Raj Fowler Principal DevOps Consultant at DevOpsGroup gives a keynote talk on his experience leading the DevOps transformation in BAE Systems.
Date: 16th November 2018 | Duration: 37:28
Hi everyone. Good morning. Thank you. Actually, the ASOS guys have just talked about a technology company that sells fashion. They’ve talked about product teams. They’ve talked about culture. I can sit down again. They’ve had my talk. So let’s just start off with a game. So can everybody stand up for a minute? Up on your feet. Let’s wake everybody up. That’s right. So I want you to stay standing up if your working in an Agile environment. Or working with people in an Agile environment. Wow. Nobody sat down. That’s pretty good. Wow, I’m preaching to the converted then. So stay standing up if you’re in a DevOps environment. Wow. So stay standing up if you’re in or working with a product team who build and support the platform. Wow. Flippin heck. Right, I was expecting a lot of people to sit down. So stay standing up if you are now doing multiple deployments a month. Oh wow, still a lot of people. So multiple deployments a week. Wow. Multiple deployments a day. Wow. Anybody doing more than 10 deployments a day? Right. Wow. You know what guys maybe at the break you might want to talk to me and definitely talk to Ian. But there are some people still standing up and you need to give them a round of applause and you need to speak to them. Awesome.
Right. So that was the sit down game.
I was going to play James and get everybody singing but I’m not. Plus one of my bosses is called James and he might not like it. So I want to talk about a story of me. A story of BAE Systems. A story of DevOps and your story. I’m going to start off with me.
So I was born in Wales so I’m Welsh. I grew up in Grimsby. Don’t go there. I lived in Kenya. Go there. I now live in Preston. I’ve got a masters in aerospace engineering so I know a lot about engineering. I didn’t do as much coding as I would’ve liked when I left. But I do understand the concepts of thermodynamics, propulsion and lift and all that sort of stuff. I did 20 years at BAE Systems. So I’ve done everything from aircraft maintenance systems, flight simulation. I’ve been a project manager or service manager. A business systems manager, service integration manager. Then I’ve recently become, well I was the head of DevOps for three years, head of product delivery. Now I’m a DevOps consultant with the DevOpsGroup.
I have a wife three kids and a dog. And sorry to Scott.
I have 12 puppies. They’re just like scrambling now and eating and it’s so messy. It’s like having twelve children.
The story of BAE Systems. So BAE Systems, massive organisation. It’s actually got nearly 90 thousand employees across the world. I predominantly worked with the UK division of that. So that was like forty thousand.
It’s an organisation that has a massive history. There is over a century’s worth of history here. There’s a lot of processes, a lot of cultural, a lot of things been smushed together to create this thing called BAE Systems.
And this thing does amazing stuff. I mean this is a totally unstable aircraft. If it wasn’t for the computer systems on it, it would fall out of the sky. But it’s instability creates the agility that the platform needs.
The Queen Elizabeth carrier is massive.
The F35 just launched. I’ve just seen the vertical take-off videos from the RAF. It’s amazing.
And then submarines that just sit there in the dark in the waters for however long years. Just a deterrent.
But that’s great. Those platforms, the engineering capabilities that went to build those things. The processes, we called it lifecycle management, were the same processes used to deliver software. Something that took 50 years to build and was going to run for 50 to 70 years. We were applying those processes to I.T. and guess what it didn’t work.
The world’s gone through so many revolutions. Mik Kersten from Tasktop presented this at DevOps Enterprise Summit. And he talked about the different revolutions that we’ve been through. It was the age of steel and heavy engineering where project management was born. I hope there are not many project managers in here! So the whole project management, service management, it all came out of that.
We’re in a new era now. We’re in the age of software and digital. The Facebooks and Amazons and ASOS now are changing the way we work, the way we deliver stuff. And what’s more important than maybe project management in the future? And these are words from Gene Kim the author of the Phoenix Project. Was that maybe we’re heading towards dynamic learning organisations that can respond and adapt. That you actually give people the accountability, the authority, to do their jobs. And they’re constantly learning based on the environment around them.
These guys here have transformed the way we think about work. These are technology companies that manage data, deliver sales. Like ASOS again, a technology company that sells fashion. And Gene talks about these high performing organisations use these techniques that we now call DevOps. That are delivering hundreds, maybe thousands, of changes a day whilst preserving world-class stability, reliability, security. It’s that balance, that throughput, and stability. That’s the real key. And they’ve done that by looking at culture, processes, and practices. All the things that Ian and Scott talked about. It’s breath-taking performance.
And what organisations are realising that actually by taking I.T. and business and fusing them together to making them one. Underpinning that with a culture of performance, a culture of sharing, a culture of working together, a culture of collaboration. Organisations are achieving amazing things. That kind of predication, the DevOps Research and Assessment Organisation (DORA) have done five years worth of surveys on all of this. They can say through data that culture effects I.T. performance and I.T. performance predicts business performance.
And we just need to go back to 2011. Those were the companies that were at the top in terms of value. J.P. Morgan, HSBC, General Electric etc. Then you fast forward six years, the same time it’s taken ASOS to transform.
And guess what. There’s a different set of people at the top in terms of value. And the ones highlighted in blue are the ones that are underpinned by technology. Technology is the business. Jeffrey Snover, Technical Fellow at Microsoft, these are his slides. He shared this with the group a couple of weeks ago at DevOps Enterprise Summit.
What the state of DevOps report is saying is actually those organisations that have made that leap are delivering code 46 times more frequently. They are much faster getting changes out. They are faster recovering from change. They have a lower change failure rate. And most of all they are twice as likely to exceed their profitability, market share, and productivity goals. And we saw that earlier today. Marc Andreessen, he predicted this so long ago. He said do you know what companies in every industry need to assume the software revolution is coming. Software is eating the world.
You’re not meant to be able to read this. This is a slide from IDC. Basically, you look at all these industries, the software organisations are taking over. They are coming. They’re like a virus if I was to use a technical term. Because I.T. is not just I.T. anymore. It’s no longer a cost centre, even though lots of companies still see it that way. It’s a core part of the business. It’s a value centre. We’ve been disrupted. The marketplace has changed. The leaders are now technology companies. That do stuff.
My story in all of this is once upon a time BAE Systems. If this was a Star Wars reel if you can imagine that. I’m not that good at PowerPoint. Everyday stability and change was a trade-off. So me and the head of projects would fight all the time. One day we started to move to SaaS (software as a service). ServiceNow, Success Factors, Salesforce. All of these things. We read the Phoenix Project by Gene Kim. So who’s read that book? That’s fairly healthy. That’s good. I read that and went there’s a different way. There’s a new way.
And actually, I was running all enterprise services for BAE Systems at the time. My boss, the I.T. director, said well why don’t we just take a few products. The four or five I just talked about. We moved to a product-centric delivery model. Very similar to what these guys had shared earlier on. Then because of that, we stabilised I.T. and we accelerated the delivery value. On the back of that, we became a trusted partner to the business. We removed ourselves from being this back-office capability that nobody knew about to working with H.R. working with finance, working with I.T.
I benchmarked myself against the 2016 DevOps report. Basically, they were talking about the difference between low and high performers and they categorised that against changes, unplanned work, and morale. In the three years that we were running this, we saw 300 times improvement in our frequency of delivery of change. We saw a 35 percent reduction in incidents. And the team morale doubled. So just by changing the way we worked. Changing the way we thought. Changing the way we practice. Changing the way we did lean I.T. delivery of breaking work down into smaller batches and delivering it out. We saw phenomenal productivity. These guys are the product owners I had who ran the teams, who built and supported the software.
Numbers are a great thing. We see the stats, we hear them. But what does that mean? So we transformed the cyber business. We changed the way 40,000 employees interacted with I.T. services through the adoption of ServiceNow. And we changed the way the business looked after 40,000 employees through the implementation of Success Factors. And all of the features and stuff that came out of that.
But how did we do that?
He’s my first superhero reference. So we know the story of Spider-Man. He gets bitten. He starts developing powers. He’s a bit clumsy. He fails a few times. And then he starts harnessing his power and starts doing amazing things. We have to go through that journey. We have to go through that transformation.
So the first thing for me, in the how, was to give the organisation time. Whether its six years or three years in my organisation. We have to go through this denial, blame, uncertainty, acceptance, the change curve. We needed the right help. So I sent my whole organisation, including my customers, on training to do value flow quality. Let’s get rid of time, cost, and scope. That’s great for building a Typhoon aircraft. Not great for building software.
And then at the time the DevOpsGroup, James Smith, James Bettley at the time, were my coaches and the coaches to my product owners. They were our mentors, they were our Yoda. They were the ones who said we’re heading in the right direction. To be honest it’s a big reason why I’ve joined the organisation. I’ve gone from being Bill, in the Phoenix Project, to being Eric. I’m not quite getting Eric’s dress sense though. We need to realise that actually, this is hard. Greatness, success, is on the other side of the pain. We have to go through the pain to become great.
But what does great look like? That was a really big question. What are we here to do? Lord Of The Rings is a great family favourite for us. It’s really clear that the fellowship of the ring have come together because. Well, the vision was to save middle earth. Who from? From the Dark Lord Sauron. What was he trying to do? Well, he was trying to take over the whole of Middle earth. How are we going to stop that? By taking that ring and putting it in the fire of Mount Doom. What is the objective here, or the KPI? That ring in the fire of Mount Doom fully dissolved before the Lord Sauron takes on Middle Earth. It was really clear what the guys had to do and they didn’t have lots of project plans and meetings and all that kind of stuff. But they were empowered to go and save the planet.
And they have this concept. Jim Collins talks about the hedgehog concept which is doing what you’re great at. Do what you’re passionate about. Best at. What drives your economic indicators. We need to get the right alignment and autonomy together. So if you just say here’s what we want you to do. Or this is the goal of the organisation but I’m going to tell you how to do it. You’re just in confusion land or in tyranny land. You need to get people into the harmony status. Align your vision, mission, outcomes, objectives, and key results so that everybody knows what they’re doing. We all know the story of the guy sweeping the floor at NASA saying that he’s sending people to the moon. Bring your organisation along on that journey.
To do that you need really strong leadership. There is a different type of leader needed to work in this way. Not the old command and control style. When somebody who’s got a vision a passion. Well, I’m not gonna sit here and cry freedom on the floor but that kind of thing. That I believe in something bigger than myself.
And Jim Collins again in his book Good to Great which is a fascinating book. He talks about this concept of having an effective leader. Which is somebody that can get people behind the vision and behind the mission and all that kind of stuff. Also what he found was that there is this combination of humility and professional will that’s also needed. What he says is that the leaders that beat the market by 15 times or more, out of a study that he did over 40 years which influenced people like Jeff Bezos later on down the line, are humble.
They can say I don’t know. They can say I’ve failed. They can say you did the work. You take the praise. They can say when things fail I’ll take the blame. They have this humility about them and they have this will. It’s not this will to say I’m going to get my next bonus or I’m going to get my next pay rise or my next promotion or whatever. They have something bigger about them. They’re trying to change the world. They’re trying to leave a dent in the universe. You think about Bezos and you think about Musk and they want to colonise space. They’ve got a much bigger mission in life than selling stuff.
And the state of DevOps report in 2017 also talked about leaders having vision, stimulating their organisations intellectually. Providing that inspirational communication to get people behind the vision. So there’s all this difference between motivation which is if you do this you’ll get this. To inspiration which is follow me. And at the same time, they have this servant leadership. Being really supportive of their organisation, of the people in their teams. But also recognising where good work’s been done. And that’s really super important.
And those leaders create this environment where there’s high cooperation, messengers are trained, risks are shared, bridging is encouraged, failure leads to inquiry, and novelties implemented. And this is a model that Westerum built. It’s all to do with psychological safety and things like that. It talks about pathological, bureaucratic, and generative cultures. The right leaders will create an environment that allows this to happen. And if this happens you end up with high performance organisations.
But what does a team look like? I’m sure you’ve all got different types of teams and I like the Avengers story, the assemble story. You bring all these superheroes together. They’re proper dysfunctional, they don’t know what they’re doing. They’re falling over each other. They’ve got issues with each other. But eventually they go through that forming storming norming performing cycle and they save the world. There’s a big difference to the environment that that team needs.
If you go back to 1911 and Frederick Taylor who helped Ford build the first production line. He basically said man has been first, in the past. The system must be first in the future. And that’s where silos started appearing. Where the car would move through the people rather than the people moved to the car. And that was great. That transformed the way we delivered products that were complicated but the same. Doing the same job over and over and over again.
But a few years later, so 48 years later, Peter Drucker turns up and his work is flipping amazing. He basically turns around and says it’s not so much about the manual work. It’s the knowledge workers. It’s their productivity that’s more important.
There’s a really great book by Lister called Peopleware which is all about the environment software developers need because it’s knowledge work. We need our time protected. We don’t want to be interrupted. It takes twenty-three minutes to get to deep thought. Then the moment there’s a text pop up you’re out of it and you have to go back into it again. Protecting knowledge workers is so important and a big part of that is psychological safety.
Again Mik Kersten, in his talk at DevOps Enterprise Summit, talks about the difference between project work where people are brought to the work. So that’s the very tayloristic thing where whatever the project is you’d bring the right people in. You’re not building relationships there. You’re not building that knowledge. You’re not building learning. And then he says actually we need to move people into products. Product teams. Then the work is brought to the people.
Keep the team stable. There’s enough change going on in the world right now. There’s enough chaos going on. There’s so much complexity that actually the only people who can really deal with all of that is a stable team. They’ve learned how to work, learnt how to behave, learnt how to trust each other. Create those not only working relationships but off work relationships like the ship building stuff that we talked about.
Bringing the work to the people is so important. These guys can estimate better now because they’ve done it before. They know the complexities the intricacies of the system. They know their customers. They know the business.
And I love this quote by Chris O’Malley who is the CEO of Compuware. He basically said what I.T. do it isn’t that important. I don’t really care how fast you go. I don’t really care how many deployments and all that kind of stuff. What I care about are the ideas that get to my customers.
He put this thing about Lennon and McCartney that says bring your ideas and bring your engineers and smash them together. Bring your product to managers product owners. Bring the people who come up with the great ideas and work with the business work with the customers and your engineering capability together. Then you’ll see ideas delivered to the point of value faster.
And this is what I did. So in BAE Systems, I had teams with product owners. So they were accountable for value, for build, and operate. So if the system went down at three o’clock in the morning they’d be up. If they were delivering the release they’d be accountable. And if they were coming up with ideas it was on their head. We had the technical lead accountable for quality. We had the product delivery lead accountable for flow.
So we broke the whole time, cost, scope thing. We started working on value, flow, quality. Then we had the analysts, the engineers, and the administrators. We didn’t differentiate in terms of silos. There was no devs, no tests whatever. If there was an issue in the middle of the night the devs would wake up and they’d fix it. We had our Ops people building new features. It was a really interesting time and quite a big change for the individuals.
We gave them the right tools. So Captain America has a shield. Bit of a daft tool really. Thor has his hammer. Lara Croft has a bow and arrow, but some people like to think she’s got the guns. Renaldo’s got a football. Who’s going to give Renaldo a paintbrush or a chisel or a hammer. No, you’re going to give him his football.
I know you need some standards in terms of some core capabilities that the organisation should need. But the teams should develop their own tooling as well. Different products might need different test tools. Different release tools. My product teams had different tools. I believe the tools accelerate or accentuate or amplify the characteristics of the people and the team. So don’t weigh them down with tools that they just can’t use or aren’t good for what they need to do.
Give them the right environment. So Superman in Krypton is pretty useless. He’s just a normal guy. He comes to planet Earth. He’s exposed to our sun and he’s invincible and can fly. Well, let’s create that right environment.
We’re really heavy believers of the CALMS model. Automation. So take the stuff that’s repetitive. Take the stuff that can be done over and over again. Automate it. Break your work down into smaller chunks. Create that thing that says I’ve delivered benefit today. Not I’m going to deliver benefit in nine months, 12 months, whatever. I’ve delivered value today by breaking the work down, removing waste, and delivering the highest value.
Measure the right things. Not the vanity metrics the actionable metrics. What can you use to improve? And share. Share in the teams, share across the teams, share across the organisation, share with the customers. Build that foundation of culture. This is what we believe is the makeup of a DevOps environment.
Once you’ve got that environment you need the practices. It’s all well and good getting into the fluffy stuff. We’ve got to automate something. We’ve got to measure some stuff. I really like the Empire Strikes Back scene where Yoda is training Luke Skywalker. He’s giving him lots of snippets there about it’s not the size of the ship that counts. He’s basically having to unlearn stuff and relearn stuff. And he’s having to repeat a lot of the things. I’m not sure what the handstand thing was all about and trying to lift the ship and Yoda and R2D2 at the same time.
Then there was the time when he had to go into the tree and face his biggest fears. And sometimes we need to do that. The only thing holding us back most of the time is fear. We’ve got to overcome that fear. We’ve got to create a safe environment where we can overcome that fear.
The things that really helped us with our practices and our re-learning of what we need to think about was. And this is Gene Kim’s three ways in the back of the Phoenix Project. We had to have total systems thinking. We had to go from the idea to the delivery of the idea so that it delivers value.
We amplified feedback loops so that we received feedback once the idea was in production. Once the idea was in the hands of consumers what did they think about it? And shortening that as much as we can. We had a nine-month delivery time and we really shortened that down into weeks. Within all of that with that experimentation and learning. So these are three principles we really threw ourselves into.
We absolutely fell in love with this to a level, the Agile Manifesto, because our world was very much about processes documentation contracts plans all of that sort of stuff. Most of our work was outsourced. The stuff that was there to build aircraft was all around this stuff. When we started valuing this. We saw our world change.
We started building those individuals and interactions valuing them. Delivering working software, not just a document or not just test scripts. We brought the customers so close into this that they got really annoyed with us saying they couldn’t do their day jobs. We were more bothered about how we responded to change than following a plan. If we always followed the plan. You’re developing a plan at a point where you know least about what you’re going to do. So you need to be able to learn a little bit, pivot, learn a bit more, pivot. And that’s how we delivered change.
We built this environment where basically we’d have clarity of all the work. What is the work? Whether it’s user stories or performance stories or incidents and bugs and that all came into the backlog. We then had full visibility of all the work. What is the work? What stage is it in?
In the doing stages we’d have WIP limits. We’d say let’s slow the work down in some ways. There was this perception by doing 100 things you were productive. Well, actually you were getting very little done. So what are the five things this sprint that we need to do? What are the six things that we need to do and get done and get delivered? And how do we bring automation into that? How do we bring all the people into that including security and development and coaches and whoever else? We built in retrospectives with them. Then we had all the practices and ceremonies that really and enforced the culture that really brought the organisation together. We also had platform teams and we had product teams as well.
We had to create this environment that really shaped it really nicely for an environment where people didn’t have to be afraid because they started trusting each other. They could start saying why are we doing this? Or I really don’t know how to do this. Or this feature that I’ve been sat on for six months, will somebody help me? This is Gandalf by the way facing the Balrog where he says ‘you shall not pass’. It’s creating an environment where you can confront the brutal facts. Again Jim Collins is one of these guys who says you need to create an environment where those brutal facts can come out. You can face the elephant in the room and you’re safe to do so.
And bringing all of that together and putting the customer at the centre. So this is one of my articles on LinkedIn. Probably my favourite article because I’ve got to watch just about every clip of Iron Man there possibly is. And there are 42 versions of that suit. So the customer is Tony Stark. And all the technology and all the capability is built all around Tony Stark.
He’s got so many different versions of different capabilities and different technologies. But eventually you get to the point where this suit here has got connectivity to the Internet, you’ve got social media, you’ve got telephone signals. Until he gets into space and he gets cut off from Pepper. You’ve got breathability, the whole thing about connecting to your skin. It’s monitoring the environment. There’s a level of A.I. in there. Jarvis is talking away with a bit of machine learning. And basically, this whole suit is designed around Tony Stark and what he’s trying to achieve.
A big part of all of this for me is about being customer-obsessed. Back to the Lennon McCartney. Back to the focussing on the customer focussing on what they want. Jeff Bezos said that we’ve got beautifully wonderfully dissatisfied customers. Be obsessed with them. But then put the engineers at the front of the organisation. Get the organisation behind the engineer because they’re the ones who are going to be delivering the fashion, or the media, or the holidays, or whatever. They’re no longer the back office. They need to be the front office. The rest of the organisation whether it’s lawyers, or managers, or media people, or whatever need to get behind the engineers and make their lives easier.
All of this just means it’s a new way of working. We’ve been disrupted. There’s a new way of working. We’ve already heard a talk today, I’m sure there’s plenty more, where that new way of working is making a big impact.
So finally I wanted to talk about your story.
I love this book. If you’ve not read this it’s worth reading. So James Kerr. A book called Legacy. It’s about the All Blacks, the rugby team, and there’s a big part of their culture which is they pick up their jersey and they need to leave it in a better place. That’s my job here. This is my jersey. And this is the jersey I need to leave in a better place. So there’s a question for you guys here whose jersey are you wearing right now? How are you going to make sure you’re going to leave that in a better place?
Patty McCord wrote this book Powerful. It’s all about the Netflix story and how they manage people. And she has this one line that says people have power don’t take it away. A lot of what we do is like the whole Steve Jobs thing that says why do you in hire intelligence people and then tell them what to do? Delegate authority, delegate accountability and then see what happens.
Build the models and the frameworks that build learning into the organisation. I talked about dynamic learning organisations before. Whether it’s building learning into your backlogs when you’re updating your product backlogs, you’re doing a retrospective. The Demos, the stand-ups. Build that learning environment into the organisation.
I do a lot of reading. So I read a lot of articles. I’ve written a number of articles so feel free to connect up with me. There’s lots of stuff on the DevOpsGroup website as well. But whatever your interest is go and find out more about that. The world is changing so fast right now.
There are so many books. I put all my books onto good reads. And there’s a short link which we’ll send out by Twitter later on. I didn’t realise I read 59 books in the last three years. Before that, I wasn’t a big reader. Some of them are the Ladybird books of like the wife and the husband and so are good fun. This is not a business book, Ready Player One, it’s just one of my favourite books. But the rest of them really have influenced my thinking.
It’s really interesting this guy called Jamal Qureshi, who is a performance coach who works with lots of sports teams. He basically says you think, you feel, you act. Change the patterns in your mind, let them connect with you emotionally, and then do something with it.
Unfortunately, there are all those statistics. There’s the 70 20 10 rule where 70 percent of what you learn is by doing. 20 percent through other people. And 10 percent through formal courses. Most of you might go away from here and this whole conference and forget a lot of what you’ve learned. So one of the things I’ve recently heard is if you go away and do something with what you’ve learned at a conference, or re-visit it, you’re 150 percent more likely to do something with it to make an impact.
I tend to, when I go to conferences, when I go to talks, I tend to write lots of notes. Not only during it but also afterwards I go revisit those notes, write them up on confluence, and share them with the team. The best way for me to learn is to teach, to share.
Then there are the courses, in terms of developing yourself. So we have an academy. It focuses on agile training and DevOps training. There are certifications in Agile and DevOps. Then there’s all the technical training etc. So invest in yourself. Go to places where you’re building and learning. Other courses, I’m sure, are available.
And go find your mentors. Now, these were really important for me. Who were the people who were standing alongside you on that journey making sure that you’re heading in the right way? That when you fall over there’s a hand that is picking you up again and saying you’re doing all right here, keep going.
Basically, this is Jeffrey Snover again in his talk a few weeks ago, this transition needs new heroes. This is all about us leaving a legacy. It’s about you individually leaving a legacy. It’s about not just leaving the jersey in a better place, there’s a there’s an element of leaving the planet in a better place. What are you doing to leave this planet in a better place?
Go make a dent in the universe.
Leave your legacy.
So the three things to take away. I’m now a consultant so everything’s in three things.
So first of all show of hands. Who believes that the world’s been disrupted? Hands up.
Who believes there is a new way of working?
And who wants to leave a legacy? Excellent. Not everybody though.
Disruptions happened. There’s a new way of working. It’s up to us to leave our legacy as organisations, as people, as teams.
I’m going to finish off with this. Probably my favourite slide. Unleash your superheroes. And the reason that’s in the plural it’s not just about yourself. Everyone’s a leader. Everyone influences other people. Whether it’s your children, whether it’s your spouse, whether it’s the team that you work in, whether it’s your football club or whatever.
Go and unleash superheroes. Create an environment. Change yourself, change your leadership style, change your ability to influence because we all have the ability to influence others. And help create a planet of superheroes. That’s me. Thank You.