Capital One is well known for its early adoption of new technologies to help it transform the banking customer experience. Less obvious, but no less crucial, are the practices and mindsets that position the company to make such effective use of those new technologies—practices and mindsets that are the result of the company's conscious self-transformation into a digital technology company. The company’s recent embrace of DevOps is just the latest step.
"We realized about a decade ago that, to continue to be a great bank, we needed to reinvent ourselves as a digital technology company," says George Brady, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Capital One. "To be a great technology company, we were going to need to build and architect our own systems and set up a developer culture that would help us attract and retain the most talented people."
DevOps is the latest step in further strengthening the company’s developer culture, the foundation of which was laid in 2010 with the company's shift from waterfall to agile software development. DevOps, which uses automation, monitoring, and continuous integration of new code to achieve faster development cycles and more frequent, more reliable releases, is a natural fit for a company that wants to be as responsive to customer feedback as possible.
"Our product managers obsess over customer feedback and embrace moving customers' ideas into products to make their banking and financial services experiences top-notch," says John Andrukonis, the chief architect at Capital One. That's why the company has a cloud-first policy, under which all new applications are architected for and deployed in the cloud and is steadily increasing its use of microservices and open, integrated architectures.
“Our technology strategy is enabling more and more integration of our systems, which increases our ability to collect and get insights from customer feedback,” says Andrukonis. “But insights are only as valuable as our ability to act quickly on them, and that’s what DevOps helps us do.”
Responding to customer insights is even faster thanks to AWS services such as Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS).
“By using AWS, we’ve cut the time needed to build new application infrastructure by more than 99 percent,” says Andrukonis. "With the virtually instantaneous infrastructure available on AWS, our DevOps teams have the building blocks they need to start developing any new product as soon as they understand the intent behind it."
The company's embrace of DevOps has also helped Capital One cultivate an even more collaborative culture.
"It used to be that developers' involvement with products mostly ended after delivery to operations," says Andrukonis. "Now that we're using DevOps, our developers feel even more ownership of these products and are empowered to get proactive about uptime, supportability, and monitoring. DevOps on the cloud is helping designers, developers, and engineers work together to make the customer experience better and better."
Technical staff aren't the only Capital One employees who are collaborating more. "A DevOps culture has helped our business product managers feel even more engaged in our technology journey than in the past," says Andrukonis. "Product owners get very excited when we tell them that, because of the much shorter development time on AWS, we can change customer feedback into new features and products in just a few weeks."
Brady says that a DevOps culture also helps the company ensure it is fielding the best team members it can. "Setting up that strong developer culture is important for attracting and retaining talented people. Moving to DevOps on the cloud is just another way that we can cultivate and support independent, autonomous teams that feel empowered to do their best work every day."