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Building a DevOps Team and Re-Architecting the Product: A Matter of Priority

Dev Processes
Convincing
Team Processes

26 March, 2021

Sankar Nair
Sankar Nair

Vice President of Engineering at Novantas

Sankar Nair, VP of Engineering at Novantas, shares how he built a DevOps team and helped architecture the product when the business didn’t consider it a priority.

Problem

As an engineering team, we wanted to reduce the complexity of our code and deliveries and be able to deliver faster. We wanted to switch over our architecture to Microservices from the monolithic architecture. This needed us to have a completely redesigned infrastructure for our build and deploy process. As a B2B product company, our product usage patterns and loads were deterministic and were handled by the current architecture. Our systems were stable and did not have any client-facing problems. Product owners and senior leadership were happy with our release cadence and pace of delivery. The challenge, however, was to make others understand the value of investing in DevOps and re-architecture and making sure the transition is successful.

Actions taken

Rather than seeing things from a technology perspective, I presented the need for change from a business perspective. It was important for Product Owners and senior leadership to understand what they were gaining/losing by staying in the current architecture. Therefore, I focused the communications around the importance of attracting and retaining highly talented resources.

It was essential for us to come up with a multi-year execution plan with easily trackable and measurable milestones to let everyone know how we plan to make changes in a gradual and controlled manner to avoid business disruptions. I was particularly transparent that we were trying to make a lot of changes, but with the best interest of the organization in mind. It took many repeated meetings and significant convincing for us to have the budget allocated for these efforts.

Execution-specific actions

Starting small and not being overambitious in settings goals helped us start with the minimal budget and consistently show progress. We initially started with deployment strategies that were more suited for a B2C organization, but those were slowly getting very complicated for the use cases that we had. We were doing a transition to DevOps for the first time; so, pausing, thinking through, reflecting, and coming with a detailed action plan, and setting milestones helped with our execution.

As we understood things, they seemed to be getting more complex. We were open to admitting mistakes and taking corrective actions, which meant owning and announcing the setbacks to the wider group.

Lessons learned

  • Be transparent. We made a lot of mistakes in the process of setting up DevOps and rolling out our new infrastructure. When we did wrong, we were quick to admit it.
  • It is easier to sell your ideas when you focus on how they will benefit your stakeholders and the business.
  • Your strategic roadmap should have clearly trackable and measurable short-term milestones.
  • Don't be scared to admit mistakes and ask for help.
  • Be agile on your strategic roadmap and make improvements on the end state as we learn/progress more.

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