How Alfa Bank lives in a period of change and what we managed to do when combining IT development and Alfa Lab


    My name is Dasha Ruslanova, I am the Director of the Digital Solutions Department at Alfa Bank. Today I will tell you how we live during quite significant changes, what results during this reformatting we could achieve in a year in terms of speed, and why do we need solution architects.

    For the IT team, 2018 was a big challenge in terms of organizational changes, processes, and the penetration of an engineering culture into the business. And, of course, scaling up the production process and alleviating the tense situation around conflicts in the development of front-end systems.

    In order to increase speed, we needed not only to reorganize the processes associated with hiring employees and working with vendors, but also to bring significant innovations to existing processes: in-line release technology, the so-called release train - a weekly maximum automated process of delivering values ​​to a mobile application. At the moment, over 20 teams are working on it. At the beginning of each week, a release candidate is automatically collected and a release pipeline is launched.

    What we wanted to come to: to automate the assembly of applications and the preparation of a description of changes - to combine the "tickets" of changes made by the developer in Git, and the description of the user story from the command board in jira, as well as complete transparency for clients and stakeholders. Future plans are to make all stages except manual acceptance testing automatic so that the release cycle becomes less than a week.

    By the way, about transparency - we are actively introducing the practice of a “business partner”, the idea here is that colleagues work in IT, while representing the interests of the business, respecting the interests of each other, conditionally - 50/50. Of course, this is an ideal situation and a reference balance, in practice, everything is a little different, and one side or the other outweighs it, but we strive for it. In such a situation, it turns out that colleagues are monitoring both the adequate filling of the teams and their synchronization; observe both the quality of problem solving and the budget.

    We went further and created the system “The rhythm of our production”, it allows you to see the current performance of teams, to see bottlenecks at the stages of evaluation and implementation, the status of selection and forecast load, and all this online

    Few numbers

    In the period from 2014 to 2017, we finished the year with approximately 900 tasks solved. 2018 has already finished with a mark of 940 tasks. Now we carry out about 1,500 changes per month on the Bank’s platforms (that is, approximately 50 factors change once a day). This speed is only possible with a flexible and evolutionary architecture.

    As it was at Alfa Laboratory

    In 2016, we simultaneously had two approaches to the implementation of banking products - the “Labovskiy” approach and the classic IT approach. Labovsky consisted in the legalization of architecture upon the fact of implementation, and often already with the approval of the implementation. Because of this, at times there were problems in the process of integrating all this with applications that were non-core for Alpha Lab.

    Classic IT worked on a standard process:

    1. Preparation of business requirements.
    2. Preparation and coordination of architecture.
    3. Implementation.

    It looks good, but as the requirements changed, this process became very long and inefficient.

    Therefore, we decided to combine approaches, taking the best of each. As a result, a solution architects service appeared.

    These guys work on the basis of concepts established in the bank, and in close contact with both teams and business units. This makes it possible at the start of the project to offer solutions that combine both complete coordination with the architecture of the bank as a whole and efficiency in implementation. Thanks to this, the coordination of architecture and project evaluation now take about 1 week instead of 1 month according to the old scheme.

    Why is all this so important?

    Nobody has canceled the technology race - every two years a fairly significant update of the technology stack takes place on the market, and this requires IT management to constantly synchronize with the external market. You need to be able to quickly introduce a new stack, train new specialists, and quickly conduct onboarding of new team members.

    Therefore, we are now building a supportive environment for both work and team synchronization, trying to reuse components as much as possible. And this is also largely the merit of solution architects. Even in the absence of a special budget for the withdrawal of legacy systems, their work allowed us to exceed the expectations of the chief architect on this indicator by 20%.

    People and culture

    Here I will note the main things that I continue to constantly learn from my team.

    Recognition of results. This is an important part, the results should be recognized at the business level, it gives not only a feeling of a small holiday and that you did everything right, but also additional synchronization: the stakeholder expected something specific from the development team - and she completed it in full. Because people work in development, for whom it is quite important to develop professionally and work specifically for the result. And this is difficult to do if only you see the result, and it is not very recognized elsewhere.

    Fail fast, parsing errors.Mistakes are a thing that needs to be quickly identified and must be discussed. At the level of the head of the stream or, in general, business. Without embellishment, say what happened, what everyone thinks about it, and move on. Of course, sometimes there are conflicts on this basis that drag out, but over the course of a year we have learned to hear each other and still start from the value of a common cause, rather than from the emotions of each of us.

    Total - we continue to expand the team, right now we have more than 30 vacancies open for developers and architects. We were able to take the best practices of Alfa Lab, including those related to the speed of delivery of updates, and seamlessly integrate them into banking IT, nullifying possible conflicts between colleagues in the process of agreeing on certain decisions.

    In addition, we continue to hold meetings for developers, designers and testers (you can follow the news here ).

    And the day after tomorrow, our guys will hold a meeting in Yekaterinburg for Atlassian fans .

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