A modern, service-oriented architecture empowers a financial institution to build upon their long legacy

INDUSTRY
Financial Services

SERVICES
Microservices
Legacy System Modernization

The Story

Headspring found a well-aligned client in this trusted financial institution, whose legacy is rooted in a deep commitment to serving their communities. In order to drive that legacy into the future, the company was already focused on digitizing and updating their system. Their core mainframe was written in COBOL, with decades of custom code built in. In order to get to market faster with new features, they needed a more agile architecture. Modernization was a must, but off-the-shelf solutions didn’t cut it in terms of functionality.

Challenges

  • A 100+-year-old financial institution was in the process of digitizing and needed a more agile architecture to scale
  • Their complex, tightly coupled COBOL mainframe was difficult to update and maintain
  • Speed to market was slow: It could take up to 12 months to release a new product
  • The threat of losing tribal knowledge of the old system made moving to a new architecture critical
  • The threat of losing tribal knowledge of the old system made moving to a new architecture critical

Solution

  • A thorough assessment of the company’s people, processes, technology, and tools drove tailored recommendations
  • Conducted a deep business boundary analysis and advised on the design and structure of a new service-oriented architecture
  • Shadowed SMEs and users to understand business processes and user journeys, and designed a more robust UX
  • Reworked the business processes for the pilot service
  • Aided the organization in embracing new development tools and processes

Results

  • First service successfully launched serves as a blueprint for scaling a service-oriented architecture
  • Significant increase in the amount of data the new system can store and process
  • New change request efficiencies, streamlined task-processing, and smarter input-capture
  • A clearer view of the “why” behind business processes that will enhance ongoing decision-making
  • Organization adoption of modern tools and processes like Agile, Git, ticketing structures, automated testing, and Azure DevOps

The new face of finance

Digital-first disruptors are changing the way people think about and interact with financial services: customers expect the convenience of self-service, online quotes, instant access, etc. Perceptive of their community’s needs, the company was thinking about how they could deliver more faster. Meanwhile, concerns arose in the regulatory space—as technology evolves, so do standards. This could force changes at any moment, and their teams would need to be able to respond quickly.

Accelerating time to market

The need for speed was growing, and becoming faster meant building agility into both systems and processes. Business stakeholders had a goal of releasing several new products per year…but it was taking anywhere from 6 to 12 months to deliver just one. The organization’s mainframe was complex and highly coupled, which would slow down new development. They made a choice to break away from their monolith and build a modern, service-oriented architecture—one that could be tailored to their exact needs.

Becoming an agile organization

The company’s legacy system was also written in COBOL—a language that most new developers don’t know or learn. Modernizing the mainframe became important, not just for feature-development, but so that teams would be able to support it after the old guard moved on. Shifting to a more agile architecture also meant that teams would need to adopt tools and processes that would support and accelerate their development pipeline.

Forensic understanding

As partners, we provided architectural guidance that would equip the entire company for transformation. We spent time digging deep to define the “Why?” of the project, working with multidisciplinary teams of engineers, businesspeople, and analysts. We interviewed subject matter experts to understand why certain processes existed (e.g., “Is it a legal requirement or a mandate of the system?”). Pain points were discovered at the process level and communicated to the business: fostering trust at all tiers of the company was the key to ongoing, open communication.

Human-centric strategy

By asking thought-provoking questions (e.g., “if we changed this, could you accomplish your goal?”), we uncovered needs that would inform our development. Keeping an eye on broader shifts in the industry and business helped us understand the potential impact of each decision. Our initial UX designs for the pilot service we built were continuously iterated and improved upon based on user feedback. Over the course of frequent visits and meetings, we got to know the company stakeholders as people, not just clients, which was critical to creating software to serve them.

A scalable architecture

The company already had an architecture in mind for the modernized system. However, through our discovery process, we were able to advise and evolve the design based on their needs and capabilities. Together, we reworked the business processes for the pilot service, and developed a process for modernizing the first and future services successfully.

Newfound organizational agility

With a near one-to-one partnership between our team and theirs, we were able to introduce agile tools and processes rather quickly. Teams moved to a pull-based kanban process, embraced best practices in other areas, and adopted Azure DevOps. The company’s developers are now using Git for source control, have a new structure for requirements-gathering and work tickets, and have embraced the efficiencies of automated testing.

Business-boosting efficiencies

Moving towards a service-oriented architecture brought immediate, tangible benefits to many parts of the business. The amount of data they are able to record has skyrocketed, since the original system had limited storage and data fields. Users can now perform a change request using one system instead of three, and service reps no longer have to retype inputs from EApps when applying changes.

A scaffold to build upon

Building a service-oriented system that will serve the needs of some hundreds of thousands of members is neither a simple or swift task. But through our ongoing partnership, the company now has a solid architecture to build upon—one which will allow them to scale and deploy new services based on their own business.

With both their system and organization primed for progress, this trusted financial company is now free from their monolith—and to build upon a rich legacy of supporting their community.

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