Ongoing software innovation requires a strong DevOps practice. Here’s a look at the benefits of making DevOps a priority.

The consumer shift to digital channels has forced the payments industry to revolutionize its approach to technology. Online experiences must be smooth and efficient, able to rival in-person interactions in both convenience and quality of service. In response to this demand, an Accenture survey found that 79% of banking executives agree that there is a need to “dramatically re-engineer” the experiences that bring humans and technology together.

The challenge for financial institutions is how to achieve this, particularly if they are currently operating a legacy technological infrastructure. Digital transformation must now be a priority for any company that is looking to provide superior customer experiences, no matter which platform the user is engaging with. Rather than any specific tool, these businesses need to adopt an entirely new strategy and commit resources to ongoing software innovation and maintenance. Increasingly, that means establishing a dedicated DevOps team.

Defining DevOps

The word DevOps is a portmanteau of Development, meaning the work to ideate, create and test new software products, and Operations, meaning the work to deploy, scale, and maintain new products. While these are two distinct areas requiring unique skill sets, both teams must collaborate for each to be successful. A great new product will be useless if not deployed efficiently; a wonderful operations team will not be able to do much if the core product is inadequate.

For financial institutions, a strong DevOps program can prove especially valuable as many of these companies have not been structured with a technology focus in mind. Investing in a DevOps strategy will go a long way to building a software development cadence that can thrive long-term, one that can adapt and continually deliver in a fast-changing payments landscape.

The Core Benefits of DevOps

Many companies are likely to already have these two teams within their organization but implementing DevOps means bridging these two departments for greater success. By creating a synchronized workflow, it is possible to reduce redundancies and shorten the delivery timeline. Increased communication and the removal of roadblocks can make it easier for companies to react to new market demands, quickly design and implement new software, and ensure it runs smoothly for a positive consumer experience.

Specifically, DevOps commonly refers to a set of best practices that can be applied across the financial sector, to great effect. When implemented correctly, benefits include:

Speed of Delivery

So much of today’s commercial success is tied to the ability to act fast and lead the market in software innovation. Data from the 2019 Google Cloud State of DevOps report showed that top DevOps teams had 208 times more frequent code deployments than their lower-performing counterparts, due to a streamlined workflow. The same group was also 106 times faster in their lead time from commitment to deployment, showcasing that the right DevOps strategy can dramatically reduce product release timelines and help companies get ahead of their competition.

Security Compliance

Maintaining compliance with financial regulations can be challenging due to new and changing privacy laws, as well as geographical variations in regulation. To make security compliance easier, it is critical to have transparency and visibility into all areas of operations. DevOps strategy is all about collaboration, so it intrinsically promotes better documentation and testing frameworks — all of which can be used to help monitor compliance. Even better, these features will already be embedded in the strategy, minimizing the need for extra protocols and steps.

Reduced Downtime and Improved Reliability

Downtime can be a death sentence for a company, whether due to an outage or necessary software updating — like a new product deployment. Downtime can create a bad consumer experience and erodes trust, so it should be avoided whenever possible. With a good DevOps team in place, companies can design and implement modular services that operate independently. This means they can be rolled out without impacting the platform at large, thus reducing the risk of customer inconvenience. If there is an error with the deployment, it will also be contained within that feature, therefore making innovation less of a threat to platform uptime.

The Next Level: Embracing CI/CD for Payments

Ultimately, the goal of a good DevOps strategy is to achieve CI/CD, or continuous integration/continuous delivery. This occurs through a set of practices that incorporate automation to drastically streamline the software lifecycle. New code is sent through a number of automated tests, at which point it is integrated into the main stack (if it passes). Any issues are caught early on before they can interfere with main operations. When this is achieved at scale, it becomes possible to achieve the continuous delivery of finished products: products are tested and approved more quickly, allowing them to be released on a regular basis. Some companies may also choose to introduce continuous deployment, whereby that final implementation is also automated, but some prefer to maintain manual oversight at that stage.

Finance companies that embrace a DevOps strategy, and particularly a CI/CD one, stand to improve their software performance across the board. Releases can occur more frequently and with reduced risk of error. This, in turn, promotes flexibility and responsiveness to changes in customer behavior, as institutions can trust their ability to act fast. With the added use of automation, productivity can also be improved as employees are directed away from manual processes and towards higher-level tasks.

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