Agile, DevOps, and CI/CD (Continuous integration (CI)/continuous delivery (CD)) represent an essential triad in modern business. As we increasingly view business – regardless of industry – as digital business, understanding the interplay of the triad becomes critical.
The criticality comes into sharp focus as we look at our respective “customer” and embrace true customer centricity. The demographics, psychographics, and needs of customers are rapidly changing and in an ever-connected world, understanding and responding to those evolving needs will be the difference between success and failure.
Out of all the needs of today’s consumer (either in a B2B or B2C setting, or a citizen in a government context) – none stands out as much as speed. Regardless of how we got here (was it the internet? Mobile? Social media? Globalization? etc.) the need for speed is truly universal.
Consider 5G. Compared to 4G, 5G promised a 100X improvement in speed and at the same time a 5X reduction in latency [i]. At the same time, we continue to push the speed of optical networks – recently achieving “a new top internet speed of 178Tbps – a fifth quicker than the prior record and fast enough to download the entire Netflix catalog in under a second” [ii].
These and countless other examples serve to heighten consumer expectations, and at the same time offer developers and the companies that employ them a boundless environment to delight customers! The DevOps and CI/CD stack is comprised of an ever-evolving list including containers, serverless functions, automation, security, etc. Some of these are pure technology, others process, and others a hybrid of the two.
Thus, to realize the full potential of DevOps and CI/CD in fast-paced modern business requires focus and synthesis across technology, processes, and culture.
Consider an article published in The Register entitled Containers to capture 15% of all enterprise apps across 75% of business by 2024 [iii] .
Containers are an essential technology component of the DevOps and CI/CD stack, serving to remove the friction, accelerating the flow from development to deployment, abstracting the operating system and runtime. The article highlights that containers will deliver 75% of new custom enterprise applications. This is a dramatic jump from the less than 35% of the same workloads delivered today.
Thus, in the next 4 years we expect the percentage of new custom applications utilizing containers to increase by a factor of more than 2X! When asked what kind of companies are leading the way in the acceleration in containerization, Gartner research vice-president Michael Warrilow, notes that:
Todays container users are most likely to be either a large financial services concern or a cloud-native company with fewer than 10 employees.
That says volumes as to the transformative power of genuine adoption of DevOps in businesses of varied size in a plethora of industries.
What can those 2 seemingly diverse set of organizations see in the shift to containers and how can the rest of leverage DevOps elements?
To realize the potential, focus is key – and to keep things straightforward, here are 3 areas to start with:
Select Tech Stack for the next Decade
Regardless of what business you are in, it is important to see yourself in the light of digital. Sticking to large financial services we touched on earlier let’s explore Banking and in particular, DBS [iv].
DBS is the Development Bank of Singapore with presence in 20 markets worldwide, over 10 million retail customers, over 200,000 institutional customers, and S$13.2 (US$9.68) billion in revenue in 2018. In 2014, bank leadership set out an initiative to become the BBIW (Best Bank in World) by 2020.
Spoiler Alert – they achieved it ahead of schedule!
The focus of the initiative was expansive digital transformation and a drive to become “digital to the core”. The bank understood that “business equals technology; technology equals business” and set an ambitious digital transformation agenda focused on Making Banking Joyful.
It played out in a number of ways through the years including delivering digital services, mostly via mobile, including an innovative mobile wallet app, a customized application for priority and private banking client, and the world’s first online treasury and cash management simulation tool for institutional customers, along with many others.
The bank was attuned to the evolving marketplace, understanding that customers wanted to focus on outcomes of banking rather than banking, and the pressing need to bank on their terms in an increasingly digital manner that prioritized speed, service, and outcomes.
Aligning culture is critical for the success of any transformation. For DBS this meant adopting a two in a box strategy - bringing together business and technology leaders in-order to realize the vision of BBIW.
Additionally, it meant shifting from a ‘project’ to ‘platform’ perspective - empowering leaders and teams to focus on the delivery of a well-defined ‘platform’ vs an arduous approval-heavy string-of-project’ model.
Finally, the bank focused on developing agile skills – across technical and business functions, deploying high-performance agile teams, automating IT with a focus on automation (i.e. DevOps), and designing for modern systems.
All of this was put in place in-order to transform the bank into a 22,000-person startup intently focused on the customer journey and delighting the customer!
Culture is the catalyst to activate the strategy and provide context for the evolution of the technology stack.
Select Tech Stack for the next Decade
In order to support an agile customer-centric strategy focused on responsiveness and customer centricity, the technology employed is essential. But in addition, vendor selection becomes critical.
The history of IT provides many examples of technology companies that were synonymous with an era – IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat and countless others. But today, given how essential technology is for customer interaction, selecting the best vendor(s) becomes strategic – and it is key to take the long view.
That means looking beyond the press releases, launches, and leaks – and looking at which vendor(s) possess the ethos to empower your strategy for the next decade and beyond.
Back to DBS – they adopted GANDALF.
GANDALF stood for Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
The “D” stood for DBS – putting a bank in the company of the leaders in technology.
GANDALF stood for not just technology elements to be employed, but also companies that DBS looked to benchmark against and model themselves after as they progressed on the digital transformation journey of the bank.
The “A” in GANDALF stood for Amazon and in particular its use of data and automation.
Amazon is clearly the leader in Public Cloud Services [v] with a 2018 market share of close to 48%, 3X higher than the next closest provider – Microsoft holding a 15.6% market share.
The cloud services that Amazon Web Services provides are both expansive and dynamic.
AWS offers up key elements of the DevOpsstack including CI/CD, Microservices, Infrastructure as Code, Monitoring and Logging, PaaS, and Version Control.
AWS is continuously offering innovative solutions, for example Amazon CodeGuru - a
Developer tool powered by machine learning that provides intelligent recommendations for improving code quality and identifying an application’s most expensive lines of code.
That constant drive to understand the needs of customers and the challenges they face bodes well that AWS will continue to deliver essential innovation to support a modern, open DevOps technology stack for years to come.
Customer centricity and DevOps
DevOps and CI/CD push us to look at business as a customer-centric continuum of value. Certainly, there is an element of integrating the development, testing, and deployment processes through automation to increase speed, efficiency, effectiveness, and responsiveness.
Additionally, there is an element of bringing the back and front office together, providing a seamless unified experience to meet the evolving needs of customers.
The magic is in formulating the distinct mix of technology, processes, and culture that is authentic to your organization and its objective to delight your customer today and for decades to come.