Lockheed Martin Transforms Software Development

DevOps is key to breaking down silos.

Changing the software development process at a large company is a process in itself. For aerospace, defense, and technology giant Lockheed Martin, the adoption of next-generation methodologies like DevOps is as much about organizational and cultural transformation as it is technology. And it does not happen overnight.  

“We’ve been on this evolutionary path to do more from an efficiency perspective,” says Liz Michaud, Lockheed Martin’s director of business applications. Progress has come by focusing on the ways people work together and the skills they bring to the job, and this approach is starting to pay off. “We have had some thrilling success applying the DevOps model to some of our newer applications,” she says. 

 We have had some thrilling success applying the DevOps model to some of our newer applications.

— Liz Michaud, director of business applications, Lockheed Martin

When Ms. Michaud took her current job three years ago, Lockheed Martin had already begun the process of breaking down development and operational silos that in some cases went back decades. But there was more to be done to modernize the approach of her IT operations staff, which includes about 800 people who support some 1,600 internal applications across the sprawling $45 billion company. The operations team has responsibility for everything from manufacturing and finance to supply chain and human resources.

One key organizational change was moving to a more centralized IT operations structure with a view of the entire enterprise, and then making sure the IT professionals are closely aligned with the business areas they support. For example, a senior IT manager will work directly with a program manager on the business side, with the business team defining what it needs from IT to fit its strategy.

Another important step was the adoption of Lean Application Development and Maintenance (ADM) principles, which Ms. Michaud describes as “a predecessor to DevOps.” Still a work in progress—it has moved from a limited number of experimental programs to roughly half the areas she supports—Lean ADM is yielding substantial cost reductions that allow IT to focus on innovation to an increasing degree. “The approach that we’ve found that works really well for us is experimentation. It was based on our experiments that we were able to come up with the formulas that we’re implementing across the board. We’re doing the same thing with DevOps right now.”

Getting serious about DevOps—a broad term combining “development” and “operations,” and understood at Lockheed Martin to include a substantial focus on hosting—means finding the right people to do the job. Ms. Michaud identified several “pockets of excellence” on her team and assembled a core group who do what she laughingly calls “DevOpsian” work. Currently, they have about 20 programs running across the company. Cloud-based applications and automated testing are primary targets.

Skills remain an area of concern as she pushes to expand the software modernization effort to DevOps and beyond. Hot topics like Big Data and analytics also require attention on the talent side. “We know we need people who really understand the business processes,” she says. “That’s becoming more and more critical—it’s almost more important that you understand how to operate and make the business more efficient and what the data means than it does if you know Java or dot net.”

Lockheed Martin is far from alone as it grapples with these issues. Our global survey of 200 senior IT and business executives shows that finding the right skills is a critical concern as companies transform themselves into software-driven enterprises, with DevOps skills in particular among the most highly valued. The survey also shows that more than half of companies are in the early stages of the transition from traditional development methods and vendors—if they have started the journey at all.

Success is measured in speed and added functionality. New metrics are being introduced for comparing the speed of DevOps to traditional baselines—but also in cultural change. There is evidence that this cultural change is happening; it is  anecdotal, but compelling. One application for generating proposals proved so popular that it began spreading beyond its original user base before such an expansion had been formally blessed by senior management. “People said, yeah, we’re going forth with this—it is almost organically happening, and that’s a telling sign about the ability to meet functional needs.”


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About the research

This case study is based on a 2015 interview with Liz Michaud, Director of business applications at Lockheed Martin. For more information about this research, read the full report, “The Battle for Competitive Advantage in the App Economy".

About CA Technologies

CA Technologies (NASDAQ: CA) creates software that fuels transformation for companies and enables them to seize the opportunities of the application economy. Software is at the heart of every business in every industry. From planning to development to management and security, CA is working with companies worldwide to change the way we live, transact, and communicate—across mobile, private, and public cloud, distributed and mainframe environments. Learn more at ca.com.

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