ANZ will use 2022 to bring clarity to the “big bets on technology” needed to secure its long-term ambitions, a strategy that it hopes will focus business and increase the value of every dollar it spends on IT.
Leading these efforts is newly appointed ANZ technology director Tim Hogarth.
In many ways this is a natural evolution of Hogarth’s previous role as the bank’s chief architect, where he co-authored and led the rise of ANZ’s engineering and architectural standards and practices, an ongoing effort, and Hogarth continues to stay ahead.
“A lot of what I did around architecture and engineering standards brought me closer and closer to some business strategies,” says Hogarth. iTnews on his first post-appointment interview.
“Every part of our business we work on is technology-related. You can’t do anything in banking that doesn’t require significant skill in technology.
“So I will work more closely with businesses to help them think about the long-term direction of what we need to do with technology and how we can allow it to help with both existing and new business needs.”
This will affect some ANZ technology choices, especially where there may be overlapping requirements between business units and opportunities to encourage a more platformed approach.
Last year, ANZ shared elements of its approach to platform thinking, as well as its drive to increase the value of every dollar it invests in IT. It is clear that Hogarth plays a key role in the performance of both.
“Anyone can create software, but creating scalable and lasting value is difficult, especially as business priorities and the technological landscape change,” he said.
“Trying to make the right decision for a bank involves bringing together a large number of stakeholders, embarking on a real understanding of the business problem you need to solve, and then working out the most effective way you can use technology to solve it.
“Sometimes so [with] new technology, sometimes it is better to use old technology, sometimes it is the consolidation of applications on common platforms.
“My interest is to help the bank make these important decisions to get more value out of every technology dollar we spend.”
To understand where ANZ is heading is instructive to understand where they have been.
The bank has about 5,000 engineers distributed by geography around the world.
“The vast majority of our technologists are pretty close to engineering, if not the engineers themselves, and of course they take their leadership from business teams,” Hogarth said.
With teams distributed across geography and between business units, ANZ sought in 2020 to find common ground among its engineering staff.
This led to a discussion and now a two-year commitment to create and enhance common standards, principles, platforms and skills development opportunities for all ANZ engineers.
“When I joined ANZ, we had a fairly distributed set of teams, which is not uncommon, so there were many different groups working on individual excellence and focusing on developing their skills,” Hogarth said.
“If you have different teams working on different technologies with different methods, you can see some inefficiencies.
“We started looking for what we could build to make engineers more efficient?
“Sometimes it’s to get real clarity to say, ‘These are the types of bets we make, these are the types of technologies we want to optimize for, the methods we want everyone to follow; sometimes it’s about keeping our [risk and security] commitments and safety angle; and sometimes it’s really a simple old efficiency. “
In the case of ANZ, it was also about simplifying the work of engineers and removing anything that would hinder their “flow”.
Hogarth, along with technology team leader Gerard Florian and other stakeholders, set out to define the technology strategies and skills in which the bank wanted its engineering and architectural teams to be “very good”.
“This has led to the observation that we probably need to bring engineering teams together,” he said.
This led to an internal “summit” in late 2020, which was attended by representatives of every business and technology domain.
“We brought together all of these representatives across all disciplines, mostly software development rather than infrastructure, and asked what was important, what we were focusing on and what the common challenges were?”
This has led to the creation of a number of engineering principles that now govern engineering and architectural functions, as well as a center of excellence and a stakeholder council to oversee ongoing change efforts.
The board is in fact a “meritocracy of engineering directions from across the group” that addresses a number of issues identified as important to technology as well as to the future direction of ANZ.
ANZ’s first engineering principle is an understanding of the future.
“It’s not about chasing shiny toys, it’s about us using new technologies that are inevitable, and telling our teams that we will follow them as long as there is a material advantage [to doing so]Said Hogarth.
This is to some extent counterbalanced by the second principle of respect for the past.
“Generally speaking, there are a lot of engineering teams that are looking for new technologies and sometimes don’t necessarily respect the decisions that are made historically. [still] make a lot of sense, ”Hogarth said.
Further principles encourage engineers to empower more responsibility and encourage diversity in a number of areas.
“One of the things I firmly believe in will always be the diversity of technology,” Hogarth said.
“You will rarely have a very narrow set of technologies. This does not mean that you accept everything, but it is important to have a diverse set of technologies, experiences and people.
“It always makes you stronger.”
The previously mentioned area of attention, which is also reflected in the ANZ principles, is the idea of flow.
“It’s important how we ensure the flow of engineers when they build things, but it’s also important how teams work so we can achieve consistency and speed of collaboration,” Hogarth said.
“It’s about how we get code coming from source to customer as quickly as possible.”
There is also the principle of openness, with the intention of sharing code and working openly and transparently, potentially accepting cross-team review and input.
This has some common features with innersource, a set of software engineering practices used to create an open source-like culture within an organization.
Innersource has become popular, especially in Australian banking circles, and ANZ is also following suit.
The ultimate principle is lifelong learning, which Hogarth considers “privilege and responsibility” in a rapidly evolving and digitally driven world of banking.
“I really enjoy working in this field. It’s just not standing still, “he said.
“It basically means it’s fun because every year you have to learn something new – new technologies, new techniques – that’s good for people, but it’s also a big responsibility.
“You are responsible for ensuring that technology evolves each year and meets the needs of customers and shareholders.”
The mood of the technical director
The fact that ANZ lands on its technique and architecture, although it is clearly the effort of the whole organization, also strongly influences Hogarth’s thinking.
The principles make it clear that there must be a material advantage in a certain technological direction.
“I’m great at materiality,” Hogarth says iTnews.
For developers and engineers, this means, for example, choosing integrated development environments (IDEs) that are left to their individual preferences.
Support for multiple IDEs is not considered a significant issue. “It’s like choosing a pen of a different color,” Hogarth said.
However, tools for source control or binary management or developer pipelines are standardized; Hogarth sees no material advantage in having teams run differently.
“The level of material benefit that a team has received when doing something differently, when it comes to resource management or binary management, just doesn’t add any value,” he said.
“The main thing for me is that these standards – even if they are difficult conversations, they are unambiguous in terms of their logic.
“One of the things we’re starting to do is consolidate the places where we have duplication [of tooling] this is a low value.
“It’s often creeping into large organizations where people are doing things their own way for local optimization, but if we want to optimize an enterprise, we have to do a few things right for everyone.”
Hogarth noted that the speed of market entry sometimes stands out as the reason for “doing things quickly in a non-standard way”, but said it is important to counter this.
One way to get coders to use single tools – and the way ANZ approaches this problem – is to make using standard tools so simple that other options will be unpleasant.
“We want to make sure that the reason you want to use the usual technique to store source code or binaries is that it’s very easy to use and doesn’t take too long,” Hogarth said.
“That means teams have an incentive to use it – it’s like a service, turn it on, it takes care of us, it’s safe and easy to use, it’s transparent, it has a one-time policy that helps me and then gives me strength, and does not bind. “
Victory so far
Work on standardization is ongoing, some of which are still held in ANZ as commercially sensitive.
However, Hogarth said the two key outcomes so far have been new and clearer career paths for engineers and a renewed focus on the origins of software.
The career aspect is obviously an area of personal interest to Hogarth, and he enthusiastically talks about his path to the bank and the need to give all engineers the same significant trajectory and opportunity.
“One of the reasons I like working at a bank like ANZ is that there are always a lot of great opportunities to do business,” he said.
In banking, engineering has moved from a niche to the mainstream in terms of “family work”. How you manage large groups of engineers, how you actually give them advice, and how you optimize their skill sets is an area of responsibility that is evolving in financial services.
“The number of engineers is very significant and we need to be able to create a good career and training for them.”
Meanwhile, the origins of software are a “new topic,” but one that has gained notoriety in the last couple of years due to rising supply chain attacks and bugs found in widely used open source software libraries.
Hogarth emphasized the long “chain of dependencies” in enterprise software and expressed the belief that “senior engineers should be fully aware of the entire chain of software that we actually use”.
“It’s not always easy to do, but as you’ve seen from some of the problems we saw last year with supply chain attacks, it’s important to have such a depth of understanding that if you’re going to use a piece of technology or a software library that you are deeply familiar with what you are actually committing, ”Hogarth said.
“This is one of the active discussions we are having now.”