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Financial Services CIO DevOps Q&A

A4e office SheffieldPicture by Vicky Matthers iconphotomedia
DevOps stand up meeting: Picture by Vicky Matthers iconphotomedia

Transformational business technology leaders recently spoke to Horizon Business Innovation about DevOps adoption and the impact it is having on the wider organisation, staff and technology.

Piers Stobbs is Chief Data Officer (CDO) for online financial services aggregator Moneysupermarket.com working with Tim Jones the Group CIO of the Manchester headquartered business.  Fin Goulding is CIO for insurance giant Aviva in Ireland and is a prominent speaker on DevOps.

Piers Stobbs, Chief Data Officer, Moneysupermarket.com:

How would you define DevOps?
I’m not a direct owner of DevOps, however my teams do work closely with our DevOps function and I am a big fan of the approach.

piers-stobbs-v2At moneysupermarket, we are proponents of the “infrastructure as code” concept. In other words our goal is that all of our environments are cloud based and scripted and can be deployed and pulled down in an automated way. We believe this approach allows us both the efficiency of standardised processes with the flexibility to rapidly scale as needed.

How would you describe your DevOps maturity?
We are well on the way towards our goal and our DevOps function is critical to this progress,  generally our DevOps team is focused on both the creation of these automated scripts and the management and maintenance of them, and the processes behind them. I would say we  are not yet fully mature in our use of DevOps but we are on the way to becoming so.

DevOps and staff
The use of the DevOps concept is not without its challenges. From a skills perspective you are typically moving from a hands-on systems admin type role, where you need experience and skill with low level operating systems and software/package interactions and dependencies, to a broader skill set that requires both this hands-on knowledge together with an understanding of different cloud based processes and procedures as well as distributed open source libraries. This makes recruiting for DevOps positions quite challenging. You are also moving from a sysadmin mindset to actually more of a software development mindset (you make changes to code which initiates the environments rather than changing the environments directly) so the concepts of continuous testing and deployment sign-off become more important.

Where is DevOps in the business?
It is also true that devops is not for everyone. There are now increasing options for infrastructure as a service through the cloud platforms where developers and data scientists can essentially outsource devops to Google or Amazon. For a smaller company/start-up this could well be a sensible approach.

Fin Goulding, CIO, Aviva:    

fin gouldingHow do you define DevOps and do you use it?
For me DevOps is all about the cultural evolution in the workplace and I love it! I’m known as the ‘DevOps fanboy’ and I’ve been involved in the movement since late 2012. This is my third opportunity to roll-out the model, as it underpins our Digital Transformation.

How would you describe your DevOps maturity?
At Aviva we are just starting the journey.

Has DevOps been adopted beyond IT?
We do have product owners, BA’s and now the CISO joining the party because real-time collaboration is just common sense.

Going beyond IT, where in the business do you see the DevOps model being adopted?
I think that the term DevOps will probably become overwhelmed by the obsession
with tools (which should delight Sales Execs), but ultimately it will morph into a term that can cover all areas of business & IT such as holistic or hybrid teams.

Has DevOps had an impact on your staffing, have you had to retrain staff or recruit new staff?
Usually it’s a bit of both. You absolutely need to train the existing staff, but also you can be propelled by bringing in people with skills in cloud, APM, Puppet/Chef, Jenkins etc.

If you have adopted DevOps, has it been a success and would you continue with it?
It’s always a bumpy start but ends up being hugely successful.

In the adoption of DevOps, did you experience any barriers and what were they?
I would say my answer extends to Agile as well. Most companies have Waterfall designed
organisations (separate PM, BA, Dev, Test, Ops structures) which force inefficient hand-offs and multiple ticket systems to handle the work demand. Then there are always the toxic doubters and the C-suite that is obsessed with metrics before allowing you to
make organisational change.

What were the first seen benefits of adopting DevOps?
Incremental functionality/value (or as we call it code) is shipped faster with higher quality. This helps the bottom line and the DevOps movement gains greater buy-in. As a by product, one can decommission ticket systems because staff collaborate more and they begin to enjoy their jobs.

What are your main business priorities this year?
Too many to list! But my team will be deep into digital transformation, rolling out flow methodologies, addressing legacy platforms and embedding new ways of working such as DevOps. All of which are designed to delight our customers and drive our business forward.

Do you see DevOps being a way of achieving these business priorities?
It’s no longer optional and if you’re not doing it, you’ll be left behind. Especially when it comes to talent retention and acquisition. So my advice is to attend a few DevOps meetups to see what all the buzz is about!

For more information on adoption of DevOps ECS Digital, which spoke at the 2016 Innovation Leadership Summit have penned a white paper: A CIO Guide to DevOps which you can download at: http://www.ecs-digital.co.uk/2017-cio-guide

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