Banque de France, the central bank of France, must transform the way it develops software to keep up with the fast-paced industry it serves—and do so at a time when cost control is a way of life and reduced headcounts a hard reality. Adding to the degree of difficulty is the centrality of people and technology to the bank’s mission: IT expenses are its second-largest budget item, after employee salaries.
Like many European enterprises, Banque de France is anticipating a wave of retirements by 2020. The skills lost will likely to be difficult—and expensive—to replace, making the job of automating many existing roles all the more important. With that not-too-distant date in mind, today’s focus on remaking software development through the adoption of DevOps has a sense of urgency to it.
A big challenge for the Paris-based institution is to cut spending without sacrificing innovation. “We are trying to help the business achieve its goal of reducing the cost of their operations and enabling new ways of communication with their counterparts,” says Benoit Clouet, head of project integration at the bank.
Optimization and automation are keys to the bank’s development strategy. “Our main goal is to try to automate as much as possible to avoid errors arising from human intervention, and to accelerate the release process,” says Mr. Clouet. “As a side effect, we can give back in the form of head count reduction, even on the IT side.” About half of the applications the bank runs are off-the-shelf products, so there are numerous opportunities to streamline the development process.
“DevOps is an important approach because getting IT operations committed in the project right from the start is a good way to ensure a smooth rollout and operations in the long term.”
— Benoit Clouet, head of project integration, Banque de France
The plan involves outsourcing production of many applications while at the same time emphasizing a DevOps approach to creating and maintaining them. Beyond any savings realized from reduced head count in IT and other functions, the methodology itself is essential to the plan. Says Mr. Clouet, “DevOps is an important approach, because getting the IT operations committed in the project right from the start is a good way to ensure a smooth rollout and operations in the long term.”
The move to outsource much of its development was not uncontroversial within the bank, where quality, competence, and security are essential parts of the value proposition. Thus it was a priority to integrate the development process using a systematic “software factory” approach, and to host the source code of the applications at Banque de France facilities.
The bank maintains control over its code from inception to delivery, and is introducing DevOps in a carefully managed and measured way. “Our projects have a clearly defined set of phases, from the requirements phase, to pre-production, and the production phase, through an elaborate process of describing the software, testing it, and putting it in pre-production,” says Mr. Clouet. The eternal challenges of standardization and usability have been mitigated by the use of DevOps, says Mr. Clouet. “DevOps ensures that the application will be able to not only run in production, but to run in an automated fashion. We have a set of IT operations acceptance tests built right into the project to ensure that IT operations does their own acceptance testing on applications. This is run by DevOps, and gets widely accepted by the business.”
Ultimately, Banque de France is focused on more than efficiencies and cost controls, or even building better applications—it is also preparing for big changes in the talent landscape and for significant operational and cultural transformation. In this new world, software development transcends IT to become an integral part of overall business strategy.
About the research
This case study is based on a 2015 interview with Benoit Clouet, head of project integration at Banque de France. For more information about this research, read the full report, “The Battle for Competitive Advantage in the App Economy.”
About CA Technologies
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