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DevOps Teams, Project to Product Shift

Product-thinking and secure delivery – DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019 – Day One Recap 

Published By Patrick Anderson
Product-thinking and secure delivery – DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019 – Day One Recap 

Gene Kim’s opening remarks to a DevOps Enterprise Summit are always a welcome tonic for the IT community. His honest and earnest insights serve as an annual reminder to “keep up the good fight” in the perpetual challenge to help traditional organizations to survive and thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption.

As ever, it’s no longer just about delivering more features faster; it’s about IT being able to prove they’re accelerating value delivery. Quoting Deloitte’s Jon Smart’s definition of DevOps to demonstrate his point, Gene emphasized that the audience’s focus should be on “better value sooner, safer, happier.” And with that, DOES 2019 was off to the races as attendees sought to the tools and knowledge to determine how they and their organization can continuously reach that goal.

The question for modernization

Heather Mickman and David Cherryhomes from Optus, the world’s largest healthcare organization, addressed the challenges of modernization at scale, underlining the importance of unlocking the data, “the table stakes for any modernization” effort. 

Accessing the data, Mickman highlighted, is the number one challenge facing developers. “When you grow, especially when you acquire new companies, you have to deal with a lot of data sources across double-digit domains. We had 1000s of APIs, which revealed a lot of incomplete data from so many projects, often pieced together through point-to-point integrations for that singular project. We needed to make that product data more consistent and then work out how to insulate it.”

Her colleague Cherryhomes explored the broader picture of transformation. “Top-down will never work, you can’t just read a book and say “do it”, you need to think of “the why”, especially in terms of improving team effectiveness.” He highlighted the organization’s mission to automate its very large QC team. “That made sense to improve their lives and help them be more efficient. By doing that we created an individual feeling of success for teams at the bottom, as well as improving the quality of products and services for the business.” He acknowledges this is hard, that it’s a big investment, but it does pay off – even when looking at applications that are tied to the backend. 

Adidas’s session had inspiration in spades. “Is Adidas a software company? No – but we have to think like one to improve customer experiences across all touchpoints,” commented Fernando Cornago, Senior Director, Platform Engineering. The company’s $22 billion annual revenues is a clear business success story, supported in part by a burgeoning digital operation.

Only a few years ago, the sports brand had only a basic website and no real app that was tied to business goals. “Back then, we only had a few engineers,” continued Cornago. “Now we have over 300 engineers and we treat digital like the rest of our physical products. We work like an American football team to bring all the pieces together to work as one. We fastidiously test and train our applications just like our footwear. That’s so important when you consider big online events like Black Friday account for 35% of our business in our final quarter.”

Adidas’s steely focus on the omnichannel customer experience has yielded impressive results – including a reduced cycle time from three days to one minute. “Digital helps us change our interaction with the customer, improve how we release physical products, optimizes the “boring” but critical checkout stage and helps us amplify our brand and products’ story. We know what’s good today won’t necessarily be good tomorrow, so we’re always learning.” Likening data sharing to a baton in a relay race, Cornago underlined that it’s about the speed with which data flows but how smoothly the handoff is.

Across the day one sessions, the ever-rising impact of engineering on the business is becoming abundantly clear. As Scott Prugh from CSG was quick to highlight, taking time to thank his engineering teams for the work they do, encouraging attendees to thank a CSG employee if they see one during the event. “When you grow and modernize, you simply have to address the problem of your legacy systems. You must engineer your way of it. If you wait, you will have an even bigger problem. We’re all about honoring our past, but we also put great emphasis on allocating time to modernize.” 

Coining the phrase “golf course software,” he warns of making tech deals “without a dev or ops in sight – don’t force a heavy platform on your team. Start with them. It’s never too late to modernize. The only bad side effect is,” pointing to head. “Is the grey hair!” CSG’s remarkable engineering achievements were plain to see in the data shown below.

Project to Product

Tasktop’s Dominica DeGrandis, one of our Principal Flow Advisors, spoke about more about her experiences in helping customers make the transition to a product-centric operating model. “The project to product pivot is clearly cooking. Recent Gartner research shows it’s becoming a big movement, with 55% of IT organizations undertaking the transformation.”

One key impact of this movement is how new ways of working is forcing a new way of structuring IT teams. “Project-thinking generally makes opinions visible, whereas product-thinking makes value visible, whether that’s profit, less risk, or more the more lives you saved. You orient your teams around the value your company wants to deliver.” 

Does that mean the writing is on the wall for the PMO? Not necessarily – it means opportunity. “In the same way that physicians can’t know everything about the human body, the probability of a developer or engineer at a large enterprise knowing everything about a full stack is low,” continued Dominica. “If they do they know, they’re probably working for Netflix!” 

“So it’s about rethinking how information is shared, and how skills are harnessed, so everyone can work together on a value proposition for the business. The PMO can become a VMO (Value Management Office), a department that doesn’t focus on speed but more on improving visibility of the things that count. A product-focus can reinvigorate skills and people can learn, improve and become relevant again.” Dominica proceeded to introduce a ‘Skills Matrix,” a tool to help you evaluate whether you have the right team to help you move to a product-centric model (visit us at booth 403 to learn more!).

Securing the value stream

Just how do you accelerate delivery without compromising security and risk? Jon Smart of Deloitte shared a reel of horror stories, from British Airways’ data breach that saw it fined £183 million, to UK hotel Marriott being hit with a hefty £99 million fine due to breach in its guest reservation system — “an inherited cybercrime following an acquisition,” noted Smart.

Talking through anti-patterns and patterns, Smart reiterated how crucial it was that organization’s reinvent the way demotivated and frustrated risk and control teams reinvent work. “Instead of role-based silos context-switching between fraud, infosec, data protection and so on, create small, long-lived cross-functional safety teams aligned to a value stream.”

PNC Bank is also no stranger to the challenge of accelerating safely. Kate Meeuf, Director of Dojo, explained how her organization was one of the companies that actually grew during the economic downtown thanks to its ability to manage risk. “But how do we accelerate without abandoning what has served us so well?”

Strengthening integration and the continuous feedback loop between development and the business, explained her colleague, John Rzeszotarksi, SVP at PNC. “We need to assist our developers if we’re to safely accelerate our delivery. We must help our development teams like we do our customers. If a service goes down, they must be able to know just as quickly as a customer.” 

Bridging the divide between IT and the business

As ever, helping IT and the business to work better together was another theme, perhaps best articulated by the USCIS. Melinda Solomon from Agile training described “the relationship between the business and IT like an arranged marriage; both sides had good intentions, but different expectations.”

Jim Lloyd, Branch Chief of Innovation, said it “often felt like IT controlled the budget and they got whatever the kitchen cooked whether they wanted it or not. Users were being failed and trust low.”  The change, however, came through bringing those who build the products closer to those who use them. “The big u-turn in the relationship was the “go and see” field office visits. Developers would go see their products in production and get direct feedback from customers. Lunchtime fixes could often be made on the spot.”

What’s in store for Day Two

Tuesday, October 29 | 2:35pm – 3:05pm | Mont-Royal 1

CASE STUDY: Using Flow Metrics to Drive an Integrated Toolchain for Service Delivery, Agile, DevOps and PPM – Nicole Bryan (VP, Product Development) and Jeff Zahorchak Manager, Enterprise Applications, Select Medical

As an IT professional, prioritizing demand while delivering exemplary customer service is always the expectation. However, completing project work, fulfilling customer requests and mitigating service interruptions while making sure that leadership is informed, and nothing slips through the cracks can be daunting. While IT teams are measuring improvements in process, productivity, quality, cost, revenue, and adherence to standards – they still can’t identify the rate of value delivery as correlated to desired business outcomes.

Nicole Bryan, Tasktop’s VP of Product Development
Jeff Zahorchak (Manager, Enterprise Applications, Select Medical) will be talking through his company’s journey from project to product.

During this session, attendees will learn about Select Medical’s journey to implement a fully automated, integrated toolchain for Service Delivery, Agile, DevOps and PPM, and how Flow Metrics are allowing for continuous optimization in the pursuit of achieving greater value to the organization, faster.

Nicole will also be running a Lightning Talk on Creating Role Model Ladders on Tuesday between 18.15-19.15 in the Chelsea Ballroom. You can hear more about her session in her Q&A below:

Dominica DeGrandis will also be hosting a Q&A at the Tasktop booth (403) on Tuesday afternoon from 1:30-1:55pm. Stop by to ask her questions such as:

  •   How can I prioritize my work?
  •   What is the biggest bottleneck you see in optimizing workflow and how can you prevent it?

To another great day!

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Written by Patrick Anderson

Patrick is Senior Content Manager at Tasktop and oversees the company's content and thought leadership programs. Outside the office, you’ll find him reading, writing, slapping some bass (poorly), rambling in nature and following his English football (soccer) team, West Ham United.