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Bendigo and Adelaide Bank achieves ambitious developer-driven cloud transformation with MongoDB

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank achieves ambitious developer-driven cloud transformation with MongoDB

AustralasiaBanking & FinanceCase StudiesSoftwareTop Stories

Utilizing database platform MongoDB, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank has empowered its development team to make collaboration on app and services development, including the successful migration of 30 of its banking applications to AWS in just 30 days, much simpler and efficient. Andrew Cresp, CIO, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, told us: “We needed a database that was great for developers to work with, was inherently scalable, had great operational tooling and, of course, had best in class security and privacy features.”

Andrew Cresp, CIO, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is Australia’s better ‘big bank’, with around 7,000 employees and more than two million customers.

Its vision is to be Australia’s bank of choice, by feeding into the prosperity of customers and their communities. Building on this commitment, the bank’s ‘profit-with-purpose’ community bank model – one of the largest social enterprise movements globally – is based on returning all profits directly to the local community that helps generate them.

Since its establishment 23 years ago, the unique community bank model has returned more than AU$270 million to Australian communities.

Rated by Roy Morgan as one of Australia’s top 20 most trusted brands across all industries, the bank is currently transforming its business for the future by investing in capability, reducing complexity and telling its story.

Thinking differently about using data

At the heart of the bank’s business and Digital Transformation is the drive to improve customer service and launch more convenient banking products. As a result, the bank needed to think differently about how it worked with data, as its traditional, relational database management systems (RDBMS) – with its inflexible schema – made it hard to develop new services.

This meant:

  • Simplifying and consolidating the bank’s digital infrastructure, User Interfaces and processes
  • Embracing the cloud and, eventually, the benefits of multi-cloud
  • Adopting a modern API and microservices-first architecture
  • Empowering developers with the tools to build great apps and services for customers

Digital Transformation on developers’ terms

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank has a long history of innovation – it’s at the core of everything it does – so as to ensure it is best serving the ever-changing needs of its customers.

It believes in business innovation which is driven by people and enabled by technology. Not the other way round. That meant empowering business analysts, product owners and ultimately developers, with a streamlined and powerful tech stack on which to build improved apps and services.

The bank’s team was initially focused on enabling APIs and microservices across its tech stack and then simplifying the UIs and processes for a consistent development experience. The end goal was to make it faster for the organization to develop, deliver and iterate on new customer features. MongoDB has been an integral part of this journey, with the bank adopting its database platform several years ago.

The bank first started working with MongoDB to support the team’s initial cloud-native API development, and to prove that it could move faster, develop things in smaller chunks using a schema-agnostic database and make changes more quickly, with no outages.

The steady adoption of MongoDB was also intended to prove that the team could ‘do things differently’. The flexible nature of MongoDB’s document model empowered the team to do just that.

With a relational database developers often have to sit and think about what they want to store, what to include in the columns and tables, and so on. But with MongoDB, the team just had to write that out into a document, create its MVP, gather feedback, and then with the next version put better structure around what the documents needed to look like.

Best of all, any changes could be carried out while keeping the app they were working on, online

Reducing complexity in the cloud

Key to the bank’s transformation is the need to reduce complexity – for both its developers and its customers. This means simplifying and consolidating a sprawling tech stack.

The bank had a lot of duplicate systems and processes that had evolved through many years of mergers and acquisitions, and just doing business for a long time.

In order to accelerate the transformation of its business, the bank believes the benefits of cloud will help reduce disruption, improve velocity and consistency, as well as enhance its risk and vulnerability management position.

For simplification and cloud centricity, MongoDB Atlas, MongoDB’s cloud database service, was a logical next step.

The fact that MongoDB Atlas supported the three major hyperscalers (Google Cloud, AWS, Azure) also helped with portability and supports a multi-cloud future for the bank.

Going ‘30 for 30’ with Atlas and AWS

After steadily ramping up its Digital Transformation work, in December 2020, the bank kicked the project into high gear, successfully completing the migration of 30 of its banking applications to AWS in just 30 days.

Three-quarters of the ‘30 for 30’ apps the bank needed to migrate to AWS were running on MongoDB. Using Mirror, a native MongoDB migration tool, the team were able to move those apps seamlessly to AWS.

The biggest part of any application migration, particularly when going from one provider to another, is not moving the workload, it’s moving the data.

The strong Terraform and API support within Atlas meant it was really easy to integrate it with the bank’s existing AWS infrastructure-as-code.

Minimizing risk and reducing complexity

Security and compliance have been key concerns, particularly within the banking industry.

MongoDB’s capabilities, like native support for AWS PrivateLink, mean the bank’s tech team can create an enterprise tenancy where they are not going across the public Internet, and provide dedicated access that ties into where the workloads are going to be.

To the developer it just appears as an endpoint, reducing complexity for them and governance issues.

The existing documentation that MongoDB had from working with other large customers in financial services, and other big companies globally, was also a massive help.

Investing in the community

For the bank’s customers, the long-term investment in improving capabilities and reducing complexity – including its move to the cloud with MongoDB Atlas – has already delivered results.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s business banking division was the most highly rated bank for supporting customers through COVID-19. It was able to achieve that, in part, because of the agility and speed of its tech teams. For example, in May 2020, the bank launched a new digital signature service – after only a month’s work – to enable customers to remotely sign contracts while in lockdown.

But its transformation is an on-going journey and the transformation process has really ramped up over the past 12 months and is now expanding more and more.

The team is now looking at new areas where they can apply the same developer-focused ethos to deliver better outcomes for their customers and remain one of Australia’s most trusted brands.

As the team achieved success in pockets or on specific apps, the next step will be to take this to the wider company and create patterns that can be repeated and put to use more regularly.”

MongoDB is getting more attention within the bank too.

The bank has started to see the data-centric teams – who still use and like classic relational database – reaching out to understand MongoDB and its potential

While the pace of transformation continues to escalate across Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, the team remains focused on transforming the business for the future as it strives to deliver on its vision to be Australia’s bank of choice.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank believes in its continued partnership with MongoDB to help accelerate the transformation of its business, deliver its multi-year strategy and ultimately grow the organization to achieve its vision.

We asked Andrew Cresp, CIO,Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, further questions to find out more.

What challenges has the expansion of working from home created for Bendigo and Adelaide Bank?

The advent of the pandemic and the widespread adoption of remote working meant we had to quickly build ways for our organization and our customers and partners to work with us virtually. We needed to make everything more accessible while also increasing speed, but without creating disruptions or inefficiencies.

One of our first challenges was to enable the digitization of loan contracts as some of our customers felt uneasy about visiting our branches in person during the pandemic. From a customer perspective we were able to rollout digital signatures within six weeks.

This enabled our customers to complete loan contracts without having to visit our branches, and also provided a faster service, especially for those customers in rural areas.

Another challenge we faced was how to continue to improve our customer response times in an ever-changing, fast paced world. We have identified that cloud and new technologies can give us speed of change, and we want to rebuild our most changed applications in modern, cloud ways.

As a result, we are moving our most often changed applications to the cloud. However, this is very different to just migrating all workloads to the cloud. Instead, we are focusing on those which impact our organization and customers the most, as opposed to the total number of workloads migrated.

The next significant challenge we faced was maintaining and fostering the unique workplace culture organically established at the bank over years – one primarily rooted in face-to-face connection and support for one another – in a virtual and remote world.

Paradoxically, for employees, it has never been easier to be online, but more difficult to feel connected. As a result, we moved quickly to instigate virtual meetings and the use of online collaboration tools over whiteboards.

We also embraced many new experiments – such as virtual learning rooms that are always staffed and Friday afternoon knowledge sharing sessions – which are now regularly used to help fast-track and upskill our new engineering staff.

Our final challenge has been the increased prevalence of security threats since the adoption of widespread working from home. In response, we have continued to increase our investment in technology, people and education to help reduce the likelihood and impact these risks could potentially have on our operations.

How has MongoDB helped the bank overcome the challenges associated with the expansion of working from home?

For us to move at cloud speed, we needed a database that was great for developers to work with, was inherently scalable, had great operational tooling and, of course, had best in class security and privacy features.

In a traditional, relational database, database administrators have to go through developing relational joins as you develop applications. However, with MongoDB’s document database model, this is no longer needed.

MongoDB’s cloud database platform, Atlas, integrates directly with our cloud providers and works natively across Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure. Atlas’ Terraform and API support also integrated easily with our existing AWS infrastructure-as-code. Both actually run together and reference each other.

The business impact of switching to MongoDB was considerable. It helped us achieve a 60% reduction in cloud usage costs, a 20% improvement in performance, and we became 30% more resilient – which in today’s fast moving and hybrid world is really essential.

From a developer perspective, MongoDB has really helped empower our developer team and made collaboration on app and services development much simpler and efficient. The database platform allowed our team to be more agile and productive, and ultimately provide better services to customers.

We now have dramatically faster response rates – minutes as opposed to days, and that’s key for our customers and partners.

Finally, MongoDB’s Services Team was instrumental in assisting the workload migration in an efficient and secure manner. This ensured confidentiality, integrity and the availability of data was maintained – with minimal downtime and impact to the business – during the migration process. And again, that is really important when all your employees and customers are remote.

How has MongoDB helped the Bank resolve some of the pressures of the need to develop new solutions?

We steadily adopted MongoDB’s database platform with the end goal to make it faster for our organization to develop, deliver and iterate on new customer features.  

MongoDB provided us with cloud portability, which makes it possible to operate in a multi-cloud environment with multi-cloud providers. This was important to reduce – and not add to – complexity which would have really hindered users’ experience. The bank uses both AWS and Google, and MongoDB works effectively across both.

MongoDB’s native support for AWS PrivateLink also enabled us to create an enterprise tenancy which meant there was no need to go across the public Internet, which in turn, reduced complexity and governance issues.

Finally, MongoDB’s native migration tool, Mirror, was used to seamlessly move three quarters of the ‘30 for 30’ apps to MongoDB Atlas on AWS, in less than 30 days.

All of this has really increased the speed at which the organization now operates.

What are the limitations of a ‘shift and lift’ approach to the cloud and implementing new cloud-based solutions on old infrastructures?

The ‘lift and shift’ approach often seems like the simplest approach and is what a lot of organizations choose because it is easy to provide evidence of progress. However, this approach didn’t support our long-term, effective vision of Digital Transformation and innovation.

The difference lies in how we thought about our own cloud journeys. Our first priority is moving our ‘most often changed’ applications to the cloud. We have identified that cloud and new technologies gives us speed of change, and we want to rebuild our ‘most often changed’ applications in modern, cloud ways.

Are you only looking to lift and shift existing operations and processes – which will ultimately lead to disparate systems and complex, spaghetti type data infrastructures – or are you taking a more holistic approach to understand what would reduce complexity and empower developers to contribute to the organization’s innovation agenda?

The latter was our preferred approach and it enabled us to create our cloud transformation on solid foundations, as well as transition our most important and most changed workloads to new architecture and database models which can support a long-term strategy.

How has MongoDB helped you avoid problems associated with ‘spaghetti’ type cloud infrastructures and data complexity?

It really comes down to empowering our team of developers by giving them the right tools to help simplify everything, which will in turn, lead to an increase in productivity.

For example, MongoDB has shown us first-hand the benefits that can be gleaned from using a general-purpose data platform which can both handle a lot of different use cases as well as simplifying and consolidating a complex tech stack.

We had a lot of duplicate systems and legacy processes which had grown throughout the many years the organization existed.

The adoption of MongoDB Atlas has meant we can really streamline everything. Developers don’t need to worry about where apps and services are hosted because everything is handled in the back end by the MongoDB platform.

We can easily scale our databases up, down, or out in a few clicks or API calls. Everything is much simpler for our developer team.

It’s the same when it comes to security and governance. The MongoDB platform is taking care of all of that, which is freeing up a lot of time for our developers to focus on actually driving value and innovation, instead of wasting time maintaining clunky infrastructures and managing complexity.

How did you support remote workers’ needs during this project?

This whole ‘30 for 30’ project was carried out during a long lockdown, so everyone in our team was working remotely. Bringing an entire project team up to speed, getting them trained on a new cloud capability and working all together was a really challenging endeavour.

However, the team came up with great ideas to overcome these challenges, including setting up a virtual collaboration center that we named the ‘Bendigo Pub’ and which served as a hub for everyone to gather and come together if they had any questions, or needed support.

Working with MongoDB – which is all about developer empowerment – really helped bring the team together and adopt one shared mindset around collaboration.

Why did Bendigo and Adelaide Bank choose to work with MongoDB?

MongoDB offered us a completely new perspective on how to architect our cloud services and how to put developers at the center of innovation.

Moving to a document database model required an important mindset shift, and the team helped us in that process. The technology is one thing, but what you really want beyond the technology itself is a partner with whom you can build and deliver a vision, and that’s exactly why we chose MongoDB.

The MongoDB Professional Services Team experience on similar transformations at other banks around the world has also greatly assisted us in navigating and advancing our own transformation agenda.

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