Charlie Betz on Product Centricity, Software Delivery Maturity and More

Written by: Kara Phelps
5 min read
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Charlie Betz has a lot on his plate. As a principal analyst at Forrester Research, he’s been digging into a pile of topics lately, everything from DevOps and enterprise service management to software delivery maturity and more.

What’s top of mind for Charlie right now? The exciting research, he says, is about what he calls the "new operating model.”

"The traditional IT operating model is based on deep specialization,” he says. "These are people working in specialist functions like programming, systems administration, database administration, and testing.” It’s a way of working that reinforces what he calls a "deep domain identity” and brings them together on a temporary basis on projects and processes. 

However, that approach is now changing as organizations embrace product-based operating models. In the shift, “people forge deeper and more permanent relationships,” he says. "And they all come together to deliver an outcome for the customer or the consumer.” 

Charlie and a few of his colleagues at Forrester just recently released a paper exploring the rise of the product centric operating model. "It really is overtaking a lot of traditional IT organization,” he says. But it’s also raising a lot of questions—such as, what happens when you still need some specialization? 

As we reinvent IT, Charlie suggests, product teams will likely end up with their own version of specialization. "The interesting thing is that product teams also specialize, they just specialize along a different dimension,” he says. "They're no longer specializing as Java programmers. They're specializing in search or in credit authorization, or in shopping cart management—in some particular thing that needs to be delivered to do a given job. So, in that sense, they still become specialists.” 

Achieving Software Delivery Maturity

Shifting gears, Forrester recently conducted a study, commissioned by CloudBees, that revealed how software delivery maturity fuels business growth. The premise of the study was simple: As organizations continue to scale up their digital and DevOps systems, "they get stuck.” 

This happens because of what Charlie calls the "coordination problem.” As your organization grows, you create more complex dependencies and teams need greater coordination. This is when using common workflow and unified tools provides tangible benefits, Charlie says, enabling better visibility and collaboration across teams and processes. 

The study revealed greater visibility and platform integration are two of the hallmarks of organizations that have achieved a high level of software delivery maturity. In fact, they outperform in nearly area of the business, including customer loyalty, innovation, user adoption, market share and faster response to changing market conditions. Not surprisingly, these high-maturity organizations were more likely to say that they responded to the pandemic better than their peers. 

Perhaps most important, the study shows that these organizations were three times more likely to grow at 15 percent or more annually than their peers. "In today's environment, you can't compromise on maturity,” Charlie says. 

A Few Recommendations

The study includes key recommendations for IT organizations looking to achieve higher maturity in software delivery. Deploying automation is now "table stakes,” he says, though he acknowledges that DevOps is much more than just that. "DevOps is also about culture and operating model,” he says. "But automation is one of the three legs of the stool, and this includes automated testing.” 

He also says package management is "super important” and a "critical control point” for mature organizations. That’s where your outsourced, commercially acquired and open-source software come together with the software you teams are building, giving you a complete “bill of materials.” 

When it comes to continuous delivery and deployment, Charlie would ban the old-fashioned practice of using “30-page Word documents” and “tossing them over the wall to some operations guy who had never seen the thing before in his life.” At a minimum, use an automated script or template, he says. 

Finally, as your organization matures, don’t forget the value of enterprise service management. For example, let’s say you’re a new developer and you’re looking for the CDRA (Continuous Delivery Release Automation) tool. Finding a service like that might be obvious if you work in an organization with a few dozen people, but what if you wind up in a place with many thousands?

That's why service portals and service catalogs are so important, Charlie says. "And if anybody thinks that these are hopelessly old-school, look at Spotify Backstage, an open-source developer enablement portal that Spotify is now promoting. What's the primary architectural component in it? A service catalog. 

"So, if the cool kids at Spotify think that a service catalog is what the developers need, maybe we should all revisit some of our preconceived notions around service management,” he says.

These are just a few of the recommendations you’ll find in the Forrester study, commissioned by CloudBees, on software delivery maturity. Check out the study, Modernizing Software Delivery with End-to-End Automation, Orchestration and Collaboration, or dig deeper by tuning in to our conversation with Charlie Betz on Episode 101 of DevOps Radio.

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