Q&A: The Evolution of the term ‘DevOps’

Q&A: The Evolution of the term ‘DevOps’

Use of DevOps practices has soared in recent years. Commonly, this is the result of an increased number of organisations seeking to respond more effectively to their business challenges with agile methodologies and ways of working. And yet, the term ‘DevOps’ seems to be diluting at a similar pace.

People appear to be referring to their own digital transformations by referencing DevOps practices without necessarily having these in place – certainly not in the traditional sense. Is the term ‘DevOps’ simply losing its specificity, or is it becoming altogether redundant? Or should the term DevOps embrace a widened context in the wake of changing industry trends?

We sat down with both ECS Digital’s Founder & Managing Director, Andy Cureton, and Head of DevOps, Jason Man, to discuss the evolution of DevOps as a practice, and how the term ‘DevOps’ looks to be changing.

Here’s what they had to say:

Q: How would you summarise DevOps in a sentence or two?

Jason: “DevOps is about delivering speed, quality and business value. It’s not about the technology out there or using the right tech to be captivating your audience, but actually about what business value it’s bringing”.

Andy: “DevOps is about aligning all areas of an organisation to leverage modern ways of work and technology to deliver the target business outcomes.”.

 

Q: Have you heard customers, or people from within the industry describe DevOps in other ways?

Jason: “People tend to use terms like digital transformation, engineering capability, platform engineering as a way to describe the DevOps methodology as a whole, broadening the term far beyond its traditional meaning. DevOps is the overall encapsulating term for all the different practices, one term which has risen and what I see may be the next term for this is Customer Experience (CX).  CX is on the rise as this is ultimately what organisations look to improve, how they achieve this would be implementing DevOps practices, adopting agile methodologies and so forth.”.

Andy: “Engineering or Digital Transformation are more commonly used to describe programmes of work to adopt DevOps. One of the reasons for this is the overuse of the term ‘DevOps’.  There is also the challenge in the breadth of things that the term DevOps is being used to describe. I believe this reflects the broader adoption in the industry where there are organisations well advanced on their journey and those at or towards the beginning. There are comparatively few in between. The early adopters have provided the hard data around DevOps that has led to the conclusion that it is essential to the success and survival of businesses. At one end of the spectrum you can find people referring to DevOps practices to describe the introduction of source code management or continuous integration. At the other end the same term is used to refer to continuous deployment to dynamic serverless production infrastructure 10s of times a day yet there is no distinction in how the term is being used. For this reason, people tend to refer to the specific technology or practice, for example continuous delivery or continuous integration rather than the overarching term DevOps.

 

Q: Is there an element of the ‘Cloud-wash’ effect happening?

Andy: “Yes. People attach the word DevOps to everything in the same way they attach the word Cloud to everything as a way of implying modern, cool, agile or technologically advanced. In both instances, it betrays what true DevOps or Cloud is and creates a negative stigma around the terms. A CIO told me over a year ago that he “would be shot if he went to the board to ask for money to do DevOps” and that the conversation to have would be about investment to reduce lead time to production, increase service availability etc.

Jason: “The DevOps term is being overused, unlike the Agile Manifesto, there is no definitive way to describe if you have adopted DevOps or not. It could be as simple as adopting a CI server or going full blown immutable infrastructure with every part of your pipeline provided “as a service”. DevOps is a bit like a New Years’ Resolution, in the sense that at the beginning of the year everyone sets out good intentions to introduce a new resolution. It’s almost like everybody feels they need to have one and most will set out to stick to one. But then after a couple of months, the novelty wears off and they lose their discipline and go back to how things were originally.

 

Q: How have you seen the DevOps methodology evolving, and do you think the term should evolve too?

Jason: “DevOps is a continually evolving term, as the whole concept is constantly improving. In 2009 – when the term came into place – you can actually see that there has been quite a lot of improvement. DevOps didn’t used to involve containers but now they’ve come in recently. Serverless is coming in and now people are talking about Machine Learning and AI being introduced too. Whether or not it will remain being called DevOps, that is something to look out for, but ultimately it continues to evolve. We do see that the traditional practices are now being adopted at scale across all sectors including finance and public sectors. The newer and niche practices are setting out on their early adopters and proving its value, which hopefully will end up with scalable enterprise adoption.”

Andy: “As discussed earlier the use of DevOps practices has exploded as their benefits have been increasingly documented. The practices themselves have not evolved but with increased adoption and advancement of technology, they have been applied to different use case and technologies. For example, using AI/ML to perform previously manual exploratory testing, container technologies being applied to use cases ranging from technology currency to cloud migration.

 

Q: What do you see in the future for DevOps? Is there a risk the term will die out as its scope widens?

Andy: “DevOps practices have become a critical element to the success and survival of companies in this increasingly software driven world. The term will die out for two reasons. Firstly, because it is overused and attached to things incorrectly it has diminished in value. Secondly, the term will die because the practices that DevOps covers are now becoming the new normal. These practices including continuous integration and continuous delivery will however continue to be referred to. As mentioned before, the benefits seen by organisations who have adopted DevOps are well documented and transformational to the fortunes of those companies. As IDC says DevOps is no longer optional, it’s mandatory. It is therefore becoming the new normal.

Jason: “The term DevOps will die, and I would almost say that it has died. It will be termed under a different methodology due to its overuse. IT has gone through this change many, many times. I have only been in the industry for 10 years and I’ve seen three different methodologies that cover the same thing.

With regards to its scope, in the past organisations used to outsource engineering capability because it was seen as a cheaper methodology to run. But more recently, people are bringing this back in house as they have the talent available. I can see people in the future saying the cost is too high and we should outsource again specially if they are not seeing the results the market is promising. It is a continually evolving methodology, every organisation is a software company hopefully with the ultimate goal to improve customer experience.”

 

Q: Where are the areas of DevOps that need additional tools or support to help optimise its capabilities?

Andy: “DevOps isn’t about tools; DevOps refers to a group of ways of working and practices. These practices can and are being applied to new technologies and use cases that will see the use of “DevOps” evolve and grow. The question should therefore be, what are the technologies and use cases that need DevOps practices to optimise them? These will continue to be uncovered as new technologies or use cases for existing technologies are discovered.

Jason: “An area that is still underplayed or underutilised is the data side of things – people are talking about collating data and baseline metrics, but I feel like there is room to improve and manage this data. Everything flows through systems and computers and we need to look at how we can analyse this data in a better form because actually, in order to continually improve, you can’t always be looking, discovering or finding out what is it that we need to improve. Whereas if you have a proper data metric system, you can immediately know what’s needed. This space is overcrowded already but I would go as far as saying there is no outright leader in the space”.

 

With the increase in businesses undergoing Digital Transformation, DevOps has become an industry buzzword. A way for businesses to feel like and project externally that they are achieving the same as others, without fully understanding what it means to adopt DevOps. As we’ve seen with terms such as Cloud and agile, as the frequency of use increases, the murkier the meaning becomes.

Puppet’s VP of Ecosystem Engineering, Nigel Kersten states that an increasing number of people will claim that DevOps is ‘dead,’ not because the practice is dead, but more that the “lessons from the DevOps movement [will] become increasingly internalised in new companies and projects, [where] we’ll stop seeing the cool kids talk about it at all.” This was a prediction of Andy’s some time ago which he spoke about within a 2016 DevOps Online article – he stated that DevOps will no longer be called DevOps as it will become the new normal, an integral part of all companies without any questions asked.

Andy CuretonQ&A: The Evolution of the term ‘DevOps’
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Five ways Artificial Intelligence is already impacting DevOps

Five ways Artificial Intelligence is already impacting DevOps

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have gained a lot of media attention over the past few years. Many commentators have pointed out how these new technologies are going to create new and interesting developments in a variety of fields – from law to medicine, transportation to education. At ECS Digital, we see AI and ML having a direct and lasting impact on DevOps, and here’s why.

DevOps is a business-driven approach to delivering software, creating an intense collaboration between developer and operations. Whilst human input remains an important cog within the system, DevOps focuses on encouraging businesses to automate repeatable processes to encourage efficiency, reduce variability and improve quality at every stage of the pipeline.

Artificial intelligence vs humans – posted on Targetprocess

 

Emerging AI tools stand to generate even bigger gains. Set to transform how teams develop, deliver, deploy and manage applications, AI and ML perform tasks which would have traditionally required human intelligence. Most notably, these technologies are capable of processing vast amounts of information – picking up the menial tasks and freeing up IT staff to do more targeted work. They can learn patterns, anticipate complications and recommend solutions, all of which fit perfectly within a DevOps culture.

Essentially, AI makes up the technology that integrates into the DevOps systems – affecting both the tools DevOps teams use, and the people who use them.

Here are five ways that AI can work with DevOps to improve software and delivery for the better:

  1. Feedback on Performance

DevOps uses continuous feedback loops at every stage of the process. This involves gathering huge amounts of data in the form of performance metrics, log files and other reports to provide feedback on the operational performance of running applications.

The more advanced monitoring platforms are already applying machine learning to proactively identify problems early in the process and make recommendations. ML in turn is enhancing the continuous feedback loops critical to DevOps by feeding these recommendations straight back to the relevant teams so they can ensure the application service remains viable.

This means you have the 20 highest priority tasks to hand and your AI system can analyse and help pinpoint certain root causes for you to immediately remediate.

  1. Increased Communication

Communication and feedback within teams is one of the biggest challenges when an organisation moves to a DevOps methodology. The sheer amount of information within a company’s systems forces companies to reconsider how teams are interacting with one another, with most businesses setting up a wider variety of channels to set and revise workflows as quickly as possible.

Many of our own team have experienced being blocked by administrative tasks whilst helping clients adopt new technology and ways of working. These tasks often take several weeks to complete, delaying progress in projects and momentum of change. “In these cases, it is advantageous to have access to self-service portals or ChatBots that will help me to orientate in customers’ infrastructure” – Marian Knotek, DevOps Consultant at ECS Digital.

AI systems such as ChatBots are essential to supporting the automated technology that DevOps offers, helping these communication channels become more streamlined and proactive.

  1. Smooth monitoring

To operate efficiently, DevOps teams need to simplify tasks. This is becoming increasingly more difficult as environments become more complex. The sheer volume of data in today’s dynamic and dispersed application environments has made it tricky for DevOps teams to effectively gather and apply information that can help resolve customer issues.

Start with monitoring tools for example, teams tend to use multiple tools that monitor an application’s health and performance in different ways. Extensive amounts of data produced by various platforms and tools are usually aggregated by tools like Splunk’s Artificial Intelligence for IT operations solution harnesses log, application, cloud, network, metric data and more. By automating routine practices, accuracy and speed of issue recognition are increased and operations become streamlined.

 

Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) platform by Splunk

 

In a nutshell, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning applications are capable of absorbing multiple data streams to find correlations, possible dependencies and issues in the system, giving the team a more holistic view of the application’s overall health.

  1. Prioritise alerts

Alert systems are fundamental to the DevOps culture of ‘fail fast, fail often’. But when a system has been set to flag inconsistencies and flaws in real-time, these can hit the team thick and fast with no differentiation between the severity of the problem – making it difficult for teams to react.

Machine Learning applications can help teams prioritise their responses. Pulling on data such as past behaviour, the magnitude of the alert and the source, DevOps teams can set up rules which enable machines to manage the influx and assort the data when it begins to overwhelm the system.

  1. Improved customer service

Improving the customer journey and providing a positive customer experience (CX) was ranked as the top strategic priority in a survey of global banking organisations for the 2017 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions Digital Banking Report. For many, understanding how users are interacting with their business and tweaking their software in response to these findings is a significant part of creating an all-round better CX. Businesses are also looking for ways to effectively support a 24/7 always on, internet-based, mobile-accessible consumer environment.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning lend themselves perfectly to this landscape. Not only can they collect and analyse data, they can pre-empt questions that may come up during the customer journey and manage the bulk of enquiries to help ease human resource. ITSM tools such as ServiceNow are capable of fashioning a pattern of events before each previous failure is noted. This results in the creation of a support ticket before the event takes place, moving businesses from a reactive to a predictive approach.

This ability to solve a problem before it arises is a huge benefit, significantly lowering customer abandonment rates in the purchasing cycle. It has also been proven to reduce customer complaints and improve consumer satisfaction.

The Future of AI and DevOps

AI, Machine Learning and DevOps – none of these concepts are leaving the conversation any time soon. All are contributing huge amounts to innovation in the tech space and, whilst they are able to operate effectively on their own, there is an interesting dynamic between the maturity of one and the evolution of the others.

The IT industry right now is already in a very different place than where it was five years ago. Whilst DevOps has repeatedly proven its place, this fast development of IT requires reshaping the cultures and mindsets around how we can get the most out of an already successful tool. Most notably, these new approaches towards automated IT enable shouldn’t be ignored. Enterprises that do not make this adjustment and fail to adapt their DevOps efforts to work with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are going to find themselves left behind.

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ECS Digital is an experienced digital transformation consultancy that helps clients deliver better products faster through the adoption of modern software delivery methods. We help our clients transform at scale through the use of Enablement Pods – combining outcome focused teams and value-add sprints.

Our Pods deliver DevOps, CT, Cloud and engineering capabilities in one team. This means you get process, enablement and nearly two decades of experience on top of the first-rate engineering, tooling and testing you would expect.

It also means you have a team on board that can help implement the technology you need to embrace Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and enable your team in modern tools, technology and ways of working.

Want to know how we can benefit your business? Get in touch.

Andy CuretonFive ways Artificial Intelligence is already impacting DevOps
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Key takeaways from DevOps Deadlock webinar

Key takeaways from DevOps Deadlock webinar

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
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10X developers. Does your company really need one?

10X developers. Does your company really need one?

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?
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Latest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…

Latest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…

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…
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Succeeding in Enterprise Scale Transformation

Succeeding in Enterprise Scale Transformation

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
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DevOps growth is leading to a skills shortage

DevOps growth is leading to a skills shortage

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
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Banking on DevOps

Banking on DevOps

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
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Why traditional banks need DevOps to remain competitive

Why traditional banks need DevOps to remain competitive

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.

 

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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
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