November 21, 2019 Thought Leadership

The DOES 2019 Las Vegas Fireside Chat: Invaluable Advice for Driving a DevOps Transformation

Overview: Think it’s time your organization transformed for today’s digital world?
Be inspired and get a few tips from the most recent DevOps Enterprise Summit Fireside Chat.

Compuware CEO Chris O’Malley and CFO Joe Aho joined DevOps author and advocate Gene Kim for a riveting Fireside Chat at DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) Las Vegas—the second Fireside Chat this year.

Chris and Joe discussed in detail Compuware’s mainframe-inclusive Agile and DevOps transformation with the goal of inspiring others to affect change within their own organizations. They also shared pragmatic advice for securing executive support of DevOps initiatives.

As experienced transformation leaders with a compelling story to tell, Chris and Joe undoubtedly bring value to the DOES conferences, but the perspectives and skill sets they bring to their respective positions are what piqued Gene’s interest—perspectives that are often at odds in enterprises.

You see, Chris is what famous investor and author Ben Horowitz would characterize as a “One,” a leader who excels at strategy, decision making and re-imagining a company’s direction. And Joe is a “Two,” another kind of leader, whose strengths lie in operational excellence that ensures a company runs efficiently and cost-effectively. Hearing both perspectives is helpful for technology and business leaders driving transformative change in their organizations.

DOES Las Vegas Fireside Chat

Here are some highlights of their discussion along with some key takeaways for the DevOps community:

Symbols and inspiration

As an introduction, Gene relayed some details of his and Dr. Mik Kersten’s visit to Compuware in early 2019—and their memorable tour of Compuware’s data center. Gene admitted he quietly balked at the idea of a data center tour but was floored at what he saw: a nearly empty room, save for two mainframes and placards peppering the floor where 20 tons of server infrastructure once stood. Each placard—or “tombstone” as they’re referred to internally—displays the name of the business process that had run on the server before it was removed and the resulting savings.

The brilliant strategy behind those efforts is called “Two-platform, One-speed IT,” which amounts to placing mission critical and competitively differentiating applications on the mainframe and everything else in the cloud. By removing expensive, complex, on-premise x86 commodity server infrastructure that once cluttered the data center, Compuware is realizing about $5 million a year in savings, which is put into R&D for new products and capabilities intended to solve customers’ urgent problems. Gene was so inspired by these efforts that he mentioned them in his new book, The Unicorn Project.

Lesson for the DevOps community: Make customers your North Star and do what’s necessary to empower your teams to solve your customers’ challenges.

A necessary “rivalry”

Revamping Compuware’s internal infrastructure was emblematic of sweeping business and cultural changes that began to take place when Chris, modern-day visionary with a growth mindset, joined Compuware in 2014. At that time, the company was in steep decline facing what seemed like insurmountable challenges stemming from years of stagnancy, a culture of apathy, siloed processes, and the conspicuous absence of ideation and innovation.

True to their leadership personas, Chris had a lofty vision, mission and strategy that he wanted to implement immediately to begin to turn Compuware around, and Joe, while incredibly excited about what Chris proposed, was more measured in his view of how the changes should roll out. Compuware was, after all, a 40-plus year-old company in a very mature industry. In the end, the team took an effective, but at times jolting, “burn the boats” approach to the company’s transformation.

Lesson for the DevOps community: The respectful push and pull between Ones and Twos is healthy within an organization. Ones and Twos keep each other in check and amazing outcomes can result from their collaboration.

Changes and more changes

The “burn the boats” approach to Compuware’s transformation meant that Waterfall practices would have to completely go away—and they did. In addition, every department within Compuware had to change, from product development and management to finance, sales and marketing. The whole organization needed to become trained on developing and delivering innovations at a regular cadence to make customers want to do business with Compuware again. That meant collaborating with customers, learning their pain points and goals, discovering what’s working and what’s not, and then ideating, iterating, failing, learning and doing it all over again and again.

Compuware’s development team started working in 2-week sprints which enabled the company to release new innovations and updates to classic offerings every 90 days. In addition, Compuware began integrating key products with leading Agile and DevOps vendors so customers could have a unified mainframe-inclusive DevOps toolchain.

Lesson for the DevOps community: What is your “main thing?” Is it more customers? Is it an improved Net Promoter Score? Discover what your main thing is and make sure everything you do as an organization is tied to it.

The bottom line

The Fireside Chat is brimming with lessons like the ones noted here. It’s worth the 38 minutes you’ll  invest watching it, especially if you want to make extraordinary changes in your enterprise. You’ll get sidebars, humorous anecdotes and a level of detail that can only be gained by hearing a bigger story told with refreshing candor by the leaders who implemented transformational change.