How Wells Fargo Took 401K App Development
from 70% Maintenance to 70% Innovation
Software tools help the Wells Fargo's ret...
and ask the developers to tell them
what they needed to test. “It might
take two hours for the developer to
do an analysis...
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Wells Fargo: Shifting from Run the Bank to Change the Bank

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The
more code you put out there, the
more of your technology spend you
have to use each month to service
the code that’s in production, maintain
it and keep it current. So even
if we didn’t have any defects and the
only thing we had to do was keep
up with IRS legislation, the more
code we have out there, the more
money it costs us to keep it current
and compliant with the legislation.”
The Cast tool also helps Baker identify
opportunities for code reuse.
By creating certain chunks of code
and reusing them elsewhere, the
developers can make a change or a
fix once and have it be distributed
throughout the retirement programs.
“We’re looking at what features and
functionalities we can convert and
redeploy it as a service by putting it
out on our service bus and making
it consummable by all the different
programs that need it, therefore
further reducing our technical
debt,”

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Wells Fargo: Shifting from Run the Bank to Change the Bank

  1. 1. How Wells Fargo Took 401K App Development from 70% Maintenance to 70% Innovation Software tools help the Wells Fargo's retirement division conserve developers’ time and identify code that can be reused. By Penny Crosman In the retirement services division of Wells Fargo, called WyStar – the group provides 401k recordkeep- ing for six million participants of corporate plan sponsors -- chief architect Gene Baker has several goals for his development team, one of which is to shift technology spend from maintenance to new functionality. “ The business doesn’t get any value from our doing maintenance, there’s nothing new they can go out and sell, there’s no competitive advantage,” he notes. While four years ago about 70% of the group’s work was devoted to maintenance and 30% to building new functionality, today that ratio is reversed. “We’re trying to push those numbers even higher,” Baker says. The next thing he’s tracking is quality and efficiency. “The bet- ter quality we can build into our product, the less maintenance we have to do,” he says. “And of course, the more efficiency we can build into our software, the more features and functionality can be built in.” Finally, Baker looks at performance of the programs, from two perspec- tives: capacity defined by space [storage space used by the underly- ing data] and processing time. “The less time a job takes to run, the more records we can process,” he notes. The developers at WyStar work on about 300 development projects a year. “These are not small projects,” he notes. “We’ll get new features for customers that we’re bringing on board, we’ll get feature and func- tionality requests from Wells Fargo business people. Then Congress, the IRS and other the legislative bodies change the rules every year, and to keep in compliance we have to change the system for that.” One thing that was eating up developers’ time was extrane- ous requests from documentation people, project managers, testers, business analysts, and the like. Application testers would come to them with change requirements, “The better quality we can build into our prod- uct, the less mainte- nance we have to do” “Using this method, application quality has risen and defects have dropped” June 3, 2011 BANK TECHNOLOGY NEWS
  2. 2. and ask the developers to tell them what they needed to test. “It might take two hours for the developer to do an analysis of the code and come back to the tester with seven things they have to test,” Baker relates. “And that report was by no means comprehensive, it was a manual search.” Product managers might ask the developers to tell them all the pieces of code that would have to change to expand an employee number field from 10 to 12 charac- ters. At the same time, the develop- ers time is extremely valuable, he notes. Using software analysis tools from Cast Software, Wells Fargo was able to shift such tasks from off the developers’ shoulders and back to the testers and project manag- ers. “Cast parses through all our code and creates an application knowledge warehouse of everying in the code,” Baker says. “It unlocks the secrets that are in the code or in the developer’s head.” A tester can ask the Cast software to look for certain things and it will make a comprehensive list, so that the tester and developer know exactly what to test. “Now the developer can make sure they actually did test everything,” Baker says. “By do- ing so, not only did we take all that onus off the development staff, we put the labor back where it belongs. We also help the developers im- prove the quality of what they were turning over.” Using this method, application quality has risen and defects have dropped. Baker has also begun using the soft- ware to comb through his group’s three million lines of code to look at all the different languages and application building tools being used, such as C++, COBOL , Visual Basic and PowerBuilder; Baker es- timates there are 45 to 50 different technologies being used. “You have to have at least two people on staff that know every one of those tech- nologies,” Baker says. “We made a hit list of the technologies we’re go- ing to obsolete and take out of our mix” to reduce technical debt. “The more code you put out there, the more of your technology spend you have to use each month to service the code that’s in production, main- tain it and keep it current. So even if we didn’t have any defects and the only thing we had to do was keep up with IRS legislation, the more code we have out there, the more money it costs us to keep it current and compliant with the legislation.” The Cast tool also helps Baker iden- tify opportunities for code reuse. By creating certain chunks of code and reusing them elsewhere, the developers can make a change or a fix once and have it be distributed throughout the retirement pro- grams. “We’re looking at what features and functionalities we can convert and redeploy it as a service by putting it out on our service bus and making it consummable by all the different programs that need it, therefore further reducing our technical debt,” Baker says. “We are looking at […] making it consum- able by all the different programs that need it, therefore further reduc- ing our technical debt”

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