZ product information.
“The conversations are more engaging and feedback from customers is extremely positive,” he says. More importantly, the SMB acquisition team can now spend more face to face time with customers.
Toatelegese says the technology team has also taken the challenge to find new ways of keeping pace with increasing customer expectations. This has reinvigorated our ops teams who pride themselves on operational excellence, he says.
The ops team is now leading the move towards DevOps and have focused on new design patterns that have a built in tolerance for infrastructure failure, he says.
Automation of process and infrastructure builds has created the time needed for us to keep on top of our critical ops activities, says Toatelegese.
This has included automation of activities at the service desk to enhance personalised service, the launch of more ‘self serve’ options, through to progressing our infrastructure as code transformation which includes automated builds, capacity management and deployment, he states.
Toatelegese says the team works in a highly collaborative environment where communication is key to alignment of priorities and outcomes.
“The blurring of lines between technology and the business is seen as a huge positive,” he says. “Technology is part of the business just as much as any other component of the environment.”
We all serve a common BNZ customer. “Working together ensures our customers experience a seamless and frictionless service offering,” he says.
“Spending time in different parts of the organisation builds knowledge and understanding that can be applied to our customer and user experience design.”
He notes their regular engagements with Board and our Executive Team have taken “a much more strategic flavour”.
When before they produced reports on number of incidents, their updates now focus on the technology strategy with particular attention on how emerging technologies or transformation will enable the business to win.
“Regular interaction with business leaders is aimed at giving them a voice and amplifying the feedback loop so that they positively influence technology,” he says.
Toatelegese says one of his best learning experiences was when he organised a technology study tour with leaders from each line of business.
“We visited some of the larger organisations we partner with like Salesforce, Cisco and Microsoft, but we also spent time with financial service providers in Silicon Valley and a venture capital firm where we met with a number of start up companies and entrepreneurs who pitched ideas to us,” he states.
“We had the best time finding out how we could better leverage technology that would benefit our customers.”
Toatelegese notes the bank has a well-established diversity and inclusion council.
The technology team has an incredibly diverse workforce which continues to change, he adds.
He says it is common to find someone who has been with the bank for more than 30 years and at the other end of the spectrum, people who are in their first jobs. “You would expect different working styles and skillsets,” he says.
“They teach and learn from each other and having clarity of purpose and a shared vision of success promotes working together.”
He admits the technology team still grapples with gender diversity, and works closely with Katarina Kolich, head of enterprise Data and information services, and lead of the bank’s Women in Technology programme.
He says the diversity focus goes beyond gender.
“To encourage diversity of thought and skills, we place an emphasis on learning and are seeing a skew towards soft skills rather than technical. It’s not uncommon now to enter a training workshop where the subject is communication styles, or human-centred design.”
Last year, the bank joined the Shadow a Leader day, where high school and university students joined the technology team for the day.
“Giving them access to our staff engagement results and asking them to propose an action plan highlighted for me that we need more young people in our workforce,” he says. “Their level of thinking could provide us with completely new ways of solving complex business problems.”
Virtual Tech Hub
Toatelegese says one of their growing initiatives has been the launch of a virtual Tech Hub.
“It’s a one stop shop that allows BNZers to access self service, share their favourite ‘tech tips’, and get the latest update on any incidents via our ‘Is IT Working’ portal,” he says.
The technology team measures the success of the tech hub using analytics.
The Tech Tips community has one of the largest followings company-wide, and subscribers contribute their best findings and tips for others to use, he says.
“We know which questions or information people are looking for and can provide specialist advice as needed. The Tech Hub also gives people a glimpse into our Technology Gameplan which is all about ‘Making IT Easy’.
“The idea for the Tech Hub was contributed under one of our focus areas of making things as easy to do at work, as they are at home. It’s all about ‘Making IT Simple’ and we all take accountability for this and now everyone across the organisation contributes to it regularly.”