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Creating a DevOps Culture: The Key to unlocking your organization's productivity

Nick Cafferillo, Chief Data and Technology Officer, S&P Global
Nick Cafferillo, Chief Data and Technology Officer, S&P Global

Nick Cafferillo, Chief Data and Technology Officer, S&P Global

Nearly every Chief Technology or Information Officer is confronted by the perennial problem of having too many great ideas on the development roadmap but not enough resources to get them all done fast enough. Unfortunately, the budget never expands as fast as the to-do list. The only viable solution is to use existing resources much more efficiently and productively, which is the central aim of DevOps, and crucially, foster a culture that embraces its process and benefits.

One key advantage is that DevOps does away with overly manual processes and diminishes the time teams have historically spent on rework, last-minute defects, and the frantic pre-launch deployment. The result is newly freed capacity which can be plowed back into new, innovative projects. This is a win for the company and a win for the employees who get to work on more interesting things.

  DevOps is essential to manage a constant flow of data and service requests while maintaining performance on a fast-growing platform​  

In the broader industry, it is great to see DevOps taking off in more and more companies. The wider adoption means there is a growing body of expert literature, cloud platform capabilities, open-source software contributions, and multiple end-to-end lifecycle automation suites.

With so many resources available, DevOps is no longer just for start-ups or tech companies.

This has never been truer than today at S&P Global. As a leading provider of ratings, benchmarks, analytics, and data, we deliver best in class solutions and essential intelligence for our customers in the capital and commodities markets. To enable us to do this with the speed and agility our customers demand, we have jumped all in with DevOps. This is now a major focus and an integral part of our corporate strategy.

In fact, DevOps and other cutting-edge technical practices are playing a huge role in our efforts to build out the S&P Global Platform which provides the intelligence our customers need to make decisions with conviction via easily accessible channels: web, mobile and Microsoft Office add-ins. This web-based product digs deep to deliver solutions that are sector-specific, data-rich, and targeted for our customers’ evolving needs.

The platform is built on a highly scalable service-based architecture that marries extremely well with DevOps practices and culture. Many of our legacy platforms were built monolithically and we are migrating their functionality to the new platform on a service-by-service basis. These new services then snap in perfectly to a streamlined and super-efficient DevOps pipeline that has been adopted across all engineering teams.

DevOps is essential in our ability to manage a constant flow of data and service requests while maintaining performance on a fast-growing platform.

Initially, we had to learn how to manage the transition of some responsibilities. While independence and team autonomy are key to DevOps, we needed to find a balance with the performance requirements of a platform used by hundreds of thousands of demanding professionals. The reality is that reliability is a critical success factor for a leading and established business like S&P Global which means there is no place for mistakes and missteps. That is why we came up with specific rules of the road to manage transitions, scale out and bring new joiners up to speed quickly.

We also added a Site Reliability Engineering sub-component to the overall DevOps initiative that helps us shape and refine our production tactics, roles, and responsibilities. We also have interlocked DevOps with our long-standing, rigorous implementation of Agile-Scrum methodologies and Project Portfolio Prioritization. We call this comprehensive approach to the “Lean Technology Value Stream.” It is working amazingly, and we see an additional lift, efficiency, and employee empowerment every day.

The full body of Lean technical practices is transformative for our business and, in my opinion, can be for the wider industry. The reason is that with DevOps, the automation, tooling and architectural aspects are relatively easy. While we can find great examples to follow from the growing DevOps community, the challenging part is creating a truly meaningful cultural change. That is because the culture is the most important component of a DevOps transformation. Getting operations, developers and testers to collaborate and interact cohesively is about cultural change, not just the tool chains. In other words, if you fail at culture, you’ll fail across the board with DevOps or anything else. Over the years, we have learned that culture comes from habitualized behavior and virtuous cycles where everyone takes enormous pride in their work. Having the right workflow and frameworks in place across all functions and all stages of value creation help to accelerate that future state and keep everyone rowing in the same direction with less ambiguity. Once the repetition is in place, it just takes off from there.

All that said, we couldn’t be more excited about DevOps and how it is opening opportunities for our teams and the overall business. If you are ready to invest in the time and efforts required to change the culture of your organization, you will reap efficiencies and the necessary productivity gains that drive higher levels of customer engagement and ultimately, profitability.

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