How product-centric engineering has revolutionized Discover

Discover's approach to digital transformation starts with an emphasis on product-centricity and relies on empowering internal teams.
August 10, 2023

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A company's journey to digital transformation heavily depends on the processes put in place to support the effort. You need the right people. You need the right technology. But without proper attention paid to the processes that support these — call it the third leg of the proverbial stool — the effort to modernize breaks down.

Discover® Financial Services has taken its own journey toward digital transformation, starting with an emphasis on product-centricity (as opposed to project-based work). Moving to a product-centric model, however, should not be the destination; it’s a crucial step in the journey toward full modernization. Getting there requires meticulous attention to the processes in place to ensure that teams are empowered to do their best work.

Although teams may become quite product-centric, the art of how engineering is done differs from one company to another. This includes a company’s unit testing approach to standards for GitHub branching strategies and even the way an organization collects and disseminates its metrics.

In moving toward this model, we wanted to avoid becoming siloed. If a team in our Cards division has a great approach to solving a problem, we want our technology teams in our Banking and Payments divisions to be able to learn from that as well. This is where a company must decide how it wants its people to build their craft and grow their careers.

If radical modernization is what we’re trying to achieve, the how for Discover is an inner- and open-source approach. Our inner source strategy starts with CraftWorx, our democratic framework to implement a single agile way of working.

Nearly 40 CraftWorx practices — created and curated by Discover engineers, for Discover engineers — are communicated and taught through our in-person Dojo training program. Product teams are assigned a coach who embeds with teams to help improve the product delivery lifecycle. The results to date have been dramatic. In some instances, a six-week feature delivery timeline has been halved.

The physical Dojo program is paired with a digital learning experience with the Discover Technology Academy. This internal platform is our home for knowledge sharing, learning, innovation, and content that is created by Discover technologists, for Discover technologists. Any employee may contribute, and content is improved upon through GitHub pull requests.

When our product teams are dedicated to this single agile way of working, when they contribute their knowledge back to the community, when we dedicate ourselves and our teams to continuous improvement, we help our customers build a brighter financial future.

This approach has helped us achieve standardized ways of measuring product delivery and engineering excellence. It allows us to identify areas where we can improve, and we're able to shift on the fly and dedicate resources to areas in need. When our people move from one team to another, it’s not jarring. They don’t need to learn a whole new way of working because we’ve standardized through four, repeatable CraftWorx pillars: Think, Craft, Deliver, Run.

Now, we're taking that learning and committing to a more open future. Discover recently made two major announcements toward this end. We are now a member of the Linux Foundation and the FinTech Open Source Foundation (FINOS). We also launched the Discover Technology Experience, which gives our engineers a public-facing platform through which to share their knowledge with the world.

This internal/external knowledge-sharing approach allows us to keep from stagnating when it comes to developing talent. It allows us to rotate our knowledge and share it across teams. This platform allows our technologists to learn by sharing their knowledge and comparing it to industry standards.

The net result is that the customer — our end user — doesn’t see Card, Banking, and Payments. The customer just sees Discover.

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