Our CEO, James Smith, chatted to DevOpsTV at DOES UK 2018 to catch up on the recent rebrand, and what this means for the future of DevOpsGroup.
Date: 25th June 2018 | Duration: 15.30
Hello everyone. This is Alan Shimel DevOps.com, DevOps TV. And we’re here at the DevOps Enterprise Summit UK 2018. My guest in this segment is James Smith CEO of the DevOpsGroup. The DevOpsGroup is an old yet new player in the DevOps field. Some of you may have heard of them as the DevOpsGuys. So James were you around at the beginning for DevOpsGuys?
I was, back in 2013. Steve and I founded the company. It was just two of us back then, myself from a development background and Steve from the operations side of the business. So we were two guys really passionate about helping organisations transform and the Dev and Ops element helped us form DevOpsGuys.
Fantastic. And so you’ve kind of been, not kind of, DevOpsGuys was providing DevOps services, consulting, to organisations. Primarily in the UK or throughout the rest of Europe and the world?
So we’ve actually done quite a bit of international work with some of the big enterprise clients that we’ve worked with. Both in mainland Europe and on the East Coast of the US. But we’re predominantly focused on the UK market. So this is where we’re headquartered based in Cardiff in Wales and opening offices in London and other regional centres around the UK at the moment.
So 2013 was sort of the not quite prehistoric but stone age, if you will, for DevOps. Some of our listeners and viewers may not be familiar with what DevOps was like in 2013. Give them a taste for it.
Well, we actually started the company as a blog. We were putting material out there that we were really passionate about. Talking about maybe some of the cultural aspects and talking about some of the elements around continuous delivery. And we were fortunate to be talking about those things when Gene Kim and team brought the Phoenix Project out to market. Which I think really brought the story of DevOps to life.
What we were seeing in the market is the really early beginnings of the DevOps story. You had organisations that were already pushing the boundary, companies like flicker, and those stories coming through velocity conference at the time. But there wasn’t really a mass understanding of what this DevOps thing meant in the market and it was very embryonic. So it is an exciting time.
It was. I mean we launched DevOps.com in March of 2014 but we actually started working on it in, I guess, the summer of 2013. I had met Gene maybe a year or so before that. And to me, it was all about security right. I just thought this was going to be great for security. My background was in security. There was such was it a Start-Up thing? Was it for enterprises? Was it for both? Was there a difference between enterprise DevOps and Start-Up DevOps? All of these philosophical arguments raging in the early adopter community.
But it’s certainly come a long way. The market’s matured, DevOps has gone mainstream and DevOpsGuys has gone mainstream as well. It’s no longer the DevOpsGuys.
Yeah. So I think back then we were certainly an early adopter. We were working with early adopter organisations. But you are absolutely right. We see that true Crossing the Chasm element now where DevOps has come out to the early adopter phase and has started to go mainstream.
With our business being well over 80 people now when we look round that the diversity of our business we really felt it was the right time to acknowledge that diversity. To recognise that the company wasn’t just two guys anymore that it was a group of amazing individuals delivering some fantastic work across our clients. Therefore we decided to take the brand and really rename it to the DevOpsGroup to really make it an inclusive environment in which to work.
So you don’t have to be just guys anymore.
We’re not just guys anymore, no. There’s a very strong female leadership in our business. There’s a lot of strong female engineering and we have a diverse range of cultures represented as well as age groups. And it’s all of those factors combined that make this a great inclusive environment.
Congratulations. So let’s think about what started as kind of two guys in a blog has now become the DevOpsGroup with over 80 people working. And then you guys just announced some funding.
So we’ve been organic in terms of the growth of the business to date, over the five years. We’re really focused on what I think is the best source of revenue and that’s a paying customer. We’ve got the business to a scale now where we really identified what we’re good at. And it felt like the right time to really kick on with the growth.
So we’ve worked with the BGF here in the UK which is a V.C. investor. One of the most active certainly in Europe. They’ve done over 200 investments into businesses like ours. We went through a process and found them to be a great partner to actually work with. So we brought a large Series A investment into the business earlier this year.
I think it was about £3 million?
£3 million pounds. Yeah.
Which is nothing to sneeze at.
No, it’s a great injection of growth capital. But for us, it’s a validation that we have a great team. A really strong management team. A really strong underlying foundation to the business and someone external has really validated that. So I think it’s really exciting because the market opportunity as DevOps goes mainstream is just so exciting and we’re really proud to be at the forefront of it.
So James in a lot of ways when we look at the journey of the DevOpsGuys to the DevOpsGroup and what that meant. Going from two guys and a blog to 80 people. Opening offices throughout the U.K. for now. Maybe other places later. Three million pounds in a Series A investment which always begs the question of will there be a Series B or C or more right.
That journey if you overlaid it on to the market for DevOps it would probably be a very tight parallel right. Where we see that same sort of phenomenal growth evolution maturation of DevOps in general as it’s crossed the chasm and gone mainstream right.
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s really reflective of what the market’s doing. When you come to conferences like Enterprise Summit you see the types of organisations that are engaging in DevOps. But it’s really interesting. I think a sign of the market is the type of conversations we have.
We have two primary conversations. There’s a group of organisations that are trying to understand how to scale initiatives that they’ve been running for some time. But we have just as many conversations around DevOps 101 material. Of organisations now coming into the marketplace for the first time and saying how do I start? What do I get going? And these are pretty big companies. Big teams of people, big engineering functions, that are just starting that journey. And to me, that’s the sign that we’re going mainstream in this market.
And that is. You know if you just went to the DevOps Enterprise Summits, here and in the US. You hear companies that have been out on their transformative journey for three, four, five years or more. You would think oh my goodness everyone knows what DevOps is and is well along their way. Is moving out from just pockets of DevOps to enterprise-wide DevOps deployments. And then sometimes you need to step back and say wait a second. These companies, I don’t know if they’re bleeding edge, but they’re early adopters still. The mainstream, the bulk of our market is still in front of us.
I’ve seen recent reports, well not recent but 2016 2017, from Gartner and others, Forester, that say maybe 60 percent of companies have dabbled or thought about DevOps. But really only probably 10 percent are what we would call DevOps through and through right. DevOps enterprise-wide.
So you look at that and the market opportunity as you said is phenomenal. How do you, as DevOpsGroup now, seek to compete with Accenture or Ernst and Young. Some of the traditional, even IBM for that matter, these behemoths who quite frankly DevOps is just another arrow in their quiver. They’re not necessarily, that’s not the only thing they’re selling that’s for sure. Where’s your competitive advantage how do you compete with companies like that?
Well, I think when you look at what’s happening in the marketplace digital transformation is now the agenda of pretty much every C-Suite executive in every company. I think what those organisations are now understanding is that to deliver these digital transformation initiatives they need a high performing I.T. capability underneath. And that’s where our specialism is. So we don’t do all of the other things that a large can of global SIEs do. Or some of the other organisations that you’ve named. We’re focused on doing one thing and doing it very well.
So that allows us to remain pretty lean and agile. Which are concepts we bring into our entire client base. We practice those elements ourselves. We’re very customer-centric listening to the feedback that we’re getting. I think at the moment we have the agility in our business to really work alongside those customers and listen and develop products and services to really meet their needs and tailor those things down. So I think speed to market and our execution strategy is one thing that allows us to remain competitive.
We couldn’t go out there into these organisations and talk about behaviours and culture without practising everything that we preach. So we’re really proud of the inclusive culture that we’ve built. It puts very much all of the elements that we look at in terms of business empowerment, autonomy, vision and purpose. Those types of elements of behaviour that we’re trying to help customers embrace are really solidified in our own company. And I think our culture is something that really does set us apart from some other organisations and we’re very proud of it.
I think the other thing I’d say though is one of the things that happens when a market is this big is that there’s plenty of opportunity for everyone. We’re not out there trying to compete with the big SIEs. They’re great at what they do. They’re really good companies and they’re delivering good services into a lot of their customer base. What we’re intent on doing is helping the customers that we’ve identified that we can do a really good job in. I think there’s plenty of opportunities for organisations like us. We see more and more coming through into the marketplace every day, as well as the larger more mature organisations, to go out and really make a difference to the companies we work alongside.
I agree with you 100%. I think the sign of a healthy market is that there is room for the larger size as you say. For the specialist such as DevOpsGroup. And everything in between. And you will see players move up and down that scale. And oftentimes politics and DevOps mix with strange bedfellows right. Today’s competitors are tomorrow’s acquirer in many cases.
And that brings me to the next thing. So where do you go from here? You’ve raised some money now. I’ve had in my life, as an entrepreneur, several VC back companies. Of course, the question you always get is what’s your exit strategy? I hate that question. I think it’s a terrible question. Someone much smarter than me once told me if you make your company as a pig to market you wind up with a pig. So that’s not the strategy. But what is the future of the DevOpsGroup?
Well, internally a lot of the language that we’ve been using is that the move to DevOpsGroup was the end of the beginning. So we’re only just at the start of the next stage of the journey. So it’s way too early to tell what it’s going to look like but we’ve identified the market forces that are out there. It’s a big and expanding market it’s a super exciting space to be in.
Every day that we’re working with clients we get feedback of all of the lives we’ve changed in I.T. departments. For me, that’s the biggest gratification we get back where our clients are coming back to us and the staff inside those companies and saying I value come into work again. You’ve made it an exciting place to come and work, I feel valued. That type of employee satisfaction is the thing that drives us on as a business.
That’s not to take away the fact that to really get there we have to bring in core engineering we have to bring in automation techniques. We have to bring in education and all the other services that we offer. But if we can keep doing that over the near future and do that for more and more people in the I.T. space I’d be really delighted.
Congratulations. James, it’s a great story. As we spoke about before we started recording. I mean you embody, not you personally but the DevOpsGuys to DevOpsGroup story sort of embodies the DevOps market at large right. And so your success is the DevOps market success as well. So we wish you lots of success.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for being our guest here today.
It’s been an absolute pleasure.
James Smith CEO of the DevOpsGroup here at DevOps Enterprise Summit UK 2018. This is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com and DevOps TV.
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