Xin’s Story as a QA and Continuous Delivery Consultant

Xin’s Story as a QA and Continuous Delivery Consultant

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My name is Xin Wang, I am a QA and Continuous Delivery Consultant as ECS Digital. I recently published a blog explaining how I went from delivering presentations on Fashion Week 2017 fashion trends, to writing functional tests as a software developer engineer.

Working in a male dominated industry has been very different to what I was used to – the approaches that some male engineers take are sometimes very different to the approach that a female would take. But these perspectives combined give you a much valuable overview which is why I really enjoy working on coding challenges with my colleagues.

Take a look at my video if you are interested in understanding why I switched my career around and how I am continuing with my journey as a software developer engineer.

Xin WangXin’s Story as a QA and Continuous Delivery Consultant
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Open source. Are you part of the community?

Open source. Are you part of the community?

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Open source is a type of licensing agreement – not very exciting. The exciting bit is that it allows users to create and publish work that can be freely used, modified, integrated into larger projects or derived into new work based on the original by other users.

In an age of trade secrets and profit-driven professions, this is a unique platform that actively promotes a global exchange of innovation. It has been specifically designed to encourage contributions so that the software doesn’t stand still. The collective goal of this barrier-free community is the advancement of creative, scientific and technological tools and applications – which for many is more important than a price tag.

Who uses open source?

Although, it is most commonly used in the software industry, professionals adopt open source licenses in many industries including biotech, fashion, robotics and teaching. This article will focus solely on software applications.

What’s interesting is that more and more businesses are contributing their own source code to the community – Facebook, Airbnb, Cyprus are leading examples. According to a 2018 Tidelift Professional Open Source Survey, 92% of projects amongst European respondents contain open source libraries. Whilst on the surface this contradicts conventional commercial instinct, businesses gain a lot by giving away a little. Whilst the benefits are vast, we are going to focus on five:

  1. Competition:

Since the late 90’s and the advancement of the digital age, competition no longer resides simply between two rival companies. Businesses today also find themselves competing with open source software projects that are free, open to the public and constantly evolving.

Due to the current scale of open source contribution, even the giants in the tech industry are struggling to devote the resources or teams large enough to compete with their community counterparts.

Turning to the open source community enables businesses to outsource resource rich projects to a bottomless sea of innovative capabilities. This potentially reduces cost, pressure and speeds up the feedback loop considerably.

  1. Reputation:

In the same way the Big Bang Theory made traditional science nerds cool, the open source community can boost a business’ profile on the cool/not-cool spectrum.

Not only do businesses become more attractive to potential employees, by initiating an open source software project, or contributing to an existing one, they make their mark on an additional and power channel popular within IT circles. If done well, this has the potential to establish, maintain or improve a brand’s image, as well as attract new business.

  1. Advancement:

Helping to advance something as big as the technology industry isn’t something to turn your nose up at. In fact, businesses revel with the idea of having their name against a leading piece of software that has the potential to make history.

But history moves fast. And building software inhouse can be stifled by other business priorities, resource restrictions and other competitors beating you to the finish line.

Rather than building behind closed doors and waiting until your software it is perfect, opening your source code to the community in its earlier stages has two benefits:

  1. You can plant your flag earlier
  2. You invite an endless list of innovative capability to help advance your idea at a rate unlikely attainable behind closed doors

It also acts as an incentive for individuals to feel part of a project than extends far beyond the business they work for.

  1. Trust:

Fake news, data breaches, shady deals – all of these have encouraged people to lose trust in businesses. Including open source projects in company policy encourages business to be more transparent with its consumers. Whilst it is naive to believe a company will lay down all their cards, companies such as Facebook made 15,682 contributions in 2016. Automattic created WordPress as an open source project and currently powers 31% of the internet, and Netflix frequently open sources the tools they develop in-house.

Not only are they strengthening their brand, sharing is showing the world they have nothing to hide – which is a proven way to start winning back trust.

A great example of building this trust through transparency is the cryptocurrency space where many projects including Bitcoin allow you to browse through the project’s source. A very different approach to their corporate counterparts.

  1. Speed:

Many companies face the same problems. Sometimes companies are kind enough to share the solution. If a problem has been solved before and will provide business value in a fraction of the time and half the man power everybody wins.

Contributing to the community also gives you the capability to ask the projects contributors directly questions, ask for features or raise issues enabling you fast feedback which keeps your project moving

How does open source work? 

Contributors create a project and solve a problem. They realise that other people might benefit from this project to solve their problems. The project is shared on an open platform such as GitHub which can be downloaded and used by other users interested in the project.

If users wish to contribute, they can do this by downloading the project, creating a fork (which is an exact replica of a certain part of the pipeline) and editing the code until they are happy with the changes. Users can then request a pull request which notifies the authors that a suggested change is requested.

It is up to the author to approve the change, before deciding whether they want to include the changes. If they do, this usually becomes part of the next version, which is released at the author’s discretion.

The problem is, this could take some time. The author is under no obligation to release new versions or accept proposed changes. In fact, this is one of the limitations of the open source community. People will only give up as much information as they want to / their projects need. Authors are not there to solve specific problems, and often release software that focuses on their needs rather than trying to create something too generic.

This can be frustrating if an open source project only solves half your problem, however, the community can help bridge knowledge gaps. Users also have the option to download, build and run the project locally in the interim whilst waiting for the official new version – meaning they don’t need to wait for the software to be released with the changes they need.

How it is viable?

Whilst it doesn’t make economic sense on the surface, the community have found a way to make open source viable from a business and individual perspective. Some have capitalised on their projects, making basic versions available at no cost to the user, but adding a price tag to different versions or ‘add-ons’.

Other businesses or individuals actively contributing to the platform have benefited from angel investments, as well as new business after demonstrating successful projects.

It is also often a side project for businesses and individuals. Due to the legal freedom attributed to an open source platform, you’re able to modify the code of the product you’re using endlessly, for free, at no risk of breaching privacy policies or user agreements. This makes it the opportune ‘playground’ for those looking to get into the industry or develop new skills. According to LinkedIn:

“We believe that open sourcing projects makes our engineers better at what they do best. Engineers grow in their craft by having their work shared with the entire community.”

Risks:

With all open platforms, there is a risk of abuse. Open source communities are no different and have certainly experienced their fair share of malicious activity. However, it is the open source approach that significantly increases the reliability of the projects available to the public.

By establishing a community who believe in the future potential of the projects produced, you immediately have a security indicator in place. Many of them in fact. And with so many eyes looking at projects, malicious activity is quick to be spotted and remedied. This is because open source platforms embody an agile mentality, applied in a community wide approach. Rather than make one big change and focus on ensuring it is okay for the next six-months, contributors and authors are interested in making changes quickly, so things get fixed and evolved just as quick.

******

ECS Digital love to find value for our clients and give it back to the wider community, which is why we make tools available on open source platforms such as GitHub and NPM.

We will also be hosting a hands-on session and demonstration of AyeSpy– a visual regression testing tool – at an upcoming DevOps Playground on the 29th of November. Come along to learn more about what the AyeSpy has to offer!

Matt LowryOpen source. Are you part of the community?
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On being a mum and a woman in tech

On being a mum and a woman in tech

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Like most people, I had a five-year plan after I graduated from university. Get a nice job and work for a great company, get married, start a family and buy a house. Fast forward five years and here I am, attempting to write a blog about how I balance being a mother and a woman in technology while listening to my daughter having a tantrum!

Being a first-time mum, I struggled a bit in the beginning after my maternity leave to get used to the idea of working again. I felt like I had forgotten how to code. Not to mention that I was given the responsibility of a Test Architect role in the client site that I am based at. I had to get myself familiar with new tools that I haven’t used before and somehow, I had to lead the team. It was daunting!

At the same time, I was worrying about my daughter all the time. It was hard to focus at work and it definitely wasn’t the best start (let’s just say that my stress hormones were up to the roofs!). But somehow, I managed to get it to work in the end. It wasn’t easy and there were still some sleepless nights (teething is still a nightmare!) but I’m going to list the things that helped me balance my work and my responsibilities as a mum.

  1. Share the responsibility

This I feel is the most important. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and share the responsibility. You won’t be able to do everything by yourself! My husband is very hands-on with our daughter so during his days off, he looks after her. Ask families and friends to help out too. We’re lucky that my mother-in-law helps look after my daughter when my husband and I are both at work. There are also times when my parents pick up my daughter from work, so they can look after her. We pre-plan our schedule and check everyone’s availability so we know who will look after our daughter on what day.

  1. Flexible working is the way forward

If you can work from home or do flexible hours, ask for it. From time to time, I work from home if there is no available babysitter that day or if I need to take my daughter to hospital.

  1. Avoid working outside hours

You might be tempted to bring some of the work home with you if you have tight deadlines but try to avoid doing this if possible. I used to bring work home with me to finish off some tasks, check slack messages and reply to emails but this meant that even when I’m home, I’m still thinking about work rather than just spending quality time with my daughter. This just made me more stressed in the end so if I do have deadlines, I try to be more focused at work and time box my tasks. If it’s something that your colleagues can definitely help, share the responsibility. Again, you can’t do everything by yourself 🙂

  1. Stop overthinking about your children

It’s natural that we tend to worry about our little ones. I used to worry a lot about my daughter at work and text my husband or my mother-in-law to see how she was doing, if she’s eaten or drank her milk, if she’s had her nap, if she’s crying, etc. and I always get the same answers – that she is doing ok. Rather than spending time worrying about things I couldn’t change, I now use that time to be focused at work so I can get home sooner and answer these questions myself

  1. Find time to learn

Now this might be difficult for some of you but if you can, still find time to learn something new every day. Doesn’t matter if it’s just for an hour or 30 minutes. Especially in the tech industry, there are always new tools coming up. So, once my daughter is asleep, I make a habit to read a book, read tech blogs, or do a little bit of coding.

  1. Find a company that appreciates you

I feel that this is as important as the first point. If you work for a company that micromanages and doesn’t give you room to improve, then this might be a red flag. It’s great that I work for a company that is appreciative of what I do and rewards those who have done a great job. Recently, I was nominated for an Outstanding People Award and it has given me a great boost to continue doing what it is I’m doing – I must be doing something right after all!

Achieving a work-life balance, especially if you are a mum, is a challenge, but it is doable. It was difficult at the beginning, but like everything else, it gets easier 🙂

Join our Women In Tech DevOps Playground on 8th November where we will be getting hands-on with Cypress!

Follow other stories from the ECS Digital team here.

Marie CruzOn being a mum and a woman in tech
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How I went from fashion writer to software engineer in test

How I went from fashion writer to software engineer in test

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“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” 

Joseph Campbell

Life can be strange. A year ago, I was giving a presentation on FW17 fashion trends. Now, I am writing functional tests as a QA engineer.

When I tell people that I am a software engineer, they often ask, “Do you have a CS Degree or a technical background?”

The answer is a resounding “no”. I have one Bachelor’s degree in English Education, one in Translation & Interpreting, and a Master’s degree in Translation & Interpreting. I spent most of my 20s in literature studies and I could give a simultaneous interpretation of your talk on Big Data, but I knew nothing besides a textbook definition. I was the classic literature graduate who is NOT technical at all.

They continue, “So why and how did you do it?”

Realising I wasn’t enjoying working in my previous role, I took a turn at coding. I quickly found myself caught up in the excitement of solving coding challenges and creating projects, which soon became a nightly routine after work. Eventually, I wanted to take on tasks more complicated than basic HTML and CSS, so I signed up to online courses to learn JavaScript and Python, such as Udacity’s Full-stack Developer Nanodegree. It was also around this time that I joined meetups and workshops, including those hosted by Ladies of Code London, Node Girls and Codebar. Coaches and other students at these events provided me with a lot of help and support. After almost two years of this practice, I decided to transition my coding from passion to profession.

By this point in time, I had already become friends with a few people who had either made the career change to coding or were planning to do so, and they all recommended Makers Academy to me. As I sought out more people to speak to and read every blog post I could find about the course, I became convinced that this was something I wanted to do. I passed the interview and started my life-changing journey: three months later, I had completed a 12-week computer programming bootcamp and got a job at ECS Digital as a software development engineer in test.

Every Makers’ alumnus would tell you that they enjoyed the ping-pong time, but only a few will tell you how intensive and stressful it could be. Here are a few tricks that helped me during the career-changing experience and I hope they can be of help to you.

  1. Growth mindset

If you are thinking about learning something new, I would recommend reading this blog post by Allison Kaptur: Effective Learning Strategies for Programmers. It’s definitely worth reading more than once.

  1. Own your past

If you look at this survey, you will realise that coders come from different backgrounds, studied various majors and speak different languages. They may be career-changers or university graduates, have a military background or working parents. Your past is not a barrier, it is your strength.

  1. Look for role models

Since joining ECS Digital, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some extremely talented DevOps and software development engineers. They’ve mentored me on everything from testing, cloud computing, Docker, and Linux commands. They’ve also talked me through their intuition about particular coding problems and recommended books and talks by expert programmers. At ECSD, we are encouraged to use pair programming, so I frequently work with people who are able to mentor me. This gives newbie engineers a model to learn from and a standard to aspire to. I feel lucky to be working and learning in an environment where a community of engineers inspire each other.

This is my journey so far. If I can change from a fashion writer to a software developer engineer in test, you can too.

Ever wondered what a year in the life at ECS Digital looked like? Explore our recent blog to find out.

Xin WangHow I went from fashion writer to software engineer in test
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You don’t need a hero, you need culture

You don’t need a hero, you need culture

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We seem to be drawn to heroes, and superheroes. We want to see them in action, to rise against all odds and triumph just so we can get a vicarious experience through their efforts and feel as if one person is all that is needed to change the world for the better.

However, in an organisation or company, if you need a hero to get things done, that probably means you are not doing it right, or you are in trouble.

Professor Westrum’s study makes a very compelling argument in classifying organisations as one of three main categories: pathological, bureaucratic or generative:

ECSD Text.jpg

A pathological organisation is described as one where the truth is hidden, messengers are shot, egos abound and creativity is killed by peers or superiors if it makes them look bad.

We can easily envision a hero in this type of organisation, a Serpico who goes around outing corrupt police risking his life in the process, or a whistleblower in an organisation where gross misconduct is rampant, such as was Enron.

Likewise, in a bureaucratic organisation, the protagonist in the Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Ikiru, a simple civil servant who has lived for the past 25 years as a lifeless cog of a bureaucratic machine, suddenly discovers he has terminal cancer. He decides to spend the rest of his life fighting against the impenetrable governmental bureaucracy that sends citizens and workers alike into endless loops of desperation.

His journey is difficult, almost impossible but finally, he triumphs in building a park for the community before he dies. The beneficiaries of his efforts mourn him more heavily than even his own family does. Ikiru makes a remarkable job of highlighting that, life is all about having a strong, meaningful purpose and when you are riding on that purpose, people will be drawn to you and love you for it. Whereas, his own family despises him essentially for being a

“mummy” his entire life, before he found out he had cancer.

A generative organisation would not need a Serpico, or the protagonist of Ikiru, because heroic acts are distributed in a more equal measure among the staff and those companies tend to bring out the best of their employees by giving them a purpose and the means to achieve it. When you have an organisation and culture in place where it is constructive, values creativity, creates trust and empowers employees by encouraging them to make mistakes, they will be much more willing to step forward and provide you with a better quality of work.

It is rather common to hear management complain about their employees doing a poor job; passing the blame and washing their hands on the matter – but this just creates scapegoats and a culture of fear. You  do not want this in your company especially if you value productivity and creativity.

Edward Deming, an engineer and management consultant, credited as one of the inspirations that skyrocketed the Japanese industry and its quality after WWII, said that in his experience, 94% of the responsibility falls on management, and the rest on the employee [Source].

Okay, you may say that’s not entirely true. I once hired a programmer that was constantly on Facebook, didn’t work on his tickets, and was generally very lazy.

In this case, instead of blaming the programmer outright, you could have asked yourself:

  •  Why is he acting the way he is acting?
  •  Is the job he is doing not motivating enough for him?
  •  Are the tasks handed to him drudgery that could be solved by automation created with other teams?
  •  Do other programmers have the same complaints he does about the job?
  •  Can we give him a more engaging task?
  • Is the office a generative environment where everyone can speak openly without fear?

All of these should always be explored before blaming your employees. Of course, occasionally, everyone hires someone who is just not a good fit, and no matter what you do, it won’t change. In that case, you will have to let that person go, and it will be the best thing for both of you. If and when you do, be as good as you can be to them, then go back to the drawing board on your hiring process and think about these questions:

  •  What mistakes did we make when hiring this person?
  •  Did we manage his expectations?
  •  Did he know beforehand what the job was exactly?
  • Were we looking for the right set of traits and culture fit when we hired this person?

We do not need heroes, we need culture. A healthy, generative organisation where employees can thrive and achieve their fullest potential unhindered, and your job as a manager is to make their workflow easier by any means possible.

To conclude, it is important to make sure everyone is working towards a common goal and that egos or departmental pride does not get in the way of this achievement. Any individual in your organisation should trust their colleagues and not do work that is highly reliant on him or her.

Companies that heavily rely on a central figure tend to collapse once that figure is gone, and teams that rely on one employee to do a variety of things that no one else can do create bottlenecks that can cost the company a lot of money.

So, remember, share the heroics with everyone by having a great culture!


If you have any questions about ECS Digital, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

ECS Digital are leaders in Automation and Digital Transformation. We’ve been helping enterprises deliver software and software-related services faster and at lower cost through the adoption of DevOps and Continuous Delivery practices, since 2003.

Fernando VillalbaYou don’t need a hero, you need culture
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How a DevOps culture fits within popular Culture Models

How a DevOps culture fits within popular Culture Models

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One of my favourite definitions of culture was coined way back in 1994 by William E. Schnieder:

“How we do things around here in order to succeed”.

Company culture is made up of the way that companies do the things they do.

Academics have been attempting to define the different types of organisational cultures since the early 1970s. There are a number of organisational “culture models”, which segment cultures based on different aspects of behaviour and values.

Some of the most widely acknowledged of these culture models include:

  • Harrison (1972): How processes and decisions are made within organisations.
  • Deal and Kennedy (2000): What kinds of decisions are made by organisations.
  • Schneider (1999): The general way of thinking in the decision process.
  • Cameron and Quinn (2011): Values that are important to an organisation.

You may or may not have heard of all of them, but what they all have in common is that they divide organisations into four distinct cultures – based on a differing set of axes.

In reality, of course, organisational culture is not found as one pure type. Researchers suggest, however, that most companies will focus on and aim for one distinct “principal” culture.

If this is true, we wondered which culture type those companies working towards DevOps would achieve.

Where does DevOps fit in the Cameron and Quinn culture model?

Culture_2_copy-431166-edited.jpg

I’ve chosen to use the most recently acknowledged culture model, proposed by Cameron and Quinn (2011). This model categorises cultures through their values.

We can quickly discount hierarchy, since DevOps does not promote a “formalised and structured” environment. And, whilst many organisations are looking for increased profitability as an output of DevOps, evidence suggests that innovation and flexibility (coupled with alignment) are key to achieving and sustaining such benefits.  For that reason, we also discount market.

It’s easy to see and jump on the word “collaboration” under Quinn and Cameron’s clan culture, and associate it with DevOps.  A clan culture places teamwork and employee satisfaction at the centre of organisational culture, and, much like the clan, DevOps promotes shared responsibilities, cross-functional teams and the breakdown of silos.

However, we must remember the overall goal of DevOps. When placing DevOps within one of these cultures, the question we need to ask is:

Why do organisations adopt DevOps?

The answer, of course, is not that organisations want DevOps – but that they need the results of DevOps: the ability to deliver software and software services faster, cheaper and with greater quality.

DevOps culture, whilst promoting collaboration, does not place collaboration as the ultimate goal. Collaboration through DevOps is simply a “means to an end” that allows organisations to maximize their efficiency in rapidly changing environments.

It was Deal and Kennedy (2000) who stated that:

“The environment in which a company operates determines what it must do to be a success”.

DevOps is being increasingly adopted as part of digital transformation – not just by organisations wishing to disrupt competition – but also those that don’t want to be left behind.

If this is the case, then it makes sense to place DevOps within the adhocracy culture: a culture that promotes adaptability, flexibility, and creativity in turbulent (or disrupted) environments.

Much like DevOps, characteristics of organisations operating within an adhocracy culture include: frequently and rapidly changing structure, temporary roles and responsibilities depending on changing client problems alongside the values of experimentation, creativity, innovation and risk-taking. Business leaders implement DevOps for the long-term goal of gaining traction in their market by increasing the speed and flexibility of their software processes, allowing them to keep up with competition (see our recent whitepaper).

Supporting an Adhocracy Culture

Quinn and Cameron (2011) discovered that successful organisations developed elements of other quadrants to “soften weaknesses[es]” of existing in one fixed culture. Where companies are unlikely to be a mixture of all four cultures, many companies do have a “strong secondary component”.

I therefore suggest that DevOps promotes an adhocracy culture, with a strong secondary clancomponent. Within DevOps, the collaborative clan culture introduces practices such as shared responsibilities and blameless post-mortems to soften the experimentation and risk-oriented focus of the adhocracy-led workplace.

DevOps Culture: Case Study

Culture_3.jpg

A fantastic real-life example of DevOps culture within a culture model comes from Spotify.

Much like Quinn and Cameron, Spotify places their own culture model upon the values that they hold to be important: alignment and autonomy.

Within their Agile and DevOps culture, the target Spotify culture includes one where employees are able to work with little guidance (autonomy), but do so with the same goals in mind (alignment).

To achieve this, Spotify teams work in squads: loosely coupled and tightly aligned teams that hold community over structure and trust over control. In this setup, the more aligned a team is, the more autonomy they obtain.

Achieving a DevOps Culture

So, now we know where DevOps sits in a culture model, we can implement the culture directly into an organisation, right? Cameron and Quinn (2011) found that “new organisations tend to progress through a predictable pattern of organisation culture changes”.

Culture_2-483815-edited.jpg Organisational culture tends to begin in the adhocracy quadrant. That’s because being creative and innovative is much easier for early-starters – those that are still small and flexible enough to take risks.

For these early starters, achieving the next step – collaboration – can be more difficult.  Here we might find, conflicting interests and power that impede collaboration. However, with any cultural adoption, there are small steps towards achieving collaboration that can be taken in any organisation. These steps include anything from team tech-sharing sessions to questioning existing processes. You can read more about small steps that you can take in our blog, 5 DevOps quick wins.

Quinn and Cameron’s process of organisational culture explains why companies in the early startup phase find adopting DevOps processes much easier than larger, legacy organisations. For organisations that have already passed through the adhocracy and collaboration cultures and settled into hierarchy and market cultures, it is a question of taking steps backwards to think more like a startup in order to promote flexibility and innovation.

This can be a difficult task. It requires organisational-wide understanding and adoption of new processes and ways of thinking – which is why DevOps uptake in these organisations has been slow – until now. Gartner has predicted 2016 to be the year that DevOps goes mainstream, adopted by one in four organisations. As culture is shaped by outside influencers, digital transformation within the industry means that the ability to be flexible – through DevOps adoption – is now becoming a necessity.

This dramatic increase in demand for DevOps transformation expertise led to the acquisition of Forest Technologies by ECS, to become ECS Digital. The combination of our 12 years of DevOps expertise, and the ECS experience working with FTSE100 organisations allows us to ensure large organisations realise the maximum benefits from beginning or accelerating their DevOps transformation initiatives. You can read more about the acquisition here.

 

If you’re looking to start or accelerate the adoption of DevOps in your organisation, why not organise a “DevOps maturity assessment”? We’ll assess your current DevOps readiness or maturity, and advise you on how and what ROI you could achieve from taking the next steps to fully adopt DevOps practices.

Andy CuretonHow a DevOps culture fits within popular Culture Models
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How fostering collaboration in IT builds more innovative teams

How fostering collaboration in IT builds more innovative teams

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There’s no better way to sum up the importance of innovation in the business landscape of the 21st century than to quote the late Steve Jobs: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Innovation isn’t exclusively a modern fixation, though – in fact, it has been the driving force behind every significant leap forward in technology, from the wheel to the printing press. In the modern business landscape, though, innovation has taken on new importance as a central goal of many forward-thinking companies, and the means for achieving it have practically come down to a scientific pursuit.

In this blog, we’ll look at cultivating a culture of collaboration in IT, and how this helps you build more innovative teams.

Treat your staff like they matter to you, and they’ll do the same in return.

Something that many businesses seem to forget is that you can’t have any hope of building a collaborative and innovative team without a foundation of mutual respect and trust. There are a number of ways to achieve this: being transparent with your staff about your business objectives and challenges, encouraging their input from an early stage, taking an interest in each individual’s performance, and understanding how the different members of your team learn and work best are all ways of showing your staff that they matter to your business. It isn’t just about making your staff feel appreciated, though. Involving team members in decision-making from the beginning of a project gives them a sense of ownership, and encourages your entire team to stay committed until the very last step, resulting in higher overall quality of the finished product.

Innovation should be intimately tied to your organisational culture.

For the most innovative organisations in the world, the ability to innovate isn’t an external feature only possessed by a select few of the top performers in the company: it’s an intrinsic feature of their company culture. To ensure that a culture of innovation permeates every facet of your organisation, you need to lead by example at the highest levels of management. A leader who is constantly seeking new and innovative ways of doing things inspires the rest of your workforce to follow suit, and rewarding staff for innovative ideas and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking wherever possible will go a long way. This doesn’t mean that the upper levels of your organisation need to be creative visionaries – by simply cultivating a culture that is open to innovation from the top down, you’re creating the foundation from which great new ideas can spring forth.

What should you look for when building your dream team?

Collaboration in IT depends not only on a variety of skills, but also a variety of personality types that work well together. For a team to collaborate and come up with innovative ideas and solutions, you’ll need to have an ideal mix of ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’. In a blog on innovationmanagement.se, the authors discuss “building a bigger box rather than trying to fit inside it.” For projects in which innovation is a key objective, it’s necessary to have a strong creative team in the initial brainstorming stages. However, creative thinkers are notorious for being less adept at project management – which is why it’s important to balance out the creative thinkers on your team with practical ‘doers’ who make sure that the creative work is met with the right amount of structure to ensure the work gets done. That’s what the authors mean by ‘building a bigger box’ – rather than encouraging your team to ‘think outside the box’ and then rein their ideas in to fit the criteria, try to build your teams in such a way that the sum total of their personalities, skills and working styles is greater than its constituent parts.

A closer look at the anatomy of highly innovative teams.

So, what are some character traits that you should look for when putting together your dream team? We’ve already discussed thinkers and doers as broad categories of the types of people you’re likely to have in your organisation, but let’s take a closer look at some common personality traits that facilitate collaboration in IT:

The self-starters

It is critical to put together a team that is self-motivated. This doesn’t necessarily mean every member of your team has to be a self-starter – it’s often enough to have a team leader who can inspire the rest of his or her team to take ownership for their work and become more diligent and pragmatic in their approach to tasks.

The out-the-box thinkers

This is something we’re used to hearing about innovators – Apple called them ‘the crazy ones’: the ones that draw outside the lines; the ones that ‘think different’. Creative thinkers are invaluable for any innovation project, but as we mentioned earlier, they aren’t capable of doing everything themselves.

The team players

Collaboration in IT is obviously dependent on members of your team working together. Conflict is inevitable – and, to a certain extent, it’s a natural and healthy part of a team dynamic – but innovative teams need to include members who can find common ground rather than reasons for confrontation. This is the one trait you’d ideally like every member of your team to exhibit.

The overachievers

To a certain extent, competition is a healthy and necessary trait of teams. The right amount of competitive tension in a team can push individuals beyond their perceived limitations and result in a much higher quality of the finished product. However, too much competition within a team can quickly become a disabling factor for less competitive individuals, so managing this is a constant balancing act.

Having a powerful business proposition means little without being equipped with the perfect team to conceptualise, develop and execute properly. ECS Digital is a DevOps consultancy with over 12 years’ experience in bringing teams closer together to create more innovative solutions for organisations all around the world. To find out more about the solutions we offer, visit our websiteor contact us directly.

Image Credit:David Didau

Andy CuretonHow fostering collaboration in IT builds more innovative teams
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