Fulton Bank, as part of Fulton Financial Corporation, a $25.7 billion financial services holding company, headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, opened its doors in 1882 and offers a broad array of financial products and services in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia.
Fulton Bank continues to make great strides in increasing its enterprise architecture maturity level. Brett Gagnon, Director of Enterprise Architecture, sought an IT strategy and architecture partner to assist with the next phase of work: technology guardrails. Technology guardrails provided a way to increase the value of technology investments by empowering decision-makers with relevant information to guide the evaluation and selection of best-fit technology solutions for the corporation's technology environment.
Fulton Bank selected Wittij Consulting as the best partner for this objective, based on extensive experience implementing architecture standards at other organizations and our pragmatic approach to right-sized enterprise architecture aligned to an organization's culture.
There were two primary success factors for this engagement:
So, what is a technology guardrail? Merriam-Webster defines guardrail as "a railing guarding usually against danger."
For this context, Wikipedia provides a more applicable definition by refining the definition of guardrail for a technology context: "an artifact that defines the boundaries in which technology change can be executed in a manner that is aligned with organizational strategy, risk, architecture, operational, and cybersecurity requirements."
Technology guardrails provide technology decision-makers with information and guidance to make decisions that best align with two critical facets of an organization: strategic objectives and operating environment. Three guardrails were targeted for this engagement: guiding principles, technology preferences, and technology standards. One of the images used to describe these to people was a target, with each layer representing a guardrail. The outer layers provide more coverage as the guardrails are broad, and as you move toward the center, the guidance becomes more specific in each layer.
|Guiding Principles||The basis for decision-making when more specific guidance is not available.||Keep it simple.|
|Technology Preferences||Preference ratings assigned to all company technology.||Business application A is preferred for online account opening.|
|Technology Standards||Pre-made technology decisions about the platforms and frameworks the company uses.||Chrome is the standard browser.|
Gaining organizational backing for guardrails is a critical first step. Without organization-wide executive support, technology guardrails are not going to drive the desired behavior change. Presenting a value-driven case for introducing guardrails and gaining executive committee approval to put them in place is a first, essential step. Establishing management support set the tone for the future implementation and support of guardrails. It also empowered us to engage stakeholders across the organization to define and later rollout the guardrails.
|Guiding Principles|| Improve technology decision alignment with company mission and technology strategy|
Enable faster, more consistent technology decision making by providing a consistent framework
|Technology Preferences|| Consider existing technology first|
Leverage Preferred and Acceptable solutions
Identify rationalization efforts for Discouraged and Unacceptable solutions
|Technology Standards|| Accelerate time to market by leveraging pre-approved technology that works best in the bank's technology environment|
Reduce cost by minimizing duplicate technologies
Once approved to proceed, we developed each set of guardrails using a similar approach:
Guiding principles are a set of fundamental values that establish a framework for expected behavior and decision-making. They create a company culture where everyone understands what's important. In this case, the guiding principles' scope was technology, so the aim was to provide a broad set of values to guide decisions and structure decision analysis.
There are existing frameworks for establishing principles. For example, the Open Group™ provides a formal approach for establishing and stating Architecture Principles. While detailed analysis and rationale can be essential in determining principles, principles must be understandable to the audience in order to be effective. In this case, we selected principles that provided broad coverage and described each with a simple action statement and a few statements of clarification.
The Guiding Principles serve two purposes. They:
For this effort, we focused on establishing a baseline set of preferences.
We surveyed application owners from the business and information technology department to determine which applications brought the bank the most benefit and should be nurtured and which applications brought the least value and should be scheduled for retirement. Part of this process included assigning applications to a technology capability model to enable comparison of similar applications.
For this effort, we focused on establishing a baseline set of standards using two approaches:
Here is where the plot thickened! While Fulton Bank has a central IT function and an IT governance structure, businesses are given wide latitude in making technology decisions that best support their objectives. As a result, people make technology decisions across the organization at many levels. We created a training curriculum that focused on understanding the fundamental concepts and the business value of aligning with the guardrails. Wittij trained over 150 IT personnel and over 150 technology decision-makers within the lines of business through a series of 25 instructor-led training sessions. The instructor-led approach enabled "reading the room" and adjusting the delivery as needed. We also incorporated interactive surveys to drive engagement and prompt discussion.
Technology Guardrails provide a way to influence every technology decision across the enterprise while enabling decisions to be made at the speed of business. Dan Hughes and Wittij Consulting accelerated the adoption of Technology Guardrails at Fulton Bank, ensuring that the business decision-makers understood and were able to apply the guardrails.Brett Gagnon, Director of Enterprise Architecture
Fulton Bank senior leadership fully supported the business-value driven approach, which highlighted the organizational benefits of agreeing to and aligning with Guardrails. Senior leaders shared anecdotes of how having this additional guidance and decision-making approach will help them and their managers make better technology decisions.
The effort resulted in additional benefits as well:
I thought the course was really well designed. I could clearly understand the guardrails and the connection to my role.Director, Human Resources
I think this training was quite good. It helped explain to me what the guardrails were and what they meant to me. The examples also helped apply my knowledge on what the guardrails do in the grand scheme of things.Product Manager, Merchant Card Services
A key element of success was working with Brett and other leaders to customize Fulton Bank's guardrail approach. The internet is jam-packed with prescriptive enterprise architecture approaches, each claiming to be the best. The best practice is the one that works in your organization with your process, your culture, and your people.