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DevOps Enterprise Summit London Review: Organisational Change is Mandatory

June 15th, 2017

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the DevOps Enterprise Summit in London recently. The conference is organised by ITRevolution which is lead by DevOps luminary Gene Kim who has written a number of books and papers about DevOps.

One of the recurring themes throughout the conference was about organisational change. Many enterprises are making some headway with DevOps practices if we define DevOps in one of its purest aims of “shipping higher quality code faster” as well as in a more broader sense of making IT more efficient and adaptive.

I listened to a number of the presentations, attended the great Ask the Speakers Sessions, took part in a group discussion and spoke to a number of attendees. The number one barrier to improving IT efficiency and getting that better code shipped faster is organisational change rather than technical tools or capabilities. The repeated message was, the bigger the focus on organisation change, the better performing an IT organisation will be. By organisational change I mean team function as well as financing.

I was struck listening to the presentation from Barclays by Jonathan Smart, The Yin and Yang of Speed and Control and followed up in the Ask the Speakers Session. Barclays has spent three years completely changing the way its organisation is structured and aiming for the so-called 2 pizza team or smaller more nimbler teams. What is also interesting is they are extending this to their external partners by structuring these engagements also using the same small cell based structure approach. Basically one-size all encompassing outsourcing deals are out the windows which is something IT professionals have been telling their bosses for years!

Jonathan had an interesting observation, he said enterprises should be more like ketchup, when you shake it should be more runny. This was a way to say that your company should be able to take on change and become more agile as you learn to manage change rather than being static and solid. The presentation talked about a visual game called the “Cows in the Meadow Game” which asks teams to well, draw a meadow. Some teams were coached to communicate beforehand and make a plan which ended up being a beautiful looking meadow which looked great in the pictures. Other teams were left to their own devices and ended up with all the pieces; cows, meadows, birds, grass etc. but in different scales and locations in the picture which wasn’t as effective.

Allianz Insurance also talked about how they brought teams together physically even if on a temporary basis to help with communication. Andrea Hirzle-Yager’s presentation spoke about how they changed the geographical structure so that instead of having all of development in office A, testing in office B and project management run from office C, they are re-organisating things so there are smaller teams containing development, testing and project management in each office, A, B and C. This has increased accountability and delivery. This isn’t easy but they are seeing results.

Jonathan Fletcher, Chief Technology Officer at Insurance company Hiscox in his presentation “Sorry Mr(s) Ops, We Hadn’t Forgotten You”, also talked about how they were a very silo’d vertical structure and are pivoting to a more horizontal structure with a central Platform Team and multiple “Aligned Agile Squads”. Jonathan also went through how they are aligning the Business and IT inputs into projects by collaborating earlier and creating Shared Inputs into the planning so the various business and IT project managers as well as operations managers all have a common view of the goals and task tracking.

Cementing the message that change works everywhere, “Cultivating High Performance Teams in High Regulatory Environments” was presented by the very engaging duo of military/industrial complex DevOps evangelists, Suzette Johnson of Northrop Grumman and Robin Yeman of Lockheed Martin. Suzette and Robin went through their personal DevOps stories and how they have been instrumental in bringing IT organisational evolution

One of the closing keynotes “DevOps: Who Does What?” by Cornelia Davis of Pivotal took attendees through how current job silos get remapped. This took the form of creating application focused service organisations containing the specific job roles required to develop, operate and manage an application which then utilises a central services organisation for shared services. This presentation was delivered very visually as Cornelia showed job roles as dots moving, converging and splitting through an organisation. I’m not sure how easy this is to map to your existing organisation but does you at least think that you need to look at the bigger picture rather than rejigging just a few teams.

DevOps encompasses all of IT and aligns it more closely to the business, are you reorganising your Enterprise effectively to compete with everyone else who is?

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