Key takeaways from DevOps Deadlock webinar

Key takeaways from DevOps Deadlock webinar

No comments

On Thursday 8th November 2018, Andy Cureton (ECS Digital), Jen Thomson (IDC) and Dave Gore (Lloyds Banking Group) presented on ‘How to get past the DevOps Deadlock’.

This coming together of industry experts gave an exclusive look into how organisations are utilising DevOps. More importantly, it looked at how organisations are moving past the experimental stage to successfully adopt DevOps at scale.

This ability to get past what has been coined as ‘DevOps deadlock’ an approach that utilizes new KPIs spanning the cultural, business, process, technology and talent/staffing changes required for any business transformation that utilizes DevOps.

Accelerating the DevOps Journey

Jen Thomson drew on IDC’s latest research, shining a light on how different organisations are accelerating their DevOps journey to get to what IDC are terming ‘DevOps Determined’.

Whilst unicorns and digital natives are already starting to reap some real benefits from early DevOps adoption, Jen explains that the journey for the majority of organisations is far from over.

In reality, the journey to enterprise scale DevOps is only just beginning. Out of the 60% of organisations who have already adopted a DevOps methodology, each belongs to one of two distinct groups:

  1. Protagonists or DevOps Determined. These make up 40% of large European organisations talking to IDC
  2. DevOps Distracted. These organisations prioritise other challenges and find it hard to scale beyond the DevOps experimental stage. They make up the remaining 60% of large organisations talking to IDC

The performance gap between these two groups continues to widen, with Jen noting that 57% of ‘distracted’ organisation are at a DevOps deadlock, unable to get past the challenges and bottlenecks they face internally.

Moving past the DevOps Deadlock

Whilst DevOps deadlock is a challenge, organisations can and are successfully breaking this transformation blocker.

Andy Cureton, Founder of ECS Digital, pinpointed four key traits businesses are adopting in order to gain traction in their programs. These are:

  • Structure
  • Communication
  • The supporting organisation
  • Enabling transformation

What was interesting about Andy’s talk was that whilst he recognises that DevOps isn’t mandatory, DevOps methodologies, new tooling and ways of working are well proven. How to adopt these at scale across an organisation, however, are not.

The businesses succeeding at scale are those with a central framework, structure or program in place that is coordinating the transformation activities across the organisation.

Taking work that is completed in one area of an organisation such as a CI/CD pipeline and bottling it up to create a quick start or accelerator so that it can be simply leveraged by other areas of the organisation is critical to amplifying the return on the investment. A centralised library is typically used to capture and publicise what is available. Andy described this as the ‘secret source’ to magnifying the benefit going forward.

Another interesting point Andy raised was that ‘fear of change is a phenomenally powerful inhibitor at an Enterprise Scale’. You need to be able to sell the benefits to the individuals who will be impacted by the change of the program, on channels and in ways easily digested by your audience. The aim is to create a pull effect for the transformation rather than magnifying the inertia typically present in established organisations by not focusing on communication.

Whilst most DevOps determined look to retake control of app development and IT operations, they still need the people, know-how and business acumen to drive these changes in a way that stakeholders can buy in to. Having a partner like ECS Digital enables you to strike this balance of accelerating your transformation and enabling your internal teams to become self-sufficient so you can run on your own.

One of the ways ECS Digital is helping organisations facing the conundrum of going faster and insourcing engineering talent is through an offering called Enablement Pods. Perfect for the modern organisation looking to move past their own DevOps deadlock.

Succeeding with DevOps

Talking about a transformation might seem like progressive thinking, but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Dave Gore, Engineering Transformation Lead at Lloyds Banking Group (LBG), described what it takes to get a transformation off the ground and the fundamental pillars to making that transformation a success.

Dave started by explaining that starting the DevOps conversation is mostly about the people in an enterprise scale organisation. If you are able to hold a good conversation across that community, then you’ve started your transformation off on the right foot.

To secure this crucial buy-in from all stakeholders, you need to sell the principles of the programme and set out outcomes (benefits) that it will deliver to the business. You also need to create an environment where your engineers feel empowered to create outstanding technology solutions for both colleagues and customers.

Once both have been established, you need to find something real and take the plunge! Dave explained that getting started is often the hardest part in an enterprise scale organisation. There will always be a myriad of options, stakeholders, what-if scenarios etc. Identifying one anchor point that you can scale and build from makes it an easier first step – never easy, just easier.

By structuring your programme in this way, you are giving yourself the opportunity to showcase the challenges and achievements encountered with these new ways of working, tools and technologies and continue the conversation that remains so fundamental to its success.

Since starting their journey, LBG have seen a lot happen and 2018 was no different. By following the above principles, LBG have started to see rapid adoption of DevOps methodologies across the business. And whilst these took effort to reach, they have unlocked other valuable areas of LBG.

In Dave’s words, this has made the initial commitment and investment in moving the dial on how LBG do things worthwhile, establishing positive change and building very different capabilities in the organisation today.

What are your next steps?

Whilst Dave, Jen and Andy provided exclusive insights into how businesses have been successfully adopting DevOps practices at scale, the above is only the tip of the iceberg. If you would like to learn more specifically the ways of working, tools, and technologies that could accelerate your transformation out of a deadlock, get in touch today.

If you would like to watch webinar, click here now.

Andy CuretonKey takeaways from DevOps Deadlock webinar
read more
10X developers. Does your company really need one?

10X developers. Does your company really need one?

No comments

10 average detectives versus one Sherlock Holmes – who will solve the crime faster?

The 10x developer is adeptly called so because, in theory, they bear the capabilities of 10 developers.

That’s right. Legend has it that a handful of these ‘Rockstar’ developers live and breathe in the tech space, operating at such speed that they outpace their counterparts on every level. Jessica Kerr is said to be one such developer – although her take on 10x developers is that a person will always appear to be 10x more effective than average if he/she is working on familiar code using familiar tools in a familiar environment.

While some remain sceptic, Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape, agrees that “five great programmers can completely outperform 1,000 mediocre programmers.” He also believes that “the gap between what a highly productive person can do and what an average person can do is getting bigger and bigger.”

Mark Zuckerberg is another believer in the Rockstar employee. When asked why he was willing to pay $47 million to acquire FriendFeed – a price that translated to about $4 million per employee – Zuckerberg replied “someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good.” And in Zuckerberg’s eyes, FriendFeed were “100 times better” than their counterparts.

Whilst we don’t doubt the plausibility of a Rockstar developer, we feel there are some faults to the logic.

We are also not convinced that businesses should be spending time and money (millions in some cases) trying to hunt these Rockstars down. Not only does it feed into the allure of the lone wolves, rogue elephants and the socially aloof, we believe businesses will have greater success if they focus on attracting the best talent possible to create a well-assembled team that overwhelms with collective capabilities.

Here’s why:

Complete creative freedom is a rare treat

Programming is not a manual labour, but a creative profession. How fast you write code should therefore not be a measure of productivity. What separates an average developer with an experienced one is the knowledge, recognition of redundant parts, and coding abilities that allow them to write the correct code first time, every time.

Programming is also a choices game.

One great programmer will make “great” decisions at every stage whereas an average programmer, you guessed it, will make “average” quality choices. The costs or benefits of these decisions will multiply through the business, for better or worst. And this is just one reason why businesses would look to investment in the ‘rare but great’.

Combine the ability to architecturally design a program with the sub-design of implementing the strategy and this is where a Rockstar developer can really come into their own. The more ‘goal-oriented’ the task, the greater opportunity a 10x developer has to flex their abilities to creatively create a solution with a lot less effort.

However, when the task becomes more rigid in nature – including dictations about what tools to use and an expected process – this opportunity is weakened. Whilst developers can exploit ‘local’ design possibilities, they do not have the freedom to fundamentally change the course of action or actively tweak the specification of the project to allow the same goal to be reached with a fraction of the effort.

What this tells us is that certain projects have the potential for more skilled developers to shine. But when the majority of your work is dictated by guidelines set by clients, you’re unlikely to get a good return on a ‘Rockstar’ investment.

For every one Rockstar, there are ten developers clearing up the mess

The morecommon way for 10x programmers to exist is by generating enough technical debt to keep ten other developers busy in the trail blaze. One developer ends up looking more productive because work is being produced (at a questionable standard but impressive rate), whilst the rest of the team becomes less productive as a result.

The irony is, management will often direct more resources to this superstar based on their ability to ‘get things done’, including jobs where writing new code is required. And yet, as I’m sure any developer will tell you, writing five lines of code in an existing code base is fundamentally more taxing than producing hundreds of lines of new code.

We spoke earlier about coding speed not being an appropriate measure for productivity. But we’d like to go further and support Dave Nicolette’s view that productivity itself can’t be a measure either, since it does not take into consideration the value or quality of the output. He instead looks to effectivenessas a fairer judge:

“effectiveness implies more than just delivering the customer-defined business value of the work items in our backlog”.

If your Rockstar develops quickly but leaves behind enough technical tech to keep your other developers from producing value-add work, it might be time to put them on the bench.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

Avichal Garg notes that start-ups lean more towards individual Rockstars, while larger companies tend to recruit for individuals who possess specific technical skills. There are a couple of reasons for this difference in approach:

For start-ups:
  • There simply isn’t a need, or the budget to fill a room full of engineers
  • Because managing engineering teams is incredibly hard, it’s easier to think about hiring a few “10x” engineers than it is to think about designing processes that create 10x teams
  • When initiating a start-up, people often wear a variety of hats until resources allow these to live across different teams/roles in the business – as seen in larger organisations
For larger companies:
  • Rockstar engineers may actually be counter to business goals
  • A business’s unit of productivity is a team – you need to maximise the output across a broad set of people

If you’ve ever watched Moneyball (2011 film featuring Brad Pitt), you’d probably agree with how larger companies address their recruitment. There is also a strong consensus within the Agile community that the formation of cross-functional teams is of greater benefit than separate work groups.

There is also concern that team context isn’t considered when identifying individual 10x developers. If an individual appears to function at 10x while a member of a high-performing team, they may not function the same in a different environment, and their perfo

rmance will certainly suffer if they work with no team support at all – especially when considering the section above.

It is about creating a 10x team, rather than fielding one 10x engineer.

And to create a 10x team, it is no longer enough for an engineer to be good at their job. You need individuals that consistently compliment each other, are good communicators and can comfortably work with others. They need to be able to up-skill their team, up-skill their client’s teams and scale quickly when a business grows – which will be a hard task if you’re waiting for a unicorn to knock on your door.

Conclusion:

At this point we would like to reiterate that like star musicians, athletes, scientists, and political leaders, star developers are exceedingly rare. If you create a hiring strategy focused solely on hiring ‘Rockstars’, your business, and Dev team, will end up looking lonely. And whilst a one-man-band may be good for space saving, culture and agile working could be hampered.

Whilst we don’t deny that there are some incredibly talented developers out there, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Hire the best engineers you can get and give them ample opportunity to develop into a 10x team that is going to best support your business goals. And remember:

  • A bargain is only a bargain if you can afford it.
  • A genius whose abilities cannot be leveraged in your organisational context is no longer a genius.
  • As engineers we know never to engineer a single points of failure into a service. A developer as a core element of delivering and supporting a service is no different.

 

Andy Cureton10X developers. Does your company really need one?
read more
Latest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…

Latest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…

No comments

ECS Digital announced the official unveiling of their Enablement Pod offering yesterday at DevOps World | Jenkins World, the annual gathering of DevOps practitioners using Jenkins for continuous delivery.

Understanding that business-wide transformations take time and involve multi-year programmes, ECS Digital have designed Enablement Pods to help clients effect change and realise value in the short and long term.

Enablement Pods are a collection of outcome-focused sprints that handpicks specialist teams to deliver the people, resources and capabilities their clients’ need, when they need them. These Pods help enterprises transform at scale by embedding – for short periods – in existing engineering teams to enable new ways of working, tooling and technology.

The unique feature of ECS Digital’s Enablement Pods is that they – and ECS Digital’s success – are measured against KPIs defined in Sprint Zero. By tying success to business outcomes, clients are guaranteed a real return on investment. And if ECS Digital don’t hit the agreed outcomes, customers get a return on the revenue invested.

Each additional sprint to the Sprint Zero provides an opportunity to showcase and review progress ensuring maximum value from all activities. Sprints last between two weeks and resources are dependent on specific project and sprint KPIs. Another unique feature of ECS Digital’s Enablement Pods is that their resource profile remains dynamic to satisfy the different skills requirements of sprint KPIs.

ECS Digital have begun using Enablement Pods as an essential tool to deliver transformation at scale for their prolific customers. In addition to exceeding project KPIs, ECS Digital have enhanced value by enabling internal teams so they become self-sufficient and architect solutions designed to survive tomorrow’s challenges, not just todays.

 

“ECS Digital’s input has added an extra level of intelligence which has enabled us to build on the capacity under their guidance. We have grown in our capabilities over these past 12 months and developed the skillsets of our internal team through additional training. If we have any DevOps or automation or platform requirements in the future, we won’t bother going to tender, we will go straight to ECS Digital.” Matthew Bates, IT Director at ThinkSmart

Enablement Pod outcomes:

  • For each £1 invested in us, we have delivered £3 of annualised savings in the development lifecycle of a Retail Bank core application
  • A 99% reduction of application environment configuration delivery timescales (from 7200 minutes to 3 minutes)
  • Increase quality of testing through automation as well as timescales of test cycles by over 50%
  • 12x reduction of application delivery cycle

About ECS Digital:

ECS Digital is an experienced digital transformation consultancy, helping clients deliver better products faster through the adoption of DevOps practices.

They are the digital practice of the ECS Group and have been leaders in digital transformation since 2003 – evolving their offerings to support their customers’ evolving needs. They believe in a better way to adopt and deliver new ways of working, processes and technology. A more valuable and outcome focused way of leveraging Enterprise DevOps and Agile testing to help build tomorrow’s enterprises today.

They’ve helped over 100 customers – including Lloyds Banking Group, ASOS, BP plc and Sky – realise the benefits of Enterprise DevOps and Agile Testing and have proactively remained relevant in the face of increasing challenges of customer expectation and market disruption. You can follow the ECS Digital community on LinkedIn and Twitter (@ECS_Digi).

Andy CuretonLatest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…
read more
Succeeding in Enterprise Scale Transformation

Succeeding in Enterprise Scale Transformation

No comments

Enterprise Scale Transformation affects more than just technology.

More so than ever, business growers and revenue enablers are sitting external of companies. Valuable time is being spent waiting for system access, and companies are realising that reworking/upgrading systems isn’t delivering the results they need for tomorrow.

And yet, revenue is being realised in ridiculously short spaces of time with magnifying effects on the rest of the business. Legacy systems are delivering transformational benefits, and communication channels are driving business-wide change at an accelerated rate of adoption.

Andy Cureton will be reviewing six learnings from a year of Enterprise Scale DevOps programmes at this year’s IDC conference, drawing on the experiences of ECS Digital’s experienced digital transformation consultants. You can have a sneak peak of his speech here:

Andy CuretonSucceeding in Enterprise Scale Transformation
read more
DevOps growth is leading to a skills shortage

DevOps growth is leading to a skills shortage

No comments

Now pilot projects are complete, DevOps demand is outstripping talent availability

Andy Cureton, Founder and Managing Director of ECS Digital – winner of the 2018 Best DevOps Consulting Firm award – thinks that the DevOps industry is struggling to meet demand, and will continue to do so in the future as enterprise-scale transformation begins.

Many organisations have now completed their pilot DevOps projects successfully, which are now being or have been replaced by larger transformation programmes across the organisation.

“This is driving a sharp increase in demand for support from partners and a challenge to the industry as a whole to satisfy,” said Cureton. “The larger consultancies and outsourcers are struggling to transform themselves and develop DevOps or agile capabilities at scale, and we predict that this will lead to consolidation in the sector as demand outstrips talent availability.”

ECS is leading some of these enterprise-wide transformation programmes itself, and is rolling out a new as-a-service concept that it calls ‘Enablement Pods‘, combining DevOps, agile testing and automation. Cureton added:

“Whilst all of our transformation programmes leverage enablement rather than long term staff augmentation, we will be actively pursuing ‘Innovation Pods’ going forward. These are in effect full-stack teams: from product owner through to architect, developer, QA and DevOps. This is a key strategic area where we feel we can bring additional benefit to our clients.”

The adoption of DevOps practices will differ from organisation to organisation, and that is where DevOps consultancies like ECS come in. These business can provide advice on tools, methodologies and people.

ECSDigitaloffice-590x129

ECS Digital’s office is based in central London

Cureton thinks that these are some of the most important traits to have in employees and partners when it comes to DevOps:

  • Pragmatic and outcome-orientated;
  • Team player;
  • Empathic;
  • Strong problem solving abilities;
  • Communication.

On the win itself, Cureton said that he and his team were “extremely proud” to have secured the top spot, along with ECS Digital’s Michel Lebeau, who was announced as the Young DevOps Engineer of the Year.

“We’ve continually innovated and evolved our services over the past 15 years to help organisations realise the benefits of adopting DevOps and are proud to be the only DevOps consultancy to offer specialist testing expertise as a foundation element of our offerings.”

He added, “Recognising the work of the team and making them feel part of something bigger has also seen a boost in team morale which is extremely important for our culture – and a good excuse to celebrate!”

The original article was published on Computing.co.uk on May 29th 2018, read the feature here.

At ECS Digital, we help customers deliver better products faster through the adoption of modern software delivery methods. We understand the pain of regulatory compliance, embracing new technology, disruptive competitors, people and skills shortages, and deliver business value through tailored Digital Transformation.

If you’re looking for help accelerating change within your business, get in touch with us here. 

Andy CuretonDevOps growth is leading to a skills shortage
read more
Banking on DevOps

Banking on DevOps

No comments

Andy Cureton, Founder and Managing Director, ECS Digital, looks at how, in a competitive environment, banks and other organisations can use the latest IT and business methodologies to modernise their IT systems to meet customer expectations and comply with regulations.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the banking sector, like many industries, is now more competitive than ever before. There has never been a more difficult time for the big banks in particular, with the disruption from digital innovation hitting everyone hard. Time is running out and, to stay relevant, today’s big banks need to embrace agile methodologies across their entire organisation.

Digital transformation in the banking sector has a unique set of tough challenges, both external and internal. Along with regulatory changes such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Open Banking, there is increasing external pressure from FinTechs, challenger banks and Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA), who have innovation hardwired into their culture and are more customer centric by nature – exactly where many of the more traditional banks fail.

All this set against the background of acquisitions, meaning there are now, in effect, four big banks in the UK. Customers may think they are banking with one bank but are in fact sitting on the systems of another. Take for example TSB, whose customers up until recently have been using Lloyds Banking Group’s core banking systems. This leaves banks with complex ecosystems full of legacy systems which as of now, no bank has completely got to grips with… Add issues of dealing with both structured and unstructured data, it is no wonder changing and updating systems is a complex problem to solve.

DevOps – an approach to IT where software developers and IT operations combine their skills and responsibilities to produce software and infrastructure services rapidly, frequently and reliably by standardising and automating processes –  can help organisations such as banks to address the issues they face. These challenges include overhauling and modernising legacy systems without additional risk and addressing the thorny issue of testing. To remain relevant, organisations need to change their culture one step at a time.  Challenger banks are leap-frogging old-fashioned ways of working in favour of agile practices that promote innovation. GAFA have high-performing Digital/DevOps-native cultures with levels of innovation, efficiency and customer centricity that most organisations can only dream of. But the good news is that any organisation can incorporate these ways of working into their culture and harness the power of DevOps.

 

The Myth of DevOps

It’s a myth that legacy issues mean DevOps practices can’t be applied, that the only solution is to rearchitect and replace. Technologies such as containerisation and data virtualisation, coupled with automation, can improve the speed and quality of change in existing systems, whilst reducing reliance on increasingly scarce and expensive specialists. The concept of containerisation essentially allows virtual instances to share a single host operating system and relevant binaries, libraries or drivers. Data virtualisation, on the other hand, provides the ability to create multiple virtual copies of a physical data set without the requirement for the same physical storage.  These virtual copies can be created very quickly and then used independently by environments for testing and even production, with only the differences to the base data set being stored.  Functionality such as bookmarking and data masking further enhance the performance and storage benefits.

Changing mind-sets, organisational culture and building confidence in new ways of working is essential to getting the most value from DevOps adoption. DevOps provides a structured way of working to improve management frameworks and reduce a product’s time to market, taking it from several months to perhaps weeks. Additionally, it can help to strengthen governance and regulatory compliance across the business whilst increasing innovation and agility.

While many banks intend to adopt new technologies, the execution is often mixed. The first step is accepting that the world of finance is changing and there is a better, different way of doing things. You are only as fast as your slowest link. Any system that is slow and process-heavy will hold back an organisation from moving at the pace their customers expect – and indeed demand – in today’s 24/7 world. If such systems are not improved they limit innovation and become a risk in themselves, as faster, more agile competitors are appearing across the finance sector.

 

A Better, Different Way

Testing has a very important role within the banking sector; ensuring continuous testing is taking place makes regulatory compliance easier to achieve and maintain. The introduction of automation in the testing process can actually reduce the risk of change by removing the opportunity for human error and increasing the achievable test coverage.

Getting the testing strategy right can help make the transformational changes more achievable, by reducing both cost and time taken to deliver quality software. Testing in banks is done thoroughly, but it needs to happen earlier in the Software Development Life Cycle, a concept known as “Shifting left”. Testing is typically manual, time- consuming and error-prone. This creates bottlenecks and slows down the flow of change, depleting both the time and resources available for innovation.

Automation brings additional benefits. It speeds up the provisioning of environments and data, and also delivers cost savings. Inconsistent and over-provisioned environments can result in unpredictable outages. The cost in downtime and testers’ time to fix environments is considerable when calculated over the course of a year with multiple instances, each taking two to three days to fix. Configuration management tools such as Ansible and Puppet give businesses increased control over downtime costs by using automation to ensure environments are fit for purpose; Containers provide the ability to instantly replace environments that are out of sync.

DevOps brings with it a licence to fail – but fail fast – something which is essential for real innovation to exist – with processes in place to spot, learn from and remedy failure quickly and early. In this way, teams are encouraged to be proactive, accepting and understanding of their impact on each decision or change in a blame-free environment. Failure demonstrates that boundaries are being tested and are an opportunity to learn.

 

The Journey to Increase Innovation and Agility

Banks are slowly changing their organisational structures and operating models to bring the business and IT closer together – although such is the risk-averse nature of the industry, that an aversion to quick change is almost built in. But it doesn’t have to be this way – DevOps is not risky in any way when properly introduced. In fact, getting the culture and working methodologies right can help to strengthen governance and regulatory compliance across the business whilst increasing innovation and agility.

Ultimately, DevOps adoption is a journey. Many organisations don’t have a blank sheet of paper to start from like challenger banks, FinTechs and GAFA. So, unless they build separately on the side, they’ll always have a heritage challenge. That challenge does, however, come with tried and tested operational processes – which typically demonstrate greater resilience and availability than their nimbler competition. This approach is being pioneered by Scandinavian bank, Nordic Nous, who are using new technology to build a new customer bank alongside the existing bank. Over the past decade, they have thrown away their legacy technologies and invested heavily in the right frameworks to adopt agile practices. Combining heritage with the agility, quality and compliance benefits of DevOps gives banks formidable capability with which to compete in the digital era.

The original article was published on Acquisition International, read the feature here.

At ECS Digital, we help customers deliver better products faster through the adoption of modern software delivery methods. We understand the pain of regulatory compliance, embracing new technology, disruptive competitors, people and skills shortages, and deliver business value through tailored Digital Transformation.

If you’re looking for help accelerating change within your business, get in touch with us here.

Andy CuretonBanking on DevOps
read more
Why traditional banks need DevOps to remain competitive

Why traditional banks need DevOps to remain competitive

No comments

The banking landscape is changing at an accelerating rate, and competition in the sector has never been greater. Traditional banks are encountering threats from multiple sources, all of which need to be met and mitigated head on if these banking giants are to stay relevant and competitive.

On one side there are the nimble challenger banks who boast smaller, easier to manage product sets. On another are the regulatory changes including Open Banking and the EU’sGeneral Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). And the digital unicorns ofGoogle, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA) are already beginning to stake their own claims on the banking world with their innovation-driven culture, and immense worldwide customer scale and data.

The internal threat to traditional banks is no less pressing; the majority are reliant on legacy systems that are slow, bulky and process-heavy. And it is these systems that will hold the banks back from moving at the pace their customers expect and demand. Tied into this is another issue – that of skills shortages. As time goes by, legacy skills are becoming less and less available, and can only be bought at a premium.

 

Unlocking the Value in Legacy Systems 

Time is running out for the traditional banks; if they are to stay relevant they need to embrace agile methodologies across their entire organization – and this is where DevOps can help. It’s true that, for most banks, re-engineering and replacing these bulky legacy systems with modern technology simply isn’t feasible. In most cases it would involve unpalatable levels of risk and would require a capital investment bigger than they could withstand.

A more viable solution is to work with the systems they have, using DevOps practices and tooling to bring them up to speed. DevOps is an approach to IT where software developers and IT operations combine their skills and responsibilities to produce software and infrastructure services rapidly, frequently and reliably by standardising and automating processes. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not purely for new, startup or unicorn companies. Adopting DevOps principles and practices allows companies to unlock value in the systems they already have. It allows them to move as fast as the rest of the marketplace – so maintaining their competitiveness, compliance and, ultimately, profitability.

 

gb100518-10

 

Changing the Legacy Mindset

In the more traditional banks, it is common for people and teams to have very set ways of working, often within distinct siloes. To ease the cultural challenges associated with the adoption of new ways of working, it’s important to involve the teams that will be impacted, and help them to fully engage with the benefits both to the business and to their own professional development.

Creating small, interconnected teams, all working towards a common, achievable goal backed by a considered plan of how to get there makes the transition much more palatable. The agility that creating these integrated, task-focused teams allows, means they can find the optimal balance between speed, control and risk management, therefore improving efficiency and reducing the time to market of any new and fully compliant products.

The key to gaining the most benefit from the DevOps way of working for any business is to understand fully what they are trying to achieve, and which elements are best placed to be transformed to help meet those goals.

 

Regulation vs Innovation

Since the banking crisis of 2008, regulations have grown even tougher. Banks are being closely scrutinised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority. They also have to adhere to the data management requirements of GDPR and similar regulations in other countries and regions. At the same time, the Payment Services Directive II has given customers access to more innovative and flexible financial services through third-party internet and mobile banking solutions. Keeping up with consumer demands, whilst complying with these new regulations is a fine balancing act.

Banks must keep an eye on every regulatory change, whilst at the same time innovating in order to stay competitive. The risks of a single mistake at any point in the development process, especially of core systems, could have serious repercussions.

The DevOps methodology of collaboration between business and IT teams can mitigate some of these risks. It ensures regulatory compliance is built into products from the start, and allows any subsequent changes to regulations to be easily and quickly trialled, tested and implemented. The focus on automation,which is part of DevOps, in turn provides the auditability and visibility needed to demonstrate compliance, and cuts down on the need for manual overheads – a huge financial drain on most of the major banks.

 

Automating to Rise to the Challenge

As well as the demands of data security and the new, stricter regulations, traditional banks are also facing competition from challenger banks and GAFA – many of whom have DevOps built into the core of their processes and systems.To rise to these demands, they need to achieve digital transformation at all levels of the bank.

DevOps brings people, processes and technology together, working more collaboratively in order to speed up and improve the quality of the development process, and take software to market faster. Paramount to this is the need to get testing practices right.

Traditionally, testing is a manual and time-consuming process, and typically prone to errors. It commands huge amounts of resource, which are unavailable for innovation. To test effectively, DevOps/agile testing processes use anonymised production-like data; data that is consistent and quality assured – that can be replicated in real production-like scenarios and automated, ensuring consistency across the data being used for each set of tests.

As well as speed and efficiency, automation also produces cost savings. It reduces the risk of human error and allows increased test coverage in a shorter period of time – which in turn reduces the number of unpredictable and costly outages, with their associated downtime while a fix is sought. The failure of TSB to migrate its customer data without serious operational and security incidents, highlights some of the worst possible outcomes.

One top five UK bank is working towards a solution where all processes are automated or orchestrated, including testing. This would dramatically reduce lead times and delays in projects and provide considerable efficiencies in their end-to-end delivery model.

 

A Shift in Culture

The threats from challenger banks and GAFA to the more traditional banks are pressing. And the only way the traditional banks can meet those threats head on is to adapt their cultures to suit more modern ways of working – both at a leadership and a team level.

Leaders within these big banks need to embrace and promote a culture where it’s acceptable to fail – with the emphasis on identifying, learning from and, of course, remedying those failures as quickly and early as possible. They must recognise the need to constantly embrace new ways of doing things – instilling a culture of continuous improvement and growth. One way to achieve this is by running agile ‘experiments’across multiple teams and locations. These experiments can be used to assess the benefits of new methodologies and tools whilst, at the same time, focusing on communication and collaboration across the teams.

Ultimately, DevOps adoption is a journey. For big banks the challenge is to make this journey from a cumbersome heritage system to a modern, agile way of working as seamless and efficient as possible. The rewards of doing so will be a formidable capability with which to compete in the digital era.

 

The original article was published on Global Banking & Finance review on May 10th 2018, read the feature here.

 

At ECS Digital, we help customers deliver better products faster through the adoption of modern software delivery methods. We understand the pain of regulatory compliance, embracing new technology, disruptive competitors, people and skills shortages, and deliver business value through tailored Digital Transformation.

If you’re looking for help accelerating change within your business, get in touch with us here. 

Andy CuretonWhy traditional banks need DevOps to remain competitive
read more
ECS Digital win twice at this year’s Computing DevOps Excellence awards

ECS Digital win twice at this year’s Computing DevOps Excellence awards

No comments

The ECS Digital team is extremely proud to have taken home not one, but two awards from last night’s Computing DevOps Excellence awards.

Voted ‘Best DevOps Consulting Firm’, the panel of judges recognised our contribution within the DevOps space, with over a decade of delivering successful projects across multiple industries, territories and technologies.

But the fun didn’t stop there. Our very own Michel Lebeau was named ‘Young DevOps Engineer of the Year’.This award is a tribute to his continued commitment to exceeding customers’ expectations, no matter how much effort and self-sacrifice is necessary.

Our diverse and highly-skilled team is the reason we maintain a leading position helping enterprises transform through the adoption of DevOps. These awards are testament to the team’s singular focus of helping our customers meet and exceed their goals through the adoption of modern ways of working and technology. Every customer is unique and each project has challenges that require partnering in true sense of the word. 

I would like to congratulate to everyone at ECS Digital for their win last night, and thank both our customers and partners for making it possible! 

Get in touch to find out how ECS Digital can help you.  

Andy Cureton Michel Lebeau

Andy CuretonECS Digital win twice at this year’s Computing DevOps Excellence awards
read more
ECS Digital Acquires QAWorks

ECS Digital Acquires QAWorks

No comments

London-based ECS Digital, the specialist DevOps division of the ECS Group, has acquired QAWorks, the UK’s leading technical software testing organisation.  

QAWorks is recognised in the industry as the home of the Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET). Studies suggest that 31% of IT budgets are being spent on testing1 which is set to rise over the coming years as a result of growing demands on organisations to increase innovation and time to market and reduce associated cost.

This acquisition is part of ECS Digital’s strategy to reduce the time and cost of delivering software and software-related services by including practices such as Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) and Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) as core elements of all DevOps transformations.

The combined company will be known as ECS Digital and have a turnover approaching £10 million which is expected to continue to grow over 100% year on year.

The combination of specialist testing expertise with proven – and rare – DevOps experience will ensure that the company’s customers – who are across all sectors, with the majority in finance and retail, can realise even greater outcomes from digital transformation. DevOps is a methodology that helps companies create software and software-related services such as internet banking, faster, at lower cost and with improved quality.

Andy Cureton, Founder and Managing Director, ECS Digital, commented:

“This is, as far as we are aware, the first time that a specialist DevOps company has integrated to this extent with a specialist testing company.  We believe the deal will make ECS Digital unique as we will be the only consultancy to offer specialist testing practices as a foundation element of our DevOps offerings as well as in their own right. This acquisition is driven by the need for greater levels of innovation and customer engagement within many companies, and the ever-rising benchmark of high performance. By combining testing and DevOps, companies can ensure that software is designed with how the customer is going to use it in mind and tested on that basis. Development and delivery will be accelerated as testing is done as part of development rather than separately.”

He added “With over 14 years’ experience in DevOps and digital transformation (ECS Digital) we could not have found a more experienced software testing team (17 years) than QAWorks. Combining the rare skillset of the SDET with the equally rare DevOps skillset, will enable us to meet our customers’ growing demands and further our position as a leader in DevOps and Digital Transformation.“

ECS Digital is part of ECS Group, headquartered in Scotland.  The ECS Group delivers an extensive range of services, from Cloud adoption to cyber-security to DevOps for many FTSE 100 companies.  With the acquisition of QAWorks, ECS Digital will have one of the largest pools of SDET and DevOps engineers in the UK.

QAWorks develops testing software as well as providing agile testing consultancy and implementation.

Jason Westhorpe, MD, QAWorks, said:

“The services offered by ECS Digital complement and enhance the services we currently offer our customers. For true DevOps to be successful it is essential that continuous testing / test automation is in place, likewise for the benefits of test automation to be realised we need an effective DevOps strategy. With the integration of two of the UK’s leaders in these fields, both the existing QAWorks customers and ECS Digital customers will gain the greater benefit from the adoption of DevOps.”

He continued, “Continuous Delivery and DevOps has seen the once independent disciplines of infrastructure automation, continuous integration, deployment automation and so on, merge into software delivery pipelines. Businesses that are increasingly reorganising around products or customer journeys and adopting DevOps and Continuous Delivery practices, are now benefitting the most. It’s no longer enough to be a specialist in one discipline such as testing.   It is rare to find companies with the skills to provide DevOps to large corporations, so we are delighted to be teaming up with a company of the calibre of ECS Digital.”

According to Gartner, by 2020, DevOps initiatives will cause 50% of enterprises to implement continuous testing using frameworks and open-source quality tools.2

1 https://www.finextra.com/blogs/fullblog.aspx?blogid=14322

http://www.gartner.com/events-na/applications/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/07/predicts_2017_application_de_316983.pdf

Andy CuretonECS Digital Acquires QAWorks
read more