How an architecture-led transformation puts the customer first

3 key ways to ensure customers are at the center of an architectural transformation
September 30, 2023

At Discover Financial Services, our customers and their trust are key drivers of our technological decisions. With this in mind, we embarked on a digital transformation that enables us to better meet customer needs now and in the future by adopting a lightweight, microservices architecture.

A key aspect of our digital transformation was to lead with design. We found that being architecturally led elevates the customer and their needs so we can design the right solution for the right problem. This blog post highlights some of the key steps the enterprise architects at Discover made to ensure a successful transformation journey.

Embedding architects into product teams to understand customers

Keeping the customer at the center of our work was the key to getting good results. When designing our microservices architecture, our teams had to account for two distinct types of customers:

  • External Discover customers who use our banking, payment, and card services
  • Internal developers and engineers who implement our architecture designs

For us, a crucial component of understanding and serving our customers every day was to embed our architects into the product areas.

While the enterprise architects are centrally organized, our solution architects work daily with product teams to understand how Discover customers are using our technology and what design changes could help our customers. Architects are also able to understand problems that engineers and developers are facing with current technology implementations to better design solutions that meet their needs.

Transparency garners buy-in from engineering and development teams

Before we begin building new parts of our tech stack or migrating from legacy applications, we start with a design. Our architects share the design ideas with the developers and engineers who will implement the design. Then they gather feedback and make changes to the design based on this input.

When developers see the designs and understand where we’re going and why, they are more incentivized to work within the boundaries of the current design or in collaboration to create a new design pattern that accounts for their problems.

When development teams want to make major changes to the tech stack or experiment with a new technology, there is a well-defined, visible intake process where teams can put in their requests and then follow the progress and get involved in the process.

An added benefit of this technology innovation pipeline is that it plugs right into our corporate governance processes for third party risk management, cybersecurity reviews, architecture reviews, and expense planning.

Giving developers a vision of how the technology will be built and collaborating with them during every step of the process is critical to ensuring adoption of the design.

Scaling through reuse

Designing a new architecture pattern from scratch for every problem domain is not scalable for large organizations. At Discover, we scaled our design efforts by taking certain architectural design patterns and best practices and applying those as a starting point to address new domains. The patterns are stored in a central repository that our team and other teams at Discover can easily reference when considering a technology change.

Most of our design patterns have proven themselves out which gives us a great benefit because we have a more robust asset library to choose from. Reusing existing assets gives us the scale and speed we needed to enact this digital transformation across the enterprise.

As a rule, at Discover, we try to reuse before we buy, buy before we build. We buy commodities and build only for differentiation. This keeps us balanced and focused on agility.


While we've taken an iterative approach to our digital transformation at Discover, leading with design and keeping our customers at the forefront of our decision-making has been critical to our success. Being deliberate and purposeful with our designs from the start of the transformation has helped us to effectively scale with speed at the end of our journey.

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