Listening is the first step to driving DevOps transformation

Over the last few weeks, we’ve had the pleasure of sharing interviews with some of our renowned DevOps Enterprise Summit London conference speakers. This week, we continue on our journey to London with Margo Cronin, who worked as the Head of Technology Architecture at Zurich Insurance and has more than 20 years of experience in technology as both an architect and project manager.

About Zurich Insurance

Zurich is a Swiss insurance carrier with more than 140 years serving businesses worldwide. With more than 55,000 employees worldwide and more than €60bn in annual revenue last year, the company is Switzerland’s largest insurer. As of 2015, the group was also the world’s 78th largest public company according to Forbes’ Global 2000s list.

Looking Ahead

In Cronin’s upcoming keynote in London later this month, she will cover a successful DevOps initiative that she set up for the organisation and explain why some aspects of the DevOps cycle where disabled, resulting in failure. She will also cover how security, suppliers and regulation impacted the transformation journey. She proclaims her talk will be important for anyone about to embark on a DevOps journey in a large, disparate organisation.

To glean more information from Cronin ahead of her presentation, we asked her questions about her previous work experiences and the key lessons she’s learned along the way while helping organisations adopt DevOps practices and transform their culture.

DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES): What part of your job is the most interesting to you and why?

Margo Cronin: Dealing with different programs and their challenges is interesting for me. At the end of the day, our architectures need to be realised by programs, portfolios and projects. Without delivery, architecture is just a pile of paper. That’s how I started getting interested in DevOps, even though it was born from the Agile movement, it also enables more traditional, “waterfall-style” programs to be successful.

DOES: What are the top three challenges enterprises face today and why?

MC: 1) The disruption in insurance and banking is a challenge. In the past, the biggest competitor to Zurich Insurance was AXA. Now it could be Google, or a small IT company or app that they are not yet aware of. These insurance and banks are like monoliths and not in a place to respond rapidly to this kind of change. Could they be the next Kodak?

These companies need to partner correctly to tackle this disruption, and to do so, need to have the correct technologies in place to support partnerships and have the correct DevOps practices/processes in place to rapidly respond to change. For example, look at the disruption happening with blockchain, the distributed ledger that maintains a continuously growing list of data records hardened against tampering and revision. A recent survey from State Street, in partnership with Oxford Economics, finds “the majority of respondents (80 per cent) agree that blockchain will have the greatest impact on IT departments, demonstrating that institutions recognise the need to introduce talent with the skills necessary to adapt to new technical demands. Additionally, 81 per cent of asset managers agree that the adoption of blockchain will equally disrupt their own jobs on investments teams.”

2) People are a challenge—behavioural and cultural change is necessary for innovation and progress.

3) Remaining profitable is always a challenge.

DOES: What top tip would you like to share with the rest of the community?

MC: Listen. Understand your company’s pain points. We can all implement DevOps in a Greenfield environment, but ask yourself what are the true pain points your company is experiencing? Consider the actual and imagined barriers.

DOES: What success or failure made you learn the most and why?

MC: I had success setting up DevOps for programs at Zurich, however, even though I helped enable automatic deployment into production, this was soon disabled by a third-party supplier who managed their ISP. It really brought home to me how technology is not always the barrier for large companies like Zurich. I should have engaged this supplier from the beginning and managed their processes and their restrictions into my plans.

DOES: What should the DevOps community be focused on in the coming year?

MC: We are familiar with Infrastructure as Code (IaC), and I am wondering whether things will move into solution as code or application as code – where PaaS-style solutions abstract the need for any infrastructure style management and applications are correctly managed by the DevOps tool. I think tools like Chef and Puppet should be ideally avoided and managed instead by the PaaS.

DOES: What are some of the top tips you’ve received?

MC: Listen. You cannot encourage behavioural change unless you start with yourself.

Join Margo Cronin at DevOps Enterprise Summit London!

Want to spend two full days concentrating on solving your biggest IT challenges? The inaugural DevOps Enterprise Summit London event brings a community together from multiple industries and more than a dozen countries across the world. The purpose? To identify and amplify the best practices in DevOps based on practical advice presented through personal stories told by fellow technology leaders. If you haven’t registered yet for the event, it’s not too late (but tickets are going fast!). You can still sign up here.

DevOps Enterprise Summit London
June 30 & July 1, 2016
Hilton London Metropole
225 Edgware Road, London, UK

Author: Robyn Crummer-Olson, Marketing and Communications Manager at IT Revolution