Why digital transformation demands a better class of software
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Why digital transformation demands a better class of software

Sooraj Shah — June 2019
Frédéric Véron, a former CIO at Deutsche Bank and Fannie Mae, explains how ensuring the integrity of digital solutions is key to a successful transformation.

Until February, Frédéric Véron had one of the most intriguing job titles of any IT chief: at German financial services giant, Deutsche Bank, he was known as ‘CIO, Global Head of Safety and Soundness.’

The thinking behind his title came from the bank’s commitment to building better, more robust software — a process that required marrying the development and production sides of its IT function.

Véron, who is now a principal of EY’s Financial Services Advisory practice, explains: “In the traditional IT set-up [which we wanted to relinquish], architects, designers, coders and developers build a solution and then throw it over the fence to the production folks. When I joined the bank in mid-2017, the group CIO wanted to make everyone understand that the production side needed to get involved in the planning and design of solutions early on. That’s the only way they are built in a safe and sound manner.”

The traditional approach creates an imbalance between the dev and ops sides of IT, he argues. Building a “DevOps bridge” between them ensured that they could deliver higher-quality applications to the business’s key functions and so reduce their IT risks.
Agile and DevOps foundations

Véron, who was enterprise CIO at US mortgage financing company Fannie Mae before joining Deutsche Bank, believes that adopters of DevOps and agile methods gain an edge over any rivals that persist with the classic waterfall approach.

“The implementation might be slightly different in each instance, but the concept of aligning operations and development in a more conscious way is a necessity for better-quality systems and software,” he says. “DevOps and agile are the two strong pillars for creating better platforms.”

Véron describes a “shift to the left,” in which testing for performance, usability and other qualities begins far sooner than it would under the waterfall model. It means that operations specialists start working in areas that have traditionally been the preserve of developers and designers.

Frédéric Véron
“Operational teams can bring their knowledge and experience of non-functional requirements, as well as user stories on how to handle and manage applications once they are in production,” he says.

The converse also applies to designers and developers, says Véron, who explains that they “can see difficulties such as performance issues by getting involved [in the operational side] and participating in managing the system. That gives them a better understanding of the requirements of a functioning system.”

This more integrated, co-operative approach produces more reliable software, which in turn improves the customer experience, he says.

“Good business digitalization requires software that is adaptable, resilient, secure, safe, properly tested, operations-ready, cost-effective and architecturally sound,” Véron says. “In an era when software is not only underpinning businesses but also driving our cars and keeping our public infrastructure functioning, we need to be sure, much more than before, that it is safe and sound.”
Tools behind transformation

He continues: “With the advances of AI and our reliance on automation, software will become more and more critical. For this reason, there needs to be a focus on quality. We’ve got to better manage and control software [throughout its lifetime] and minimize the risks associated with it,” he says.

One quality-assurance tool that Véron has used in his previous jobs is CAST, which “provides an end-to-end architectural analysis of the software according to well-established standard practices. By helping to understand the software, that kind of intelligence helps to improve reliability, performance, flexibility and the overall customer experience,” he says.

As part of the development process, software engineers working for Véron (both internally and at the bank’s software partners) would regularly scan work in progress for potential shortfalls in quality. That way, they were able to fix problems before they showed up in production and improve their work on future releases, he says.

“That allowed us to have a better quarantine process and enabled us to accelerate the delivery of software production, which subsequently shortened our time to market,” recalls Véron, for whom the last word on digital transformation is that “the better the software, the better the business.”
First published June 2019
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