2020 marks the seventh year of DBS’ transformation journey. As early as 2014, we recognized the competitive advantage technology brings to accelerate our journey towards becoming the Digital Bank of Singapore, and have since started to reimagine the way our customer’s bank. With the world in flux because of Covid-19, our ability to respond nimbly to the situation is just one of the ways in which our digital transformation efforts is paying off.
Enhancing our technology infrastructure
We have invested in our virtual private cloud infrastructure and rearchitecting our existing applications to be cloud-ready. Today, 93% of our existing applications operate in the new environment and 99% of our applications have been migrated from physical servers to the virtual private cloud. We are also able to reduce the number of physical servers and the size of our data centres, bringing down fixed infrastructure costs while significantly increasing our energy efficiency and meaningfully reducing our carbon footprint. For instance, the physical footprint of our secondary data centre in Singapore was reduced by 75% while achieving a tenfold increase in capacity. Additionally, we are able to reap operational efficiencies with just one system administrator needed to manage 350 operating systems – about seven times the industry standard. This has given us the nimbleness to put in place technology solutions that allow staff to remote access to systems without compromising security, by increasing our virtual private network (VPN) and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) capacity at a short notice.
‘Mobility First’ strategy for employees
Our multi-year strategy to prepare our infrastructure to embrace Mobility First has pushed the use of laptops instead of desktops to over 90%. At the same time, our use of the public cloud via Office365 Cloud/OneDrive and collaborative tools such as CISCO video conferencing and Microsoft Teams have enabled employees to access their data and information securely anytime. These, together with the flexibility of our infrastructure to provision the use of VPN and VDI, have been instrumental in enabling a seamless transition to work from home arrangements in this Covid-19 crisis.
Leveraging data, AI, and machine learning capabilities to scale analytics
In line with our transformation into a data-driven technology organization, we have been dialing up the use of data Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) across the enterprise over the past six years. This includes the development of Advanced Data Analytics (ADA), our internal Data Platform, as well as capitalizing on the public cloud’s native services for AI/ML and analytics capabilities to enable our use of data at scale across the bank. In 2019, we drove more than 200 data use cases across the enterprise to deliver business value, with over 150 of these using advanced analytics.
This has been particularly useful when we had to do contact tracing for employees affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Led by a cross-functional team across HR, Technology, and Data Analytics teams, we leveraged our data and analytics capabilities to contact trace up to three degrees of separation. From ideation to the first result, the team was able to implement the solution in less than two days. This included collecting diverse sets of data on indications of the movements and interactions of employees, and integrating them into an analytics model and a self-service portal. We were able to get this done quickly due to our experience with one of our projects dealing with supply-chain network data. We also used video analytics to determine office space occupancy to decompress work areas. This way, we could ensure that safe distancing guidelines were properly implemented, providing employees required to come into the office for critical banking services a safe working environment.
Increasing agility through our Platform Operating Model
Our adoption of Agile software development practices has also resulted in greater experimentation and innovation. Through Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, we delivered 300,000 automated builds and 30,000 code releases monthly, an increase of almost 10 times. This allowed our developers to release changes faster. We have also established the Platform Operating Model to bring business and technology together, thus helping to future-proof our business and increasing agility in the way we drive outcomes. For instance, we developed an easy-to-use Employee Movement & Temperature Update app within 24 hours to enable our staff to log their movements so that contact tracing is made easier when activated later. The form in Singapore received over 45,000 responses from over 10,500 unique employees in its first week of rollout.
Another example is Trade DigiDocs, which enables our Institutional Banking customers to initiate trade financing transactions and submit supporting documents to the bank via digital means. This means customers need not visit bank branches or offices physically to submit paper-based supporting documents, which is especially useful for our corporate customers to perform their banking transactions despite safe distancing measures.
Strengthening system resiliency and reliability
We have also been strengthening our capabilities by changing how we operated our infrastructure and applications. We leveraged site reliability engineering (SRE) principles to build stable systems efficiently and deliver quickly. Taking a leaf out of the Netflix Chaos Engineering playbook and building upon it, we created ‘Wreckoon’, a self-service testing tool designed to test the resilience of applications in development. All these have enabled the creation of scalable and highly reliable applications and systems even with the multiple fold volume increase in online channels throughout the Covid-19 period.