Businesses working toward a digital transformation don’t have to start from scratch. The difficult work companies have been doing for years around ITIL, ITSM and more recently DevOps will only enhance digital efforts.
Rohit Antao is partner in PwC’s consulting business and leads PwC’s Enterprise DevOps solutions. He says there is more to DevOps than collaboration. Security, customer adoption and even community come into play in the digital realm.
Justin Vaughan-Brown: What does digital transformation mean to you?
Rohit Antao: Think of the mid 1700s, when for the first time machines replaced hands as the main tools of production. This adoption transformed manufacturing processes. In much the same way, digital technologies are changing the ways in which we interact, engage and consume. But the true innovation is coming from the disruption of traditional consumption models and paradigms. Look at the impact SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) is having on engagement and property models for example.
JVB: In a presentation at CA World last year, you stated, “Not all silos are bad.” That’s perhaps a controversial comment in relation to the DevOps anti-silo philosophy. Can you explain your reasoning?
RA: There is a place and purpose for silos. Take for example the need to incubate an idea away from traditional policies, practices and behaviors. Sometimes you need to break away from the established groups to allow innovation to be cultivated. Another example is the need for Centers of Excellence or Centers of Competence as we call these at PwC. Overall, there are two schools of thought on this topic, either you have a dedicated group or a practice leader who continues to drive change until it is embedded across a multi-vendor ecosystem. Sometimes you need to create silos to actually move forward.
JVB: What role does ITIL have for DevOps? Positive, negative or shouldn’t it be a question at all?
RA: ITIL has evolved from being process-centric to service-centric (lifecycle). There has been a fundamental change in the expectations of service management. It remains an important requirement and it is not going away, but it has moved on from a situation in which an employee calls a service desk with an issue. Today’s IT service management should be more proactive (pre-emptively fixing problems before they arise), analytics-driven and cloud-based, so the workforce barely notices it much of the time.
“DevOps shouldn’t be just about high-velocity application releases; the applications should be secure as well, to ensure customer confidence and ultimately adoption.”
— Rohit Antao, Partner, PwC
JVB: Tell me more about the need for a “consultant mindset”. What exactly does this mean?
RA: Nowadays, there are many roles that involve multi-skilled employees working across multiple domains, such as cloud architects and full stack developers. These are unicorns that are hired in and work in a matrix, no-hierarchical sense. They are part of a “council” that comes together to fix a problem, with dotted line responsibilities. Technology is becoming increasingly abstracted, and the focus is now on business acumen, problem solving and the overall business issues being faced.
JVB: What are the different “speeds of software delivery”?
RA: At PwC, we recognize four types of speed:
- “Actual speed”: how fast you are currently delivering your software; the actual cycle time
- “Desired speed”: how fast your customers wish to have new software
- “Achievable speed”: how fast you can deliver based on existing technology, people and processes, in a fully optimized state
- “Target speed”: The goal—where “actual speed” matches “desired speed”
Financial and HR systems don’t require speed, whereas those supporting marketing campaigns probably do. A one-size-fits-all approach is not needed, and applications should be released at a velocity that makes sense for the particular part of the business in question.
JVB: Where are most of the organizations you speak to on this speed matrix?
RA: Most organizations haven’t grasped their “desired speed” yet. What is the business rationale for, say, 300 releases per day? You need to focus on desired outcomes. An “actual” speed greater than “desired” equals unused capacity and/or underutilized assets. “Desired” speed greater than “actual” means unhappy customers. Companies need to invest resources and efforts in being better at supporting groups such as field sales or marketing, rather than HR. It’s the former teams that actually need the speed.
JVB: Customer experience is poised to take over from product and price as the prime differentiator by 2020—do you agree and if so, why?
RA: It is really hard to separate product, price and customer experience, but overall I agree with this projected state of affairs. The majority of buying decisions today involve people factoring collective experiences. Think of restaurant or book reviews—we look at these first before going ahead and making a purchase. The voice of the community is incredibly powerful in determining how people interact, engage and consume.
JVB: How critical is security to DevOps success?
RA: Very critical. DevOps has been about rapidly responding to market dynamics to shape the customer experience, and responding to these customers’ feedback. But we can’t forget the importance of trust in the customer relationship; there is an understandable expectation that personal and/or sensitive data will not be shared or lost. DevOps shouldn’t be just about high-velocity application releases; the applications should be secure as well, to ensure customer confidence and ultimately adoption.
Digital Dialogues is a regular series of interviews conducted by Justin Vaughan-Brown with digital transformation thought leaders, consultants and innovators. Each interview addresses the challenges, opportunities and multiple dynamics at play as organizations evolve into truly digital businesses offering seamless customer experiences.