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10 companies killing it at DevOps in 2021

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Christopher Null Freelance writer
 

The pandemic affected everything in 2020, and enterprises were no exception. But while many struggled, some used the crisis to catalyze their DevOps efforts.

These 10 organizations are all using DevOps to transform their cultures and bring greater value to their customers, allowing them to thrive during one of the world's most turbulent periods.

American Airlines

American Airlines was several years into its DevOps journey when the pandemic drove spring/summer bookings down by 76%. Providing a touchless experience was key to convincing customers that flying was still safe. The problem: Although the AA mobile app offered touchless check-in, customers still needed to physically obtain a bag tag from a kiosk to check in luggage.

Leadership responded by setting an OKR (objectives and key result) of delivering a completely contactless check-in experience. Teams explored solutions through rapid design sessions, identified a minimal viable product (MVP), and got to work.

The result: a 145% increase in boarding pass scans to start check-in sessions and a 57% increase of the prepaid bag functionality. The airline also saw the average kiosk session time drop by 17 seconds. And all that was done across 2,100 kiosks in 230 airports in just six weeks.

Comcast

Shortly after Comcast acquired UK satellite broadcaster Sky Entertainment, members from each company's domain name system (DNS) team bonded over a mutual love of DevOps and decided to work together on a shared DNS management system. But the physical distance between the teams—one stationed in Philadelphia, the other in London—presented a significant hurdle.

The company solved this by establishing a Dojo—a virtual space where the remote teams came together—and employed a working charter, micro-sprints, and constant feedback loops to overcome the logistical issues and complete the project. The teams got their first win together and established a new way to work on future transatlantic technology collaborations.

Fannie Mae

The pandemic compelled Fannie Mae to find new ways to provide services to customers adversely affected by COVID-19 as quickly as possible. That presented a couple of challenges. The first was finding the capacity to take on the work, and the second was overcoming the organization's relative DevOps immaturity.

Fortunately, the organization already had a continuous delivery process in place and was regularly delivering production releases. That minimized the amount of work it had to put on hold and allowed it to reallocate teams to the new priorities. Then it moved its more seasoned DevOps team members and coaches to the new projects to accelerate the organization's DevOps readiness.

These moves helped the organization deliver the necessary products in a matter of weeks.

John Deere

These days John Deere is known as much for its strategic use of data as for the farm machinery it manufactures. The 182-year-old company uses analytics for everything from minimizing scrap rates in its factories to monitoring machine health. But it was struggling to operationalize these advanced analytics in the company's core processes and business decisions.

The main challenge was bridging an agile analytics process with manufacturing's more linear product development process.

The company tackled the problem over the course of several projects by embracing practices that included transparency, flexibility, cross-team collaboration, and continuous communication. Today the company is bringing the same efficiency and effectiveness that its core operations are known for to its digital endeavors.

Coats PLC

Founded over 200 years ago, Coats PLC, the world’s leading industrial thread manufacturer, encountered obstacles while transitioning from the Industrial Age to the digital age.

The crux was its e-commerce system, which served 40,000 customers but took four to six months to update every time changes were needed. Coats faced many challenges familiar to pre-digital organizations, including technical debt, manual processes, legacy architecture, and a reliance on external developers.

Faced with so many stumbling blocks, Coats stitched together a wholesale transformation. It is now positioned to deliver digital products and drive value for customers.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse learned people's and processes' importance to digital transformation when it moved an end-to-end DevOps tool chain used by a single business division into the central IT function, where it would serve more than 20,000 employees.

Opinions abounded about how each division could maximize use of the system, and the organization had to determine how to meet everyone's requirements without adding too much complexity to the ecosystem.

By allowing teams to add their own desired extensions to the tool chain and establishing communities of practice around DevOps and agile, the company evolved the system to a state that now meets the needs of 40,000 users.

Maersk

Not too long ago, it took Maersk two years to get an idea into production, and that was considered fast for the container logistics company. After an experiment with bimodal IT failed to significantly reduce the average lead time to production, the company brought its IT team and developers together and adopted a unified delivery model.

Using a combination of waterfall and DevOps has allowed it to manage its thousands of legacy applications and deliver new products as it transitions to a fully digital company. Now in the middle of its digital transformation, Maersk has reduced its delivery time to just weeks.

Nationwide Building Society

Like a lot of larger, older organizations, Nationwide Building Society had structures and processes that worked reliably, but slowly. In recent years, it developed some agile practices, mostly around delivery and new projects.

Now it has embarked on an organization-wide pivot that will transform it from a functional organization to one fully aligned to its members' needs. The foundation of this transformation is stronger agile and DevOps practices that bring daily operations activities and the development of new products together. The company has evolved from a "get it right the first time" culture to one of experimentation and incremental delivery.

Siemens

As an industrial company, Siemens has dealt with physical products for most of its 170 years. But as with many companies, software has become an increasing part of Siemens' portfolio. That spurred a shift from a project-based approach, with an average of six to 18 months per project, to a continuous value stream.

The company's software development now includes foundational DevOps practices such as frequent updates, increased automation, and feedback loops. The change has allowed Siemens not only to deliver products and services more quickly, but also to incorporate customer feedback and changing industry regulations faster than traditional IT allowed.

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank's DevOps initiative started in 2018 when it introduced a couple of dedicated cross-functional agile teams. Over the next two years, that grew to almost 50 teams serving businesses across the enterprise.

The company was in a comfortable rhythm when the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to figure out how to provide banking as an essential service, execute new government programs such as the paycheck protection program, and make sense of extreme market volatility and disruption to its millions of consumer and corporate customers.

The bank used the challenges as an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation across the enterprise, focus on technology modernization, and increase the number of agile teams to almost 100.

The future is agile

The pandemic challenged many of the old ways of working and underscored the importance of business agility for virtually every enterprise. As the world emerges into a new normal, there's every reason to believe businesses young and old will embrace DevOps and agile methodologies in growing numbers to drive innovation, speed, and adaptability—and provide greater value to their customers.

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