Azure DevOps and Xpirit, one of Xebia's labels, enable BNG Bank to experience highs in the cloud Application development with higher speed, higher quality and higher efficiency
Optimize service provision and optimize the application development and deployment process
Creating a state-of-the-art platform for interactive services
Advising, coaching, and assisting the bank's application development team in the transition to an Azure DevOps-based cloud platform
BNG Bank provides financial services to local authorities and public sector institutions in the Netherlands. In its drive to optimize its service provision, the bank wanted to create a state-of-the art platform for interactive services. In addition, its application development and deployment process had to be optimized. Because the bank is under direct supervision of the European Central Bank, it has to comply with frequently changing regulations. The transition from an on-premise environment to an Azure DevOps-based cloud platform was a logical step. The hybrid nature of the Azure cloud environment meant that BNG Bank could combine the cloud with its on-premise infrastructure and thus retain the value of this investment. Xpirit advised, coached and assisted the bank’s application development team. With success, as more teams are scheduled to follow the step to Microsoft’s cloud platform.
"You don’t just hire an individual consultant, but actually you benefit from the entire team of Xpirit’s consultants."
BNG Bank’s financial services enable the Dutch public sector to achieve socially relevant objectives. With a customer base that includes municipalities, regional authorities, and institutions in the domains of healthcare, education, energy and infrastructure, BNG Bank is involved in financing a wide range of projects that benefit society. Although the bank has a relatively small staff of some 300 employees, its impact on public services and the Dutch infrastructure is substantial.
In addition to enabling excellent public services and creating a more sustainable society, BNG Bank is continuously improving the quality and convenience of its service provision. In this endeavor, the bank wants to increase its online presence and become a smart leader, with its MyBngBank portal as a spearhead project. Martin Kuijper, manager of BNG Bank’s IT department: “A transition to the cloud was a logical step to take. After all, we wanted a state-of-the art, interactive platform with easily accessible services, faster service provision and flexible capacity expansion. At the same time, we wanted to make our teams more autonomous and less dependent on our thirdparty service provider. In short, sufficient reasons to choose this direction.”
Whilst BNG Bank had made the deliberate choice to adopt a cloud-based strategy, the bank was faced with challenging compliance requirements. Martin Kuijper describes some of the challenges: “Whereas smaller private sector banks are under supervision of the Dutch regulator, BNG Bank is under regulatory supervision of the European Central Bank (ECB). In order to safeguard financial stability, particularly in the Eurozone, the ECB imposes strict regulations that banks need to comply with. In addition to ECB’s strict regime, new regulations such as the PSD2 directive are being issued with increasing frequency. What’s more, the changes have to be implemented in financial applications within shorter and shorter timespans. And because the ECB makes no distinction with regard to a bank’s size, the frequent changes create considerable challenges for BNG Bank’s relatively small IT department of 50 employees.”
The decision to migrate to Azure was taken during the first half of 2018, and subsequently the bank explored ways that would ensure a safe and smooth transition. Because BNG Bank had been using agile and Scrum-based processes for several years, the transition to DevOps was just another step in the same direction, requiring comparable behavior and attitude in the bank’s approach to application development. Andre van der Tol, Head of BNG Bank’s application development department: “However, when making a transition like the one we were about to undertake, you want to make the right choices. After all, you want a solid foundation. We did have some knowhow in the domain of Azure, but we wanted to do things right from the word go. We had heard of Xpirit’s successful assistance at another bank, so we approached them and in June 2018 we involved three of their consultants: Alex Thissen, Martijn van der Sijde and Chris van Sluijsveld. Their wealth of knowledge and experience soon became apparent and helped us make the right choices in implementing Azure as a platform, but they also added organizational improvements in the step from Agile/ Scrum to Devops. Moreover, Xpirit’s support gave us a lot of confidence, which made us more productive. In addition, they came with ready-to-use DevOps templates which had already proven their performance.”
Naturally, the bank’s auditors and controllers of the internal accounting department wanted to be assured that all risks had been identified and were well under control. Martin Kuijper: “As was to be expected, our auditors came with a lot of questions. However, we were aware of this and Xpirit helped us in organizing several workshops to create transparency into the transition and the new processes. A factor that certainly helped here were Azure’s proven security facilities. With a large organization like Microsoft and its huge number of successful and safe implementations, the Azure platform, container technology and encrypted data offered a security level that surpasses any level offered by local providers.”
Andre van der Tol, manager of BNG Bank’s application development department, greatly praises the benefits of the step to Azure DevOps. “Our old DTAP-based development process was error-prone due to manual entry of commands and instructions, as well as the large number of people involved to carry out a variety of tasks. But there’s more! Azure DevOps’s built-in security facilities radically reduce your testing effort because the checks have been designed and included in the workflow in advance. There’s hardly any unexpected outcome, and because the testing process is automated, it follows a standardized set of steps that are repeatable and predictable. Azure DevOps has reduced the lead time of releases and deployments from an average of four days to a matter of hours! And if any incidents do occur, we improve and move forward instead of rolling back.”
Azure DevOps has reduced the lead time of releases and deployments from an average of four days to a matter of hours!
Martin Kuijper continues: “The cost savings resulting from the transition to the DevOps-based development process were one thing, but there’s also the element of the flexible architecture and the pay-per-use factor. The cloud allows us to upscale or downscale the processing and storage capacity dynamically, automatically and immediately as our requirements change. This takes away the need to invest in in-house equipment or longer-term arrangements with a third-party provider while some of that equipment may be sitting idle for extensive periods. The pay-per-use basis ensures that we only pay for what we actually use, so we’re achieving substantial cost savings. In addition, the hybrid cloud architecture allows us to combine the cloud with the on-premise environment, which means that we retain the value of the investment the existing infrastructure.
Both Martin and Andre are full of praise for both the approach and the results of Xpirit’s work. Martin: “We had high expectations before we engaged Xpirit, but their performance and approach exceeded our expectations. Their knowledge level of Azure technology is extremely high, but it’s the combination with their experience that makes it so valuable. You feel that they know what they’re talking about, and they make you feel secure that you’re walking in the right direction. But they helped us with much more than the technical aspects of the transition: they advised us on a wide range of organizational issues, and they helped us to create the right mindset regarding the DevOps processes and the approach to continuous learning and improving.
Andre van der Tol praises Xpirit’s team and their approach: “The knowledge level of their consultants is extremely high, but what’s so great is that the knowhow of their entire team is made accessible. This means that you don’t just hire an individual consultant, but actually you benefit from the entire team of Xpirit’s consultants. Their open team approach is of enormous value. And you feel that openness straight away when you walk into their office. We also saw this during one of their pizza-evenings: an open session during which our entire team got together with the entire Xpirit team. The attitude and spirit of their team truly reflects their name Xpirit: a team of inspired and enthusiastic professionals, driven by a passion to do a great job, and prepared to go out of their way to walk their talk. And not only during office hours, because they absolutely don’t have a nine-to-five attitude. We saw a clear example of this when Chris took time out from a weekend during which the entire Xpirit team was in Rome for a company excursion. There was some issue that needed to be fixed, and it was no more than natural for him to sort out the problem right there and then, and call us with the solution.”
Andre continues: “Another thing that’s of enormous added value is Xpirit’s coaching attitude, which is in line with their slogan: ‘We show it, you join and do it yourself’. They transfer knowledge, and they assist and coach you. In short, they show you what to do, but you do most of the actual work yourself. This ensures that you learn a lot of skills, become independent and can elaborate upon their work. So in addition to the results of the project at hand, we received sustainable value from the enhanced skill set of our own staff.”
Martin was positively surprised by the excellent support BNG Bank received from Microsoft. “Each time we called Microsoft for help, we were talking to the right person in no time, who then provided relevant and effective help. What we experienced was a lean organization with a keen customer focus and short communication lines. This actually came as a surprise considering the huge size of Microsoft’s organization.”
We had high expectations before we engaged Xpirit, but their performance and approach exceeded our expectations.
The cloud transition of the application development team is nearly completed and the MyBngBank portal is scheduled to go live during the summer of 2019. However, BNG Bank is confident that this will be a success, so it has already started planning other teams to make the transition to Azure DevOps and the cloud. “After all”, Martin concludes, “DevOps and the cloud allow faster deployments with better, consistent results, effective security and last but not least, lower costs. This first project is an inspiring example for the rest of our organization.”
Do you want to run your infrastructure in the cloud, on one platform or multicloud / hybrid? We develop and deploy cloud-native solutions, train and coach your teams, assess your current way of working, and provide cloud control services.
We are a leading services partner of AWS, Alibaba Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and GCP and up for any cloud challenge.