​Commonwealth Bank looks to three-hour code release nirvana

The bank's CIO wants to split his teams into smaller teams, give his staff more decision-making opportunities, and push releases out every three hours.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

David Whiteing, group executive and chief information officer at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), has set an audacious goal for his teams: He wants to reach a point where the bank is pushing out code every three hours.

Speaking at the Australian Information Industry Association New South Wales Banking and Financial Services Forum in Sydney on Thursday, Whiteing explained his bank will be looking into a number of things to increase its velocity and productivity, including speeding up its time to release.

"We deliver today nearly 5,000 changes a month. I want to be able to deliver a world that delivers 20,000, 30,000, 50,000 changes a month -- in fact I want to measure it a different way -- I want any asset that we have to be able to release code into production every three hours," Whiteing explained.

To reach this code-pushing nirvana, the bank's CIO wants to break down teams into smaller ones.

"Think of my team now of becoming about 30 smaller digital teams inside the bank where I've pushed every decision that I can to the lowest level possible," he said.

"So success for me is in five years I make very few decisions.

"But most of my decisions are of the strategic long-term structural nature, but they're not of the day-to-day activity, they're not in signing off whether I use this partner or that partner because I believe by the time a decision like that comes to me, it's so clear what the option is because everybody's massaged the hell out of it that I really don't add any value other than slowing it down."

Part of adopting a structure that has smaller teams is so CBA can deliver a feature or function in one place and one place only, with Whiteing saying this will allow the "aggressive" drive of open source in order to take advantage of the innovation it brings.

"For us, a lot of it comes down to these things: Have we got the right people, have we got the right skills, and most importantly have we got the culture and mindset," he explained.

"That's the world that I want, that's a high-velocity world, high quality world, and it requires a culture of commitment ... and an open mindedness that's quite different

"We'll continue to adopt open-source standards, we'll continue to challenge our partners to be proficient in those standards, we'll continue to challenge our partners to bring the best that they've got in order for us to perform at an exceptional level."

For the first half of the 2017 financial year, CBA reported AU$4.9 billion in statutory net profit after tax, up 6 percent from the corresponding period a year prior. Operating income for the period experienced a 6 percent increase to AU$13.1 billion.

During the six-month period, the bank spent AU$1.2 billion on IT services, which was up from the AU$752 million it spent during the first half of FY16.

With total IT spend increasing 54 percent, the amortisation of software assets cost the bank AU$613 million during the six-month period, while AU$222 million was spent on technology application, maintenance, and development

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