Key takeaways from DevOps Deadlock webinar

Key takeaways from DevOps Deadlock webinar

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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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Latest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…

Latest Enablement Pod offering unveiled…

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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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DevOps: What it isn’t is just as important as what it is

DevOps: What it isn’t is just as important as what it is

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Over the past few years, DevOps has been steadily gaining traction in enterprise IT for the benefit it provides in driving business forward at a faster pace. The results speak for themselves – from ‘unicorn’ companies like Etsy and Netflix, who seem to be able to achieve the impossible through DevOps, down to start-ups and Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who are realising its potential as a way to eclipse their competition.

But as the hype around DevOps continues to grow unabated, many companies fall into the trap of ‘doing DevOps’ at the expense of actually implementing value-adding DevOps practices. In this blog, we’ll look at why effective DevOps adoption depends on understanding what DevOps isn’t,as well as what it is.

“Doing DevOps” isn’t the same thing as adopting DevOps practices.

In an article on DevOps.com, David Geer sums the ‘doing DevOps’ paradox as follows: “No one should be doing DevOps. It’s not an action, it’s not a title, it’s a blanket term for approaches that bridge the gap between traditional operations and development groups.” The first, and most important thing to understand about DevOps is that it isn’t, as Geer says, a title or an action. It is the combination of people, processes and tools, assembled in accordance to guiding principles and best practices that results in a more efficient delivery of better quality software. Many organisations make the principal mistake of creating a ‘DevOps team’ without considering what this truly entails. Creating a specialised DevOps team is counter-intuitive – DevOps makes organisations more efficient by breaking down the barriers that traditionally exist between dev and ops teams, and creating another silo within your organisation will only work against what you’re trying to achieve.

Automation isn’t all there is to DevOps, but it’s an important aspect.

One of the most common misconceptions about DevOps is that it’s just another word for automation. I’ve already discussed why DevOps is more than just automation in some detail in an earlier blog post, but the point is worth reiterating here. Automation constitutes a vital component of DevOps, but automating a few processes doesn’t mean you’ve achieved anything. What you have created are islands of automation where systems are loosely connected often causing further silos of expertise within the ecosystem. Automating the right processes is key to creating value for your business, and this depends on having the necessary insight into the way your business works. As Alan Sharp-Paul says in his blog on UpGuard, “A common misconception for Enterprises commencing their automation journey is that the key preparation work is choosing a tool and training their staff up. These are necessary evils, sure, but the real work is actually gathering requirements. With legacy infrastructure in play, what matters most is getting visibility of current state.

Without visibility into the current state of your business and target objectives, automating processes is akin to drawing names from a hat, at best. In other words, don’t automate what you don’t understand.

Adopting DevOps doesn’t mean downsizing or shedding staff.

DevOps doesn’t mean throwing out all your developers and operations staff and replacing them with an all-star ‘DevOps team’ that can accomplish anything in no time at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – DevOps is about empowering your existing staff to achieve more by working more closely together and automating the vital links between traditionally disparate departments. Creating a specialised DevOps team might seem like a great way to fast-track your organisation, but this is counter-intuitive to the benefits that DevOps provides. Ultimately, adoption of DevOps allows you to get more value from your existing workforce, not replace it with another, smaller unit.

DevOps is notoriously hard to define, and it can be even more difficult to adopt without a clear understanding of where you should be heading. ECS Digital has over 12 years’ experience helping organisations in many industries around the world realise the value of DevOps done right providing a independent and agnostic approach to what works best for your organisation. If you’d like to know more about how we could help this become a reality for your organisation, please contact us for a DevOps maturity assessment.

Image Credit: www.linkedin.com

Andy CuretonDevOps: What it isn’t is just as important as what it is
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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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The do’s and don’ts of Development Automation: What you can’t afford to automate

The do’s and don’ts of Development Automation: What you can’t afford to automate

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A question that often comes up when we’re first implementing automation systems for our clients is “What shouldn’t I automate?” It’s a fair question to ask, especially if you’re new to development automation and you’re experiencing the benefits of automating processes for the first time. However, there’s not always a cut-and-dry answer to what you shouldn’t automate – most of the considerations around what should and shouldn’t be automated come down to the way your internal office culture works, and the unique context of your business. But, generally speaking, there are some guidelines for what you should and shouldn’t consider automating. In this article, we’ll look at a few examples of development processes that you should avoid automating at all costs.


Above everything else, use your common sense.

Ultimately, the reasons for automating processes come down to a few common factors: saving money, freeing up more time for developers to work on more lucrative tasks, and minimising the chance for human error in business-critical processes. When considering what to include and what not to include in development automation, it helps to weigh up the value that will come from automating a process versus the costs (financial as well as operational) of establishing the automation. Depending on how your business operates, the number of processes that can be safely automated will vary, but at the end of the day it comes down to simply balancing the value of the automation against the resources it will consume to set up.

Develop some basic criteria for deciding what not to automate.

Broadly speaking, there are a few types of development processes that happen in the daily operation of your business: 

Tasks that are labour- or time-intensive, but require negligible amounts of on-the-spot thinking or creativity to carry out.
Tasks that require little to no creative problem-solving and can be solved quickly, but must be carried out on a regular or routine basis. 
Tasks that vary in time- and labour-intensiveness, but require a high degree of precision.
Ad-hoc tasks that vary in time- and labour-intensiveness, but require a high degree of creative problem-solving.

It’s a well-documented fact that as human beings, we aren’t ideally suited for routinely carrying out monotonous, repetitive tasks – especially ones that require high levels of precision. Computers, on the other hand, are perfect for this role. While the first three of these tasks are suitable for automation, it would be a poor choice to automate the fourth task on the list as it requires a level of creativity that is impossible to achieve through automation.

Deciding what to automate is as important as deciding how to automate.

Deciding which processes to include in your development automation is only half of the problem – the other half is deciding how to go about automating these processes. There is a huge variety of automation software available, both open source and proprietary, and each has its own specialist areas and strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the best possible software for your purposes can make a huge difference to how much value your automation solution will provide, so it’s worth doing some groundwork. Some software will work better within your environment than others, and you’ll likely need to use more than one tool to automate your processes end to end – your ideal automation partner should be able to advise on the best software for your context, and provide a variety of options, both open source and proprietary, to choose from.

ECS Digital provides everything you need to start implementing DevOps in your organisation – from consultation, to implementation, to ongoing training. Our platform-agnostic approach means that we select what’s truly best for your working environment and implement the most valuable solution. If you’d like to know more about our services and what automation could mean for your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Andy CuretonThe do’s and don’ts of Development Automation: What you can’t afford to automate
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How ECS Digital makes implementing DevOps easy

How ECS Digital makes implementing DevOps easy

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DevOps is a fast-growing term in the IT world, driven by the industry’s never-ending need to deliver faster, more efficiently and at a higher quality. But adopting DevOps can be intimidating from both an operational and financial perspective as it’s at odds with traditional organisational structures. Implementing the necessary changes can be a complex task, as can ensuring that the changes you’ve made are beneficial to your organisational structure and processes. As a provider of Continuous Delivery and DevOps solutions for over ten years, ECS Digital provides strategy, consulting and training services that provide real value to our clients. Where we have helped deliver DevOps transformations, our clients have experienced results that include up to 90% reduction in errors, 1000% faster deployment times, greater visibility and transparency. So what makesECS Digital’s way of doing things different?

ECS Digital provides consultation and training services for a holistically valuable service.

The consumerisation of IT means businesses today are expected to operate faster, smarter and more efficiently than ever before. DevOps and Continuous Delivery make it possible to reduce the time to market for new and improved services dramatically.  Benefits include a reduction in the man-hours required for everyday tasks, improved consistency and significantly reduced test cycle errors. But with so many processes at play in the modern business, deciding how to go about implementing automated systems can be daunting, to say the least.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach in our line of work, and we do our best to tailor our solutions to what works best for each individual client. We have a growing list of technology partnerships and tools such as DockerVagrantAnsibleAutomic ARAAppDynamicsAWSCloudBees Enterprise Jenkins, Puppet and Chef are commonly used in our implementations alongside the leading Open Source tools. We run workshops with each of our clients to understand their current state, identify the challenges they face, their desired state (if known) after implementation, and any constraints whether organisational or regulatory, etc. The output of the workshops shapes the solutions we recommend, with our software-agnostic approach ensuring that we only use the tools that are best for you. As part of our consultancy service, we help our clients get to grips with potentially huge and complex process-chains and build a strategy that is effective from initial rollout through to adoption on an enterprise-wide scale.

What does partnering with ECS Digital mean for your business?

For ECS Digital, DevOps is an overarching principle that encompasses the journey from individual islands of automation through linking those islands together to create continuous delivery and deployment pipelines, to the pinnacle of maturity where architectures are designed to support a unified Development and Operations culture of shared objectives and accountability. Our delivery methodology is tried and tested, and enables our customers to achieve their desired results within time and budget. By its nature, DevOps is a diverse discipline that touches many other areas. As such, it necessitates a wide spectrum of knowledge across multiple subjects and industries. At ECS Digital, our team is made up of professionals with many years’ experience across several industries and a wide range of technical expertise. Our DevOps consultants help transform your culture and implement practices including Continuous IntegrationContinuous Delivery and Deployment, and Infrastructure Automation.

Some of our success stories include:

  • Self-service and on-demand business service provisioning with VSphere and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager for Denmark’s largest bank.
  • Continuous Delivery pipeline for a leading AirBnB rival.
  • Orchestrating software releases from build to production using Jira for one of the largest Online Gaming companies in the Europe.
  • Automated provisioning of virtual classrooms for students at a leading US University.
  • Automating back-end business processes such as swapping sim formats for new iPhones for a UK Mobile operator.
  • Dynamic instantiation of development environments using Docker and Vagrant with automated testing for a leading Connected Device Management company.

What happens after I’ve implemented DevOps in my organisation with ECS Digital?

When we work with a client, we see our partnership as a two-way relationship that thrives on mutual learning and advice, and we are committed to keeping in touch with our clients long after the initial implementation is complete. Continuous improvement activities are a key component of DevOps. When implemented properly, DevOps solutions are self-improving, and we only think of a job as complete when the organisation we’ve partnered with is able to maintain and enhance their implementation independently. We understand that successful DevOps transformations are dependent on organisation-wide buy-in, and with our wealth of industry experience we aim to make that process as easy as possible. We also understand that, at the end of the day, the people that make up your organisation are your most important assets – what makes ECS Digital different is that we commit as much to the development of your human resources as we do to your technological and organisational ones.

If you’d like to know more about how DevOps can bring new levels of productivity and efficiency to your workplace, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Andy CuretonHow ECS Digital makes implementing DevOps easy
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The Theory behind a succesful DevOps Transformation

The Theory behind a succesful DevOps Transformation

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A DevOps transformation is a long and complex journey.  It’s important to understand not only the end goal but the current state and why things are how they are.  In this presentation given at the recent @CloudBees #CDSummit Andy Cureton talks through the aspects of culture, processes, and practices that are critical in order to be succesful in a DevOps journey.



At ECS Digital we’ve been delivering Automation Solutions to our customers around the world for over 12 years.  Our mission is to leave no stone unturned in the quest of value for our customers and even more importantly to deliver on the promises we make.  Reach out to us today and let us know what you’re interested in via hello@ecs-digital.co.uk or via our contact page and we’ll get back to you straight away!

Andy CuretonThe Theory behind a succesful DevOps Transformation
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