More and more we are starting to hear about how real transformation can happen for businesses using IT. For busineses like NetFlix or Twitter where IT is at the core of the entire business model, that has been clear for a while. What is changing are businesses that have heretofore leveraged IT as just part of the “backoffice” seeing incredible transformative possibilities by leveraging the same IT principles as technology startups. Those with deep IT knowledge have always intrinsically known this potential. However, convincing a non-tech business of this possibility has been a difficult historically. This is because non-tech businesses (and to be sure, even traditional large tech businesses) saw IT as a “cost center” and not a true “partner” with the business for achieving goals.
This perception has been changing over the past 5 years. It has been accelerated by advancements in infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service offerings that have made business leaders aware of ways to get things both faster and cheaper in the infrastructure world. However, a funny thing has happened. When business leaders asked IT leadership to “take a look” at these new “n-as-a-service” offerings, they got feedback that there were still 3 main hurdles to being able to unlock real business value fast: infra and developer collaboration, technology freedom, and core IT and business processes. So, while you might be able to get servers fast from cloud providers, you still had the existing internal hurdles to overcome. These hurdles are not insignificant.
The real unlock for all these “n-as-a-service” infrastructure offerings is actually transforming the traditional way IT does business. Recently, authors Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford created a fiction novel called “The Phoenix Project” which outlines what a hypothetical Agile and DevOps transformation looks like. While the novel is a great way for people to understand how agile/devops change can happen, it might be great to hear about a real success story. Let me offer up Gap Inc as an example of how you can take massive legacy enterprise IT and make a real transformation happen. The actual implementation of Agile processes by a business with a heavily traditional structure and workflow is not without pain. Being successful requires a strong spine and executive leadership that is willing to put everything on the line. For Gap, the CIO (Tom Keiser) and VP of Infrastructure (Naveen Zutshi) were key to pushing the transformation through successfully.
I have taken the liberty of summarizing 2 main tracks of effort that made the massive Agile and DevOps transformation at Gap possible by using 2 documents. The first document is a paper written by Kamal Manglani which focuses on core Agile principles as applied to infrastructure. The second is a Meetup presentation I put together that focuses on the methodologies we designed at Gap to change mindsets about technologies. Hopefully, these documents will be useful for others with the gumption to take this journey on.