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National Bank of Canada + Atlassian

How standardizing on Data Center led to a more open way of working


National Bank of Canada has embarked on a cultural and digital transformation, in which putting people first is key. The Bank has made major investments in this area and its commitment is clear: have a positive impact in people’s lives by building long-term relationships with clients, employees and communities.

As the need for more transparency and collaboration grew throughout the organization, the team managing business tools realized that Atlassian products were in line with the Bank’s ambition and worked quickly to get a plan for scale in place.

In a disrupted marketplace, National Bank saw the opportunity to adapt

National Bank of Canada serves the financial needs of individuals, businesses, institutional clients and governments across Canada. Founded in 1859, the Bank is one of Canada’s six systemically important banks.

National Bank continually innovates to adapt to the changing needs and consumer habits of its clients and to today’s increasingly competitive market. In a context of constant change, the cornerstone of the Bank’s transformation is its evolution into an agile, collaborative and adaptable organization.

“When I first joined National Bank, every team was reflecting on how to adapt to our cultural shift. Despite the new focus on increasing agility, information sometimes remained siloed. We needed tools that provided more visibility and collaboration,” says Denis Boisvert, Atlassian Tools Product Owner at National Bank.

Supporting new Atlassian users to foster adoption and earn team trust

The team responsible for managing Atlassian tools at National Bank, led by Denis, was responsible for consolidating tools to standardize operations, increase IT efficiency, and support the cultural transformation taking shape. They were tasked with managing the Jira instance of the Mobile Applications team, which had chosen this tool to manage its projects. The seamless integration with Jira and other complementary benefits led the mobile banking team to roll out Bitbucket, Confluence and Jira Service Desk. Because of the wide-ranging reach of the team at the Bank, these staff members became visible influencers for various other areas of the organization. Soon enough, teams across the Bank began replacing their spreadsheet-based workflows with Jira.

Atlassian tools allowed people to work with greater agility, which helps us develop a connection with our clients.

Denis Boisvert
Atlassian Tools Product Owner

“Atlassian tools allowed people to work with greater agility. Instead of managing projects by having tasks and tickets spread across email and spreadsheets, they could manage projects more efficiently using the scrum boards in Jira,” says Denis.

After receiving many ad-hoc training requests, Denis’ team started holding standing Friday coaching sessions to ensure that teams were using the Atlassian suite to its full potential. IT team members often came to training sessions wondering how they might leverage Atlassian tools: scrum masters and project members came to learn how to set up boards. Soon enough, Atlassian users from various functions—including training, finance, marketing, legal, HR, support, and mobile feedback—came with questions about how they could use Atlassian products in their respective departments.

The Atlassian user count grew significantly within the company, from 500 to 5,000 in just a few months. Atlassian tools were playing a more prominent role across the organization, and that brought new challenges for Denis and the team.

Staying ahead of team demands by planning ahead

This rapid scaling also brought an array of capacity and performance challenges. The team knew that continuing to scale at their current rate would inevitably lead to performance issues if they stayed on their existing server products, so Denis began considering a migration to Data Center. He knew that allowing ample time to plan a migration would be key to its success; at the same time, he was thinking about how his team would sustain high levels of performance when the Bank’s total user count reached a tipping point at 2,000 users.

"I knew that I would need time to plan a successful migration, and I knew it was time to start planning when one of our internal stakeholders explained to me that Jira and Confluence were no longer shadow IT tools. The tools had become important in carrying their day-to-day operations, and the team needed assurance that their tools would be available around the clock. Some of my colleagues had also been fielding concerns about performance issues, so by the time I recommended migrating to Data Center as a way to eliminate those problems, it was a relatively straightforward process to get their buy-in," explains Denis.

And that’s when a decision to scale Jira, Jira Service Desk, Confluence, and Bitbucket was taken. With his organization's support and the growing necessity for high availability, Denis began planning the migration to Data Center.

Working with a TAM enabled our small team to build and execute a migration strategy without compromising the exceptional service our customers expect on a day-to-day basis.

Denis Boisvert
Atlassian Tools Product Owner

The strategic guidance that helped pull off a complex migration

Migrating Atlassian applications is always a complex process that requires careful planning and strategic decision-making, and Denis and the  team were planning multiple transitions at the Bank. For this reason, the Bank decided to invest in an Atlassian Technical Account Manager (TAM) in order to improve the likelihood of the migration's success. In addition to ensuring that no stone was left unturned during the planning process, Denis knew he needed to continue empowering his team to use Atlassian tools without interruption.

"Enlisting the services of our TAM, Matt Shelton, to be involved in our planning process to help us improve performance across our Atlassian portfolio was invaluable. He asked questions we wouldn't have known to ask ourselves. Ultimately, working with a TAM enabled our small team to build and execute a migration strategy without compromising the exceptional service our customers expect on a day-to-day basis before, during, and after the migration," says Denis.

Over time, Matt’s role became less about his direct involvement in the migration, and more of a strategic partnership. One of the biggest value-adds of a TAM is their ability to understand the organization inside and out, which helps them identify opportunity areas. Denis and the team quickly realized Matt’s role was more about asking questions than answering them. For example, Matt noticed they were working with Jenkins on continuous integration and asked questions like, "Why did you make the decision to go with this?” and “Are there more efficient ways that Jenkins could be working with Jira?" With a TAM, the Bank enjoyed the assurance that the migration was running smoothly as well as a consultant-like perspective to help fill in the gaps.

With the support of a TAM, the team decided to block off all other work and interruptions so they could focus exclusively on the migration, ultimately saving them months of planning. With resolute decision-making and the full support of leadership, the team successfully executed the migration in an impressive sprint over two days.

Improved performance for 6,000 users (and counting)

Atlassian continues to grow in popularity with National Bank employees. Denis and his team support almost 6,000 users and operating on Data Center means the overall team is able to access their mission-critical tool set whenever they need it.

One way the migration to Data Center has improved agility at the Bank is that users now have the ability to scale horizontally. For example, applications and servers can be spun up more efficiently using AWS Quick Start deployment templates. "When we upgraded from Jira 7.4 to Jira 7.10, we used Quick Start to create a new Jira instance from scratch and set up everything from the database to the file system automatically in a matter of minutes, compared to hours or days if we had had to set up a new stack manually. It’s given our colleagues greater agility during their workday,” says Nicolas Cordier, Atlassian Administrator.

The Bank also saw performance improvements. They ran “before and after” tests for response times on key actions. After moving to Data Center, they saw a significant improvement in response time for operations, including JQL and adding comments. Prior to implementing Data Center, Denis's colleagues approached him with performance concerns regularly. Now, they come to him for insights on how to better use the platform, and the team is able to deliver an even higher level of service.

“Once we onboarded teams onto Jira, they started to see the benefit of giving more visibility to colleagues, especially around backlogs. The result has been that we’ve been able to remove some silos between teams and projects, which has allowed us to embrace a more open way of working,” Denis explains.

To help further drive a culture shift, Denis and his team have made use of the Atlassian Team Playbook, running Health Monitor workshops to determine which attributes teams need to strengthen, and using plays to improve teams’ overall health. Forward-thinking efforts like these encourage and enable teams to work more openly.

“Working with greater agility helps us develop a connection with our clients, and this gives us an advantage over the competition. At the end of the day, we're trying to focus more on people instead of processes. Atlassian helps us do just that,” says Denis.

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