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Embracing an enterprise agile transformation

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By: Eric J. Bruno

 

Agility isn't just for startups and small companies. HP, Amazon, and Netflix are just a few enterprises that embrace agility and don't allow legacy technology to hold them back. For most, agile is a journey and transformation that we can learn from, and DevOps can lead the way to being agile.

 

IT TransformationIn fact, Google releases to production more than once per week, Facebook more than once per day, and in 2011, Amazon went on record and said they release to production once every 11 seconds, on average. These are all examples of large companies, well out of the startup phase, that have embraced and are succeeding with agile and continuous delivery. You might think it's risky to release with this frequency, but these companies know it's risky not to.

 

However, as with any initiative, you need a plan to transition to this level of nimbleness. Agile software delivery is a constant, iterative journey of self-improvement and building value. The corporate transformation required to achieve agility will transform your business as well. Let's explore HP's DevOps journey as an example.

 

Transforming an enterprise isn't easy

Agile is possible for any organization, but that doesn't mean there won't be snags along the way. First, as HP discovered, there's no script or roadmap to follow for agile success, and every corporate transition plan will vary. A better approach is one that involves a risk/reward metric up front, starting with either low-risk projects or those where agile offers the most value. Examples include internal, noncritical applications, or those plagued with delays and inefficiencies. Secondly, make sure you measure the change along the way, and take an iterative approach toward improving your agile practice using those measurements.

 

Next, you should ensure everyone involved in software delivery is on board with and educated about agile. This includes product management, development, IT, and even executives, because they need to back the effort. It also means that everyone should be prepared to move from multi-month delivery schedules to two-week schedules. To achieve this, everyone needs to collaborate continually. In HP's case, it was vital that everyone understood when changes were planned, including customer support personnel tasked with fielding calls from users.

 

HP also found that agile learning created enthusiasm that fueled its acceptance and growth throughout the company. As employees began to understand everyone else's roles and plans, they became more excited about the changes coming down and worked hard to iron out roadblocks along the way. Giving the teams better tools and visibility into the final product helped them feel more empowered and motivated. One of the biggest challenges at HP, as well as a big opportunity for discovering the value of agility, was getting people to look at things from the end users perspective, rather than their own points of view. Don't just limit improvements to pieces of a process—improve them holistically, end-to-end.

 

Change in any form can introduce stress and anxiety in people. For this reason, and to limit risk as a whole, it's best to start small and let each change that agility introduces prove itself. Remembering that quality and improvement (in both the end product and the process to get there) involve people first helped HP tailor the changes for different groups and even different individuals.

 

Finally, get your customers involved. The first step toward delivering the greater value that agility promises is to understand exactly what your customers find valuable. This will result in a feedback loop that includes everyone's opinions sooner to help you redirect future product plans based on real metrics. And given that everyone is focused on smaller releases and cycles, making adjustments along the way based on feedback is less likely to cause stress or require major rework.

 

Agile brings maturity to the enterprise

Regardless of size or age of the organization, agile promises software maturity. Done properly, agile development and deployment results in greater stability, quicker time-to-value for end users, and an organization that works at a constant, reasonable pace. It's not chaos. It's not a "free for all." Agile is a disciplined, well-planned, nimble, and self-tuning methodology that increases quality in your products and value for your organization and customers.

 

Following the sage advice from HP's James Chen, "Don't wait until you think your organization or people are ready. Start early, start small, and start with something where you can measure a business outcome." The journey to agility begins by taking the first step, and it starts today.

 

For more details on how HP uses DevOps and agile development to optimize application release and delivery, read the case study, Through the DevOps Looking Glass: Learnings from HP's Own Transformation Initiative.

 

 

 

About the author

Eric BrunoEric Bruno

 

Computer scientist skilled in full life cycle, large-scale software architecture, design, and development. His accomplishments span development expertise in the areas of client/server ,highly distributed, multi-tiered web, as well as real-time and transactional software.

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 Follow me on Twitter @ericjbruno

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