NAB is working to a “refreshed” four-to-five year technology strategy that will see it redouble attention on bank-wide platforms, while also adding focus to simplification and software engineering practices.
Chief technology and operations officer Patrick Wright said the new eight-pillar technology strategy replaces one that the bank has been working under since September 2018.
That strategy saw NAB through “four-and-a-bit” years, and Wright told iTnews that the new board-approved technology strategy would be good for “probably a four-to-five year cadence.”
Work on the technology strategy revision has been underway since at least April of this year.
In positioning the new strategy, Wright said it does not represent a substantial departure or change of direction for the bank; instead it appears to focus mostly on building on the work of the past four years.
“What we’re going to work on next is really not going to be much more of a change from what we’ve done,” Wright said.
“We’re calling it an evolution from where we’ve spent the last four years.”
Noticeably absent from the strategic pillars this time around, however, is mention of cloud, microservices and APIs.
As iTnews flagged back in April, cloud has “become part of the furniture” at NAB. Microservices-based architectures and API-first approaches to application architecture fall into a similar boat.
“A centrepiece of our 2018 strategy was being public cloud first. The reason it’s not in [the strategy] is because we actually think we’ve embedded it in how we work, and so I dont have to go out and talk about it or impress upon people that we’re going to move to the cloud. Everyone knows it, everyone assumes it and everybody’s working on it,” Wright said.
“So I’ve moved some of the capabilities that we had in the original 2018 strategy down to what we call ‘foundations’.
“Our microservices and APIs was another foundational element that we had in the 2018 strategy as kind of a new thing we wanted to bed into how we run technology at the company.
“Those items have now moved down to be foundational elements as opposed to beacons of light that we want our teams to focus on.”
The first pillar of the new technology strategy is being “digital first”, which is couched as the creation of “adaptable … experiences” for customers and staff.
“It’s about really getting ourselves to continue to anchor on getting digital experiences right and having that as the option for our customers and our colleagues as often as we possibly can,” Wright said.
The second pillar continues NAB’s focus on creating a “platform mindset” – and the bank-wide platforms to go with it.
These include continued development of NAB One, a desktop “bankers, operations associates and employees use to serve customers”, and to an enterprise document management system.
Wright said platforms were part of the 2018 goals, and while “some progress” was made over the past four years, he said it was “not as much as I’d originally envisioned back in 2018”, hence the redoubling of efforts.
The third pillar is simplification, which Wright described as “a huge agenda” item.
“In the world of technology, especially in large companies, we run incredibly complex environments that slow us down, but also prevent us from automation to go faster,” he said.
“We’re very focused on simplifying as much as we can, all the way down to how we configure our servers, networks and computers.
“We want to move away from bespoke solutions per business to simplified ways that we can automate across our business.”
Pillar number four is “expert engineering”, which Wright said he is “very committed to” achieving.
“A typical technology professional in today’s world spends about half their time on investing in business capability and building things for the business, and about half their time running the platforms they have. [The latter] includes everything from patching and backups and deploying things to production, but also testing and all the related activities associated with ensuring the platforms run well,” he said.
“Our aim is to use advanced tooling to move that from 50-50 to 70-30, so 70 percent of our developers’ time will be spent on business value creation and 30 percent on those run activities.
“By moving that, we think we can get more from every tech dollar we spend.”
Within this pillar is a focus on “differentiated tooling”, which Wright said is about simplifying and standardising software development pipelines.
“When you have thousands of applications you end up with thousands of highly curated, very bespoke pipelines,” he said.
“One of the things we’re very focused on is standardising and simplifying those thousands of pipelines down to some number less than a dozen.
“They’re highly configurable but highly standardised and very well controlled, and highly automated pipelines that allow us to spend less time curating bespoke pipelines and give [developers] more time to create business value.”
The fifth pillar is “data like electricity” – having analytics and other data functions “always available” for teams.
It is powered by a new data stack and collection of services branded internally as ‘Ada’, which iTnews will publish more details on Wednesday.
The sixth pillar is secure by design, which will involve “trying to move security up into the design process [so it’s] … something all of us do as we design systems from the ground up.”
The final two pillars are around creating delivery excellence, and attracting, developing and retaining top technology talent.
Insourcing to continue
Insourcing was a major element of NAB’s cloud migration; Wright reiterated that the bank’s infrastructure, networks and cloud operations are all run by internal resources today.
The bank now wants to insource more technology roles, mostly in application development.
“We’ve gone from 70 percent of our technology workforce being outsourced [in 2018] to only 37 percent today, and I’d like in the next few years to get that down to 20 percent and continue to invest in our own people,” Wright said.
“In the application space, we’ve insourced a lot there as well but it’s probably the area that will get us from our 37 percent to the 20 percent number in the next several years.
“The job market has impacted our speed in that space, so it’s a place where we do probably have larger numbers of third parties than we’d prefer.
“It’s generally just because we havent been able to find enough people in all the right places at the pace we’d like.”