3 Dimensions Of Digital Transformation At Capital One Financial Services – Forbes

“We create an environment that allows our software engineers to put love into the product,” Chandra Dhandapani told me in a recent phone interview. She is Senior Vice President, CIO and Digital Transformation Leader at Capital One Financial Services, the home loan and auto financing division of Capital One.

Dhandapani has worked in consulting and advertising before joining Capital One sixteen years ago, first working in IT and later in Marketing & Analysis and Operations. About 6 years ago she moved back to IT, eventually becoming the CIO for the financial services division. Last year, she added to her CIO role the responsibilities for digital transformation.

“I see my role as digital transformation leader as more of a catalyst role,” says Dhandapani. “There’s a great team working with me and we drive this transformation of the entire division, and both influence and learn from the entire company, together. Since engineering is a huge part of the transformation, it probably makes sense for the CIO to play a key role in it,” she adds.

Chandra Dhandapani, Senior Vice President, CIO and Digital Transformation Leader, Capital One Financial Services

Chandra Dhandapani, Senior Vice President, CIO and Digital Transformation Leader, Capital One Financial Services

There is a lot of talk nowadays, sometimes in vague terms, about digital transformation, but at Capital One Financial Services it is operationalized along three specific dimensions: Culture change, customer focus, and data analytics.

The first dimension is “changing the way we work,” says Dhandapani. The crux of the change is a strong emphasis on collaboration. To that end, the company has created what it calls “product pods.” These are teams of software engineers, product managers and designers, working together on a specific application or solution.  That creates an environment in which engineers, acting as peers to other people involved in product development, put love into the product: “Every day, our engineers are working with product managers and designers in shaping intent, not just writing code based on someone else’s requirements,” observes Dhandapani.

But collaboration is not limited to the internal workings of the organization. “We continuously observe and learn from what’s going on in the world around us,” says Dhandapani.  “We believe strongly that our competition is not coming just from other banks. To compete effectively and be successful we need to be a technology company. An integral part of that is the maker culture,” she explains.

Bringing in the maker culture to a financial institution is indeed an outstanding example of observing and learning from the world outside of the corporation. The maker culture is a philosophy and a movement, driven by the rapid proliferation of independent “hackerspaces” around the world, emphasizing informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. Earlier this month, Capital One was a platinum sponsor of the inaugural National Maker Faire in Washington DC.


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