Circulation solutions or your own design? In each case, the choice is made by different criteria. Director Ak Bars Digital tells us about the practices and priorities of creating your own software
Technology Rafael Valeyev.
What are the business benchmarks that determine your technology strategy?
In 2016, Ak Bars Bank started working on active development of retail business. Since 1993, the bank has operated mainly in the corporate market, and still retains serious positions in it.
The purpose of the new strategy is to create a retail technology bank. This is not a change of priorities entirely, but a shift in focus on the development of B2C. Such changes had a new operating system
model and technology platform. A special center for technological and digital development of Ak Bars Digital Technologies was created for this purpose.
Until 2016, the bank did not develop the software on its own. Industrial platforms and outsourcing fully covered all needs. When developing a new strategy, the bank found
areas where technology can maximize value, create competitive advantages. First of all, these are the points of interaction with the client. For such tasks it was decided to develop their own
What are the technological priorities for development?
Initially, there were three priorities: mobile and web application development, contact center and customer engagement tools. Then the focuses expanded, and the focus was operating
efficiency. It was at this time that robotic technologies began to develop rapidly, and we were actively engaged in implementing these approaches. Robotization is one of our most successful projects. for
in this direction, we have developed our own platform and with it help to optimize the processes of a single service center. We also developed an anti-frodo platform and then an automation platform
What do you work on, what are the functions?
In robotics, there are two areas. The first is directly related to operational efficiency – the automation of the routine functions of the front and back office.
There is a lot of manual labor in the back office of the bank related to the verification of accounting entries, processing of requests by regulators and reporting. The software robot simulates the actions of employees who
allows you to optimize manual labor without making costly changes to legacy systems. This approach allows you to achieve significant effects in a short time. In some cases, efficiency
the work of staff increases 10 times.
The second direction is to increase the effectiveness of the call center. Chatbot technology allows you to work in multiple modes. The bot can respond to the client both in automatic mode and give
prompts the operator to respond to customers faster and better. This approach provides better results than trying to establish direct communication with customers on bots.
In the direction of machine learning we have our own center of competence. There is a strong team that develops several application solutions. We are particularly well advanced in the area
biometrics and face recognition.
Why self-development? Robotization is a very popular and well-developed field, there are many industrial solutions, and in other areas too.
We considered Vendor solutions and came to the conclusion that we needed to develop the technology ourselves. Third-party robotic tools imply a substantial license fee, and
each created robot is licensed. In the Russian labor market, this makes no economic sense – it is cheaper to leave people in the office. It is the aggregate cost of ownership that is the main argument
for developing your own platform. It is possible to gradually develop your own platform, while solving application problems.
About the same situation with anti-fraud software. We have completed a serious pre-project analysis phase, looked at virtually every solution,
available on the market. It turned out that the cost of owning copies of products is higher than years of own development.
Business processes were different. There are BPMS engines that include business process automation, form creation, embedded analytics, data model. We considered the decisions of the great western vendors and
domestic developments. All of them represent a monolithic architectural solution. We have a great variety of processes, many of which are linked to one another and are constantly changing. Ago
we decided to approach architecture differently: to apply microservice approach together with business process.
What development tools do you use?
We chose Camunda’s open source solution – in our opinion, one of the most mature bpm products. It is an orchestrator of business processes. We have developed our library to make it easier to work in .NET and .NET environments
we work with it as an internal product for development teams.
In development, our team professes a microservice approach. For this purpose we have introduced the Red Hat OpenShift platform. It’s a whole ecosystem, solving many problems, including monitoring and
logging. All CI / CD pipeline built: GitLab for code storage, TeamCity for continuous code integration, Octopus Deploy for implementation, Artefactory for final assembly storage. We have
IT4IT team that develops and supports these processes and practices.
The team also has so-called devOps engineers. They have two main tasks. The first is to ensure continuous build and delivery of applications, to automate this pipeline while minimizing
influence of the human factor. Due to the good rhythm, some systems are updated several times a week. The second task is to solve performance problems, to provide work under load and
perform other tasks related to operating in an industrial environment.
Which operating model did you choose?
In the development unit of each project, we try to build the most cross-functional team and concentrate in it the whole cycle of development of it-products. The team includes the product owner,
which interacts with the business, forms a backlog, manages priorities and is responsible for the business result, as well as the production unit – analysts, technologists, test engineers,
Is there any sense in mixing support and development? We think so, but to a certain extent. The bank has a cascade model of support. The incident goes through first
and the second line and further, if necessary, falls into the team for the appropriate role. The signal does not immediately go to the developer, it goes to the support team, where there are analysts who
understand the essence of the problem. If the problem is really at the code level, then the developer is already connecting.
Each team has an associate with the role of Application Security Engineer. Such specialists ensure the security of applications, working in close contact with the bank’s security service. In the industrial
exploiting code with vulnerable will not run away: it is their area of responsibility. We work with applications and services that operate on money, so security issues always come first.
We are committed to maintaining flexibility and speed when it comes to interacting with the Bank’s security service. If every new feature is reviewed weekly by the security service, it will speed up development itself
in vain. Therefore, everything we need to ensure security must be automated, which is exactly how we do it. You need to make sure that the source code is free of vulnerabilities. It can
be the result of only system work at all stages of application creation.
Flexible Development: How Do You Understand It?
From the very beginning, our development was flexible. We initially worked on scrum methodology, from 2018 to scale this approach for our needs based on SAFE methodology.
Agile does not mean to take the task and rush to solve it quickly without thinking about the architecture, related applications and business effect. Agile – means to do quickly but without losing your head. So we are very
strictly adhere to the processes, adherence to methodology, including ITIL. It is better to spend time documenting than to lose it then because of the lack of different descriptions. all microservices
are maintained in certain registers. Corporate IT architecture management system is implemented and all components are fixed in it.
We position ourselves not as a service unit, but as a partner. This is an indication of what responsibility we accept. There are two components to our motivation. the first is determined
performance of business and service level metrics, including 10% – availability of systems in the area of responsibility of the team. The second component is the quarterly payments for achievement
certain metrics – goals in product development, functionality creation or achievement of specified parameters in the service.
Agile is a concept where the result is more important than the process, but that does not mean that system processes should not evolve. However, there must be a measure of formalization. There is a thesis that is not worth it
to go to the 5th level of maturity of processes, and it is better to stay on the 3rd or 4th to maintain a balance of flexibility, innovation and manageability. We are convinced that this is the best approach.
Robotization, mobile services, digital transformation, banking
Business in number
IT-Manager Magazine [№ 12/2019],