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Detail in the Data: Engineering an intuitive experience

The intuitive engineering experience

Spend Tracker, smart alerts, auto bill pay, personalised insights – they all have one thing in common: they’re powered by CommBank’s data engineers.

Dwayne Helena, Chief Engineer in CommBank's Chief Data Office (CDO), has more than 25 years' experience across both systems and data engineering.

“I joined CommBank 10 years ago to support the business’ Systems, Applications and Products (SAP) implementation," Dwayne says. "At the time, it was the biggest SAP implementation in the southern hemisphere.

"It essentially introduced real-time banking – a real win for our customers. I think of it as the project that really put CommBank at the forefront of digital innovation.” 

After supporting the migration, Dwayne shifted his focus to performance engineering, which relied heavily on operational data and analytics. Initially managing the team and helping to build the performance engineering capability across the bank’s critical systems, he eventually moved into the analytics division. 

“In my current role I’m responsible for providing the roadmap and technical leadership for how the data platform underpinning Advanced Analytics and Decisioning is managed and used,” he says.

"A major focus is on how to provide an increasingly personalised banking experience for our customers. Our products are used by millions of people every day, so it’s not only about generating insights, but also about improving our customers’ experiences with our products and services.”

How the CDO works

CommBank’s CDO includes two large multi-parallel cluster databases – the Group data warehouse, run by Teradata, and a Cloudera Hadoop datalake, known internally as Omnia. On top of these big data platforms runs a Pega decisioning engine that generates predictive analytics, as well as highly customised personalisation across CommBank’s wide range of products.

“The data analytics platforms are always taking on more of a real-time function with regards to embedding analytics into most of the processes that run in the bank,” says Dwayne.

He explains that, for example, if someone receives a pop-up to start an application for a home loan on their personal computer and is interrupted, they can then walk into a branch and the customer service representative will be notified that they are likely to complete their application. These mini targeted campaigns are all run through the data platforms and are embedded across almost all our processes.

“This seamless experience across customer touchpoints is being powered by the analytics in the backend. The insights have always been there, we just weren’t able to action them in any insightful way before. But now we can, which makes it a really exciting time.”

The scale and complexity of digital banking at CommBank means the engineering function in the CDO is coupled tightly with all the other engineering and digital functions, from software and systems to UX and design.

When customers reach certain life events, such as buying a house, the data engineering team is responsible for the transactional analytics that inform the next best conversation we have with them. For updates to the mobile app or features like Spend Tracker and automatic bill payments, the data platforms process the analytics required to power both the backend and frontend systems.

“We’re doing all the heavy lifting to create personalised features that people can use. It’s about ensuring better financial wellbeing for our customers,” says Dwayne.

Career Pathways

Outside of his day-to-day, a passion of Dwayne’s has been helping to implement the new Career Pathways initiative. The engineering-specific program is designed to help bring transparency to the different opportunities available to engineers across the bank, as well as simplify and formalise roles and expectations.

“Engineering at CommBank is made up of multiple big teams, so having a clear understanding of peoples’ capabilities and experience hasn’t always been easy,” he says.

"A core purpose of Career Pathways is to standardise role titles and seniority levels across the different teams and functions. This means that, for example, a senior engineer in software can be expected to have a similar level of experience and capability as a senior engineer in systems and data.”

The simpler structure will not only allow engineers to develop a broader skill set, but also help build a much stronger and more connected engineering community within the bank.

“The great thing about the new model is the mobility it offers," explains Dwayne. "Now, I can easily look for a role at my level but in a different platform. If I want to talk to somebody or find a mentor, I can easily do that. Cross-pollination is crucial to ongoing career growth and engagement.”

For Dwayne, being able to constantly learn and put his skills to use in large-scale, real-world applications is what's kept him at CommBank, continuing to find new roles that challenge him.

“I think you could join CommBank and never leave, we’re involved in so many parts of the industry. There's no shortage of challenges, and no shortage of complexity to solve problems that will improve the experiences for our customers.”