Most companies have some form of digital transformation strategy in place. Typically this consists of cloud migration or cloud-native approaches, and they have high expectations to move faster, reduce costs and deliver more value through agile methods and continuous delivery. A conference like SpringOne Platform is a great place to learn about new concepts, techniques and tools to inform digital transformation and make software engineering easier.
But with all the talk about ecosystem and tools and platforms and infrastructure for building and deploying cloud applications, the people side of the continuous delivery equation can become an afterthought. That’s why I was so excited to see the up-front emphasis on people—from mission-driven teams to humane practices to focus on talent—highlighted in sessions at this year’s SpringOne Platform. Here are some of my takes.
Great Mission, Great Team
Government agencies are often viewed as behind the curve of digital transformation, but the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shared a different picture in their “Delivering Business Value at Startup Speed” presentation about how they transformed asylum and immigration processes.
To set the stage, this agency with 50 applications in their portfolio, delivers on a daily basis 7000 green cards, 2000 naturalizations, and 45 asylum grants (with 311,000 asylum cases pending). Their mission is to “administer the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding the integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland and honoring our values.”
It was amazing to see how the USCIS Digital Innovation & Development team embraced this mission.
The USCIS DIDit Team Portraits
They adopted the humanistic Extreme Programming (XP) software development methodology, which included always pairing on the work, doing test-driven development, refactoring often, following simple design principles, using continuous integration, and collectively owning the code.
The teamwork fostered at USCIS coupled with the use of Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF) resulted in faster processes—going from taking a full month, from development to staging with sparse releases, to taking just one day. With the firm belief that “deployments should not be big events—should be dead simple,” they reduced deployment time to 10 minutes. They also have faster feedback, zero downtime and no roadblocks. They basically can ship whenever they want to ship.
You could tell how proud this team was of their mission and of how they were able to fulfill it as an agile development and delivery team.
Hacking Your Way to the Best Talent
To execute a digital transformation strategy, including the adoption of agile development and continuous delivery practices, you’ll need the right team. Companies are using a combination of skills retraining and creative hiring to build out their software engineering teams.
At SpringOne Platform, I was interested to hear about DBS Bank’s digital transformation and their unique technique for attracting and hiring great talent. They had the goal of being a 22,000 person start-up and part of that process included re-architecting fundamental technology to be more like a tech firm.
DBS Bank began their digital transformation in 2015 with an effort to hire deep technical talent and re-skill. They brought on PCF in 2017 and held their first Hack2Hire event, resulting in 50 new hires. Their second Hack2Hire event in 2018 led to 130 job offers. These events are part hackathon and part job fair where they get to see developer talent in action and recruit on the spot.
DBS Bank Digital Transformation Journey
In a short time, PCF has enabled DBS to get to market faster (from 6 months to less than 4 weeks) with self-provisioning of infrastructure done in less than a day. They now insource 85% of their talent and plan to have 85% of their staff focused on modern development within 18 months.
Another aspect of team building is about creating the right internal culture that attracts the best. Singapore Power, whose mission is to re-imagine sustainability with EnergyTech, talked about the atmosphere they have built in their company (from great agile methods to food perks). This includes the team building they continually do like internal tech talks, team events and community meetups. And it helps that they are working on really cool stuff in the energy sector like an Energy Brain that applies AI to energy profiling, forecasting, optimization and monitoring efficiency (using reinforcement learning).
Doing The Right Work = Customer Value
When companies can get more value into the hands of their customers faster, they win. That means that they need to focus on how to make developers as productive as possible (and have them working on the right things).
In their session at SpringOne Platform, Accenture acknowledged that software engineers are being asked to do more than ever. But, if engineers are being asked to manage or influence things outside their control, they can run into headwinds, resulting in frustrated, demotivated teams.
Accenture has an approach that helps organizations build modern engineering teams that can move at the speed of business. This approach identifies what can be improved in the software engineers’ domain (like testing and automation), how the domain could expand to include more (like CD self-service), and how to reduce those things that cause angst in the process (like improving business and ops engagement).
The Accenture focus is on modern engineering—with a belief that all organizations can be agile, regardless of the speed to market their applications require. Gaining trust across the organization is critical, which happens as automation is introduced and controls are validated more.
A core technology that is helping development and operations teams find the balance is PCF. It was confirmed by multiple speakers at SpringOne Platform, including Boeing, DBS Bank, and Talanx Group, that PCF takes the work out of infrastructure for the developer. The natural benefit of this is that developers can focus on business features instead of infrastructure.
The most notable view of this was from Talanx Group, a global insurance company that treats its developers as customers to PCF. Before PCF, their developers were spending time during their weekly iterations on operational work like getting the cloud running securely, curating docker images, patching E2C instances and integrating new services. That made their weekly sprints look something like the graph below.
Talanx Group Weekly Sprint Work Balance Before PCF
By adding PCF to their flexible infrastructure approach, they now have a small, passionate team running the platform and developers are able to keep up with business development (instead of maintaining technologies).
Pay It Forward
As a relatively new Pivotal employee attending my first SpringOne Platform, it’s exciting to feel the energy of the Pivotal community and hear the stories of how companies are changing themselves and changing the world.
Last case in point: Rob Mee, Pivotal CEO, announced the Pivotal Act program this week, which helps nonprofit organizations to use technology in support of social, humanitarian, and environmental issues across the globe.
For example, Pivotal Act is working with the Collaborative Cash Delivery Network (CCD), a consortium of 15 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) innovating in the humanitarian space, to explore a platform that facilitates coordination between NGOs providing cash to people. Awesome.
Get the announcements and full recaps of SpringOne Platform 2018 here: https://springoneplatform.io/
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