TechnologiesCategory4 min read

3 Pillars for Making Digital Transformation & App Modernization “Real”

Fiserv’s Tom Eck shares his company’s digital transformation journey and why prioritizing developer experience is a must.

The case for app modernization as a key pillar in enterprises’ digital transformation efforts is more evident than ever:

  • More than 90% of enterprise tech execs cite application modernization as a top priority.1
  • Over three-quarters (77%) have experienced an increase in revenue due to app modernization.2
  • With Kubernetes now in production in a majority of companies,3 it may be surprising that almost half of organizations (44%) are still trying to figure out how to get started with cloud-native apps.4

Yet, teams leading digital transformation and app modernization initiatives face obstacles ranging from inconsistent management to inconsistent ways of building applications and achieving productivity benefits.

“Digital transformation is a broad topic, and it includes cloud migration,” explained Tom Eck, senior vice president of digital transformation for Fiserv, during the “Driving Value at All Stages of Your Modern App Journey” keynote at VMware Explore. Fiserv provides payments and fintech solutions for thousands of financial institutions and millions of people and businesses around the world.

As the leader of an elite software engineering team involved in high-value opportunities and focused on developer experience, Eck believes there are three pieces to making transformation real:

  • Technology: Teams need modern platforms and modern programming languages.
  • Culture: Besides the technology, leaders have to get the culture right. It has to be a growth mindset because teams need to be able to move fast.
  • Action: After getting the right tools, teams need to be able to put them to use. They need to be unafraid of making mistakes because they’re going to be moving fast. At the same time, he said, “My company moves about $1.3 trillion of USD per year, so we really can't afford to make mistakes. We can't afford to have security problems.”

Prioritizing Developer Experience

James Watters (left), VMware CTO of Modern Applications, and Tom Eck, Fiserv SVP of Digital Transformation, dive into Fiserv's digital transformation and developer experience during VMware Explore U.S.

To improve the developer experience, the team first built a unified developer portal across Fiserv. “We have hundreds of API-enabled products, each with hundreds of end points,” Eck explained. “Some had dev portals, some didn't. None looked alike. They all had different credentials, so we wanted to bring it all together.”

For Eck it was an opportunity to build a modern stack. “We did completely cloud-native, API first…completely cloud agnostic,” he said. “We deployed it on one of the major cloud providers—their own container orchestration.” It was a baseline Kubernetes service.

Because one of the project objectives was to avoid using proprietary public cloud services, the team then tried to port it to another popular hyperscale cloud. “That was a little bit of a struggle, but we did get it up running,” he admitted.

Then in about a month, the team ported it to Tanzu Application Platform. “We did it very, very quickly,” said Eck. “What I think was probably most impressive was not just how fast we moved it, but all of the stuff that's included out-of-the-box with the product is amazing—everything from observability and all those kind of things…at the backend are built in. It was a beautiful experience.”

As Fiserv adopted modern apps and microservices, it discovered “force multipliers” in VMware application accelerators imbued with security, observability and more for developer enablement. They helped developers less familiar with microservices get started quickly but safely on the path to production.

“I don't want to have to be worried about the compliance book as a developer. I just want to get my business logic coded and get it out there as fast as I can,” explained Eck. “…so as much red tape and non-fun parts that we automate but also accelerate through patterns is key.”

Best Practices for a Successful Modern App Journey

Products anchor every digital business cloud chaos and cloud smart conversation. In digital companies, software is the product and developers are critical to creating and improving it.

“So, the big question for every digital business is: How do you transition to treating your developers as customers?” asked the VMware Explore Modern Apps session master of ceremonies, Ajay Patel, senior vice president and general manager of the VMware Modern Application and Management Business Group.

“How do organizations set themselves up to make developers productive and how do they put apps at the center of how they operate and run their businesses?” Patel asked, particularly when IT is challenged by these issues holding their organizations back:

  • Inconsistent management and siloed teams
  • Slow time to market for new apps
  • Limited visibility

The best practice Patel and VMware advocate is two-pronged: adopt a cloud-native app platform and empower the platform team.

In practice, Patel said, that means “starting to treat the internal platform as a product, like we treat everything else, with the developer being a customer and centering everything—design, build, deploy and manage—around making that application the center of delivery.”

Successful platform teams automate security and compliance requirements so developers can simply focus on writing business logic and enjoy a streamlined, safe path to production.

Ajay Patel, VMware SVP and GM of Modern Applications and Management, explains the powerful combination of cloud native app platforms and platform team empowerment at VMware Explore U.S.

VMware Solutions Power Modern App Journeys

VMware delivers two VMware Tanzu solutions that Patel said allow teams “to build applications in an app-agnostic way, abstracting away complexity and simplifying the environment.” They address critical questions organizations on modern app journeys face:

  1. How do I build great products?
  2. How do I get a platform for learning to operate Kubernetes at scale—with security and manageability?

1. VMware FY22 Q4 Executive Pulse, January 2022: https://www.vmware.com/company/digital-first-enterprise-research-insights.html

2. Forrester Consulting and VMware. "The Future of a Secure Multi-Cloud Strategy Will Be Powered by Modern Applications," May 2022: https://cio.vmware.com/2022/08/5-insights-from-our-latest-multi-cloud-research-with-forrester-consulting.html

3. VMware. "State of Kubernetes 2021," June 2021: https://tanzu.vmware.com/content/blog/state-of-kubernetes-survey-2021-benefits-challenges

4. VMware FY23 Q1 Executive Pulse, April 2022: https://www.vmware.com/company/digital-first-enterprise-research-insights.html