Fannie Mae's Playbook for Technology Velocity: Our Initial Step to Increase Velocity Through Digital Governance Fannie Mae's Playbook for Technology Velocity: Our Initial Step to Increase Velocity Through Digital Governance

Linda Tai, Chief Technology Officer, Fannie Mae

Linda Tai, Chief Technology Officer, Fannie Mae

Fannie Mae’s mission is to advance equitable and sustainable access to home ownership and quality, affordable rental housing across America. Our digital and technology teams are front and center in the execution of this mission, as we work to modernize and innovate our mortgage solutions to help our partners serve homeowners and renters.   

Over the past few years, Fannie Mae has initiated a company-wide digital transformation with the aim to deliver smart, innovative solutions to make mortgage lending faster, better, cheaper, and safer through systems that help provide security, resiliency, and flexibility. This drive to increase technology velocity must be balanced with our relentless focus on managing risks to help ensure a safe and sound housing technology ecosystem.   

In this article, we’ll dive into a couple examples where we’ve streamlined our governance processes to enable technology velocity while working to remain safe and sound. Accelerating Decision Making We initiated our journey with our architecture governance team, where the most critical decisions are made. Many viewed this function as a bureaucratic body that slowed down work. So, we re-evaluated our processes to identify opportunities to reduce this friction and transform governance to bean innovation enabler.

How did we do this?

Our first opportunity was with our patterns and exceptions. We streamlined the process by:

• Empowering technology teams to re-use patterns without asking for permission.

• Only leveraging architecture governance bodies to review new patterns or exceptions.

• Federating decision-making through business portfolio-aligned architecture review boards who understand the intricacies and business-specifics of a given portfolio.

Allowing teams to review exceptions quickly and empowering those closest to the work to make decisions helped to accelerate work significantly. Additionally, transitioning from consensus-based to targeted, accountability-based approvals – with Fannie Mae’s business, architecture, and information security teams – also improved our time to market.

Our next opportunity was with our technology selection process (TSP), which is Fannie Mae’s vetting process for introducing new technologies. Enhancements to the process included:

• Redesigning the TSP to focus on the type of technology, component, and expected usage.

• Creating tailored review processes when necessitated for specific types of technology.

• Integrating required reviews (e.g., procurement, legal, security).

• Introducing service level agreements with escalation mechanisms for timely decision-making.

As a result, our technologists can now rapidly assess emerging technologies and make appropriate use of open-source components and cloud-native software, while ensuring our technology environment remains safe, secure, and compliant. By streamlining review processes, asking the right questions, and empowering the right people to make decisions, Fannie Mae transformed digital governance to be an innovation enabler.

Just the Beginning

Leveraging digital governance as an innovation enabler was just the beginning of our velocity journey. Our ability to make fast, sound decisions is the foundation for our ongoing digital transformation efforts, which include:

• Building re-usable architecture and design components.

• Streamlining and automating how software is developed and deployed.

• Shifting the culture toward acceptable risks, failing-fast, and “test and learn.”

• Automating maintenance and operations by eliminating handoffs with “you build,you own.”

• Transitioning to a more open environment via open-source technologies.

We look forward to sharing more of our journey with you. If you are interested in learning more about Fannie Mae’s technology teams, please visit our career page.

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