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How Discover Enabled A Digital Transformation Through Its People, Processes, And Technology


Author: Angel Diaz, VP of Technology Capabilities & Innovation at Discover Financial Services
Bio: Dr. Angel Diaz is passionate about helping self-empowered engineering teams drive success through digital transformation. An industry thought leader in connecting developers through code, content and community, Angel is an open-source pioneer and one of its biggest proponents. Prior to Discover, Angel served as the Global Director of Engineering for Technology at EY. He also held multiple roles in his 22-year tenure with IBM, including Vice President of Developer Technology.

When I joined Discover Financial Services in 2021, the company was focused on helping our customers achieve a brighter financial future through improving our digital experiences and delighting our customers every day. I was inspired to see how these efforts were helping to improve every element of the company’s technology stack, while aiming to create one of the world’s great engineering cultures. My role has been to help lead our transformation through becoming a product & platform centric organization with a keen focus on upskilling our people, honing our processes, and continuously improving out technology to support innovation.

Upskilling our people through peer-to-peer training

Like many enterprise organizations, Discover sought a way for its teams to share their knowledge in a manageable, searchable, persistent way. Our first course of action was to build an internal learning platform called the Discover Technology Academy to foster peer-to-peer training, role-based learning, and community engagement. We sought to support the amazing efforts that my peers had already put into place and give our engineers a single source from which to build our craft.

Through the Discover Technology Academy (DTA), teams own mini-websites where they share knowledge about their tools and processes, while also having a singular view of their team’s metrics so they can track their progress against their team’s KPIs. This knowledge sharing is enhanced by active forums, communities, and events that are specific to real users’ questions and interests.

In addition to product-specific training, the DTA enables us to train [product owners/technologists/engineers] on standardized engineering practices, conduct learning dojos, curate role-specific learning paths, and more.

Gaining consistency and excellence through our processes

A major focus of the digital transformation was to assess the ways teams were working and create better processes for delivering work at Discover.

Enabling Product Delivery Excellence

Part of the company’s transformation process was to move the entire organization to adopt a single, agile way of working.  We put in place an inner opensource process for defining how we think, craft, deliver and run products. The DTA community defines and empowers  teams to access training about how to implement product delivery methodologies and communities of support to ask questions, troubleshoot, and learn from peers. Additionally, we offer a dojo training program where teams can request to work with an agile coach to get team-specific training and support to succeed with agile.

Hyper focus on automation

We have a dedicated automation program that automates repetitive human tasks and gives technologists more time to innovate. Our automation team works with teams to assess their current ways of working and find opportunities where automating processes either through robotic process automation or business process automation would get better results. To date, the automation teams have achieved millions in annual hours returned in addition to tens of millions in annual financial benefits realized, both in cost avoidance and direct financial impact and hard savings.

Removing developer roadblocks

Remoing friction and improving developer experience not only improves productivity, but gives our engineers the escape velocity to  innovate. Our team created a simplified developer experience, with a single developer website that housed all the information developers across the enterprise need to get up and coding. We curated Golden Paths that walk developers through common developer tasks and permission requests at Discover. These processes have helped Discover automate or eliminate more than 100,000 hours of developer toil.

Speeding innovation

Through DTA, teams can access a team of innovation accelerators that uses design thinking practices to help teams rethink their problems and produce better solutions. In addition to design thinking practices, the innovation team outlined clear processes for patent submissions.

These are just a few examples of the processes that are being used at Discover to simplify, focus, and deliver better results.

Enabling technology innovation through an open source approach

As a financial services company, Discover must comply with regulations and standards that often require us to modify the technology we adopt. We use an inner source development model to craft curated technology and increase its adoption throughout Discover.

The DTA supports this inner source development model by giving teams a place to collaborate with contributors, answer questions, and get input for future development. Because DTA is built on GitHub, it is easy for teams to share their reusable code assets which reduces software development, risk, and maintenance costs.

Additionally, we established an Open Source Program Office to put rigor around the way we consume and contribute to open source. Since February of this year, Discover has joined the Linux Foundation as a Silver member and the Fintech Open Source Foundation (FINOS) as a Gold member. We hosted a hackathon with FINOS to work with developers across the globe on developing accessibility solutions and have donated our first project, ThemeBuilder, to FINOS as an incubating project.

As we near the next era of our digital transformation journey at Discover, the pillars we put in place with our focus on people, processes, and technology will help us continue to scale and speed our innovation and delight our customers towards a brighter financial future.

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