Episode 85: DevOps World 2020 Award Winners - Part 1

The winners of the annual DevOps World 2020 award are highlighted in this week’s DevOps Radio segment. Listen to learn more about their DevOps journeys'.

Brian Dawson: Hello. This is Brian Dawson and today on DevOps Radio we have joining us Ben Angel, the head of DevOps engineering and Nationwide Building Society, where he leads strategy and DevOps adoption. Hello, Ben.

Ben Angel: Hi, Brian.

Brian Dawson: How you doing today?

Ben Angel: Very good. Thank you. Really good. You?

Brian Dawson: I'm doing well. Doing well. I'm excited to talk about this award, this recognition that you've gotten going into DevOps world 2020. Nationwide has won the 2020 CloudBees DevOps award in the category of DevOps rising star. This award recognizes a CloudBees customer that has embarked on a DevOps transformation within the last year and has seen immediately positive results out of the gate.

So Ben, we're looking forward to hearing from you and learning more about the project that led to the honor of this recognition, but before we do, can you introduce yourself to our listeners and give us a brief overview of what your role at Nationwide is and a bit about your background that led you here?

Ben Angel: Sure, Brian. Yeah. Well, first we're all really stoked with the award. Really, really pleased. This is a brilliant reflection on all the work we've been doing. I guess just to answer your question around my background, so I've worked in IT engineering all my career. Started off different financial services organization to where I am now which is Nationwide Building Society. So I'm very used to working _____ engineering in a heavily regulated environment.

I guess at Nationwide, my role – I've been here for a few years now. The role has been leading building scenes mainly around infrastructure engineering, virtualization lays and that's led quite naturally to DevOps and to build up the engineering capabilities and strategies that we've got in place right now.

Brian Dawson: Awesome. Well, that's perfect to help answer what I next wanna know and that's can you tell me a little bit more about the project or the recent effort that was recognized with the DevOps rising star award. When did it start? What are some of the high level steps that you took? What are some of the outcomes that you're seeing?

Ben Angel: Yeah. So I guess it's quite difficult for me to pin it down to a single project or piece of work. I think when I talked about the fact we – I consider us a bit the rising star – I thought about the path finders that we've done two or three years ago now. We started to look at what DevOps could do for us and it showed us, showed the wider organization the benefits that DevOps could provide when we implement proper CICD agile ways of working.

Then I think about some of the initiatives that have kicked off from them across some of our really key business areas. When I say key business areas I mean functions that are really, really important to us and our members, our customers as a business and how we're now able to deliver much better value, more efficient service to the team deploying some really, really great DevOps outcomes.

So been able to describe some of the benefits – some benefits mapping mainly against change in the automation orchestration of releases into our live environments, more controlled. Our auditors are happy. So it's pretty staggering really when we think of three years ago where we were at pathfinder stage starting to think about how DevOps could benefit us to where we are now where we're starting to see some real benefits come through in terms of the control of our services.

Brian Dawson: So I'm curious, was there a particular business challenge that you sought to solve and align around when embarking on this transformation?

Ben Angel: Yeah. There were a number. I guess the example I'd give, because we're a regulated environment we have some nonnegotiable changes which we have to push through. Lots of these changes are backed up against some very complex infrastructure, which means it's often not high risk. They're high intense in terms of demand and resource, et cetera. So lots of manual interaction. Now what that meant was we had to book time and really take engineers away from their day jobs to manage those changes.

What DevOps has enabled us to do is to automate some of the key processes. So I'm thinking of data archiving, GDPR requirements, things like that. So that's probably a really good example of where we pass some real benefit back into our business and given our engineers the ability to work on other tasks rather than these regulated or repeat changes which they were doing.

Brian Dawson: And is it fair to say that an underlying motivation there would be you needed to gain some efficiency, velocity, and free your developers up to focus on their day job and innovate more?

Ben Angel: Yeah. So I guess short answer, yes. We're like any good organization. We're always quite reflective of how we are. We consider ourselves a reasonably efficient organization, but there's always room for improvement, isn't there? So DevOps really has enlightened us to take that next step in terms of efficiency and automation of repeat activities and of course what that does do is enable the engineers who are doing that work to be innovative, to look at how they can further improve the processes.

Brian Dawson: Great. Great. Great. There's a lot of course talk as of recent in the space driven by the accelerate book on reducing cognitive load on developers and teams so they can focus on improvement. Now there's actually an interesting thing that very much so recently in recent years and then in recent episodes of DevOps Radio I've had a lot of conversation about culture. And while I'm sure a change in culture is part of your transformation process and would love to hear if there's things there, but I'm particularly interested in talking about process and practice and tools and technology.

So to start with process and practice, you're a winner of the DevOps award, but based on my understanding one of the core pillars of your transformation has been robust implementation of continuous integration and continuous delivery. To make sure I have it right, is that correct? CICD has been one of your key pillars?

Ben Angel: Yeah. CI certainly and I'm really happy with where we got to with that. I think CD is still something we are looking at closely in terms of our strategy, but integration is a key to what we've done so far and is part of our success.

Brian Dawson: And what role has – have tools and technology played in enabling you to implement CI, eventually CD, and further pursue a DevOps culture?

Ben Angel: Very important though. I will put a quick disclaimer in here that the mantra we follow when we talk about it, it's people process tools. So tools are critical to us, but they underpin the people, the cultural changes that we normally need to make as well. So I guess to answer your questions, without the tools we could really proceed much further. We need the right tools for the job and what we've done is we've worked very hard to align the scale of our tools and the build of our tools and deployments of them with the people and cultural methodology training and help and oversights that we know we need as well.

Brian Dawson: So in this journey between culture, process, practice, tools, and technology, what have you found was your biggest challenge?

Ben Angel: There's lots of them. I think I'll loop it back to people process tools. I think the one thing I would say if I had my time again is when we start to do DevOps it captures the imagination. It's something that people want to buy into. They believe in it and they can see the benefit it will give them. I think perhaps what we should do really is ensure that everyone is on the same page in terms of how do we measure what we're doing. What does DevOps really mean? I think there's some – there is danger that you can have slightly desperate approaches to DevOps deployments.

You can see things like a tool fest, some spark up where everyone goes and buys the latest shiny tools. So it's all very exciting for us engineers, but we really need to be clear that that's just one – that's an important part, but it's not the only part of being successful if you're gonna be a truly DevOps driven organization. So I think people process tools and I suspect people around Nationwide are probably fed up hearing me say that, but it's really important. It's worth – we need to repeat this because without one of those three things you can only be partially successful.

That's the big challenge making sure everyone is clear on that so we'll adopt DevOps ways of working the consistent way that works for each business area of course. We don't mandate anything. We don't have a ten plate of CICD that everyone must follow or anything like that, but we certainly expect people to understand the principles of DevOps and how they can be successful with it.

Brian Dawson: Absolutely. I really appreciate that lesson. I tend to call people coach or process, practice, tools, and technology or people, process, tools, the DevOps trinity. And it has to be one part of each. If one part is missing you may get started, but a sustainable implementation of DevOps won't succeed without all three.

Ben Angel: I completely agree and I think we've learned that as well. We've seen where perhaps we've not ignored or not possibly quite aware in some areas and we've had to step in and just be really clear what that holy trinity really is and how important it is that we value each point of that.

Brian Dawson: Fantastic. So flipping to the positive real quick, what do you think has been the biggest key? If you were to highlight one thing that you and the team did and the organization did really well what was your primary key to success?

Ben Angel: I think we've had quite a few. If you put me on the spot I think the way we've worked is we've adopted MVP approach. So how can we get value out of what we do as quickly as possible? What that has enabled us to do is go into business areas and immediately start pushing through some DevOps changes or implementing CICD and very, very quickly be able to talk about the value that we can now pass back to our business.

Now I think what that has done is that really has shown to us as a business what i possible. I mentioned the pathfinders at the start of this interview. That was brilliant because it really showed – it really gave some creditability and built upon the appetite to adopt DevOps further. So I think a real success is look at, quick wins is the wrong expression, but look at what you can achieve quickly that can start to help people understand what DevOps can benefit, how DevOps can benefit them.

Brian Dawson: And that I assume helps get early buy-in and continued buy-in if you're getting wins.

Ben Angel: Absolutely. It's made life much easier for me. When I go and talk to my colleagues in finance who are – need to understand the benefits that we're passing back to the business we can start talking real terms. It's not theoretical. This is practical evidence here, the benefits we're passing back into our business. That's a really, really compelling and powerful set of statements that you can make.

Brian Dawson: Thank you for that insight. So we covered a high level the project, what some of your foundation was in taking the steps, some of the challenges, wins or lessons learned. It leads me to what's next, Ben, for Nationwide and DevOps at Nationwide. Where do you go next as a rising star with this transformation?

Ben Angel: Absolutely loads. I'm really glad that we won the rising star award because what that says is you're still rising. I didn't want to imply or message that we've finished our journey. We've got loads to do. I think we'll probably look at our deployment strategies. Really key that we look operating models to just further embed DevOps into our natural ways of working. We need to scale our engineering communities and train our engineering communities to make people more comfortable with DevOps disciplines and the holy trinity, as you mentioned earlier, what that really means. So loads to do, but I think for the scale of DevOps into our business, for the scale of capabilities within our business and to look at important factors of DevOps or CICD like the CD elements.

Brian Dawson: Awesome. Well, I look forward to watching you continue this journey and do hope that as you continue to move along, learn more, encounter more challenges and overcome those challenges we'll get an opportunity to get you back on and learn with you. Do you have any final thoughts, any final words of wisdom to share with our audience, words for your team, words for other people that are on the same journey?

Ben Angel: I don't know if it's words of wisdom. I guess –

Brian Dawson: I'm sure it is, Ben. I'm sure it's wise.

Ben Angel: You're just being polite, Brian. I think the one thing I've learned is DevOps is a really powerful thing and you need to be clear that you celebrate each success story as you hit it because you'll have many. It's not easy. Let's not pretend it isn't. Changing coaches and certainly implementing the right tools is very, very difficult. We've had challenges there. But I tell my team often let's keep remembering the achievements, the successes we've had. It's very, very tempting and very easy to just constantly look at the next thing and the next problem, but just keep celebrating the successes that you've made because believe me, you'll suddenly realize you're making an awful lot.

Brian Dawson: Well said. Well said. Well, Ben, thank you and I do really again wanna emphasize thank you for the work you've done. Thank you for taking a moment to share it with CloudBees and share it with the rest of the DevOps community to help move everybody along. Congratulations. I know even in a time of [break in audio] you out and get you on stage with all the lights, et cetera. I still see this as an important recognition and the work that you're doing in accepting this and earning it and accepting is an important contribution to the community. So again to you, Nationwide, and your team, I wanna say thank you and congratulations.

Ben Angel: Thank you very much, Brian. Thank you for obviously the award and it reflects all the work across the whole organization and as I said, everybody is really, really stoked right now to have got that.

Brian Dawson: Fantastic.

Ben Angel: Thanks.

<Second interview begins>

Brian Dawson: Hello, this is Brian Dawson, and I'm joining you for a special episode of DevOps Radio where we get a chance to have a conversation with the 2020 CloudBees innovation award winners, which will be unveiled and announced at DevOps World, but I get a chance to talk to them now. With me today is Rupesh Kumar of the Internal – and his teammates, excuse me, of the Internal Revenue Service, and prime contractor, Citizant, but for all intents and purposes here, it's not IRS or Citizant. This is one team bringing about innovation through and in DevOps. Welcome, everybody.

Rupesh Kumar: Thank you, Brian. 

Amin Gazi: Thank you.

Brian Dawson: So, Citizant, and the IRS are winners of the 2020 CloudBees DevOps award in the diversity category. 

And today, we'll talk about projects that drove recognition by that award as well as the lessons they learned, and I'm hoping to get to some discussions about DevOps World, and the future of their work, but we'll see what we'll be able to do in this abbreviated DevOps Radio session. So to get started, and maybe you could take the lead, Rupesh, can you and your teammates please introduce yourselves and give us – tell us about your role with the DevOps transformation at IRS?

Rupesh Kumar: Sure. Thanks, Brian, again. So my name is Rupesh Kumar. I have been in the IT industry for almost 21 years now. I have been fortunate to work with privileged people like Al Gore, Amin, Jeff, Bruce, and others in my career with other agencies where I was inspired to learn and take it to the next level. That was the opportunity I got here in the IRS as well.

So I started – I was actually brought in for the DevOps Center of Excellence to be set up at IRS. I came from a background of actually working with innovative solutions back when I was working in Verizon. We actually have a U.S. patent on our name for an application which actually saved a lot of money for Verizon. So the things of that thing, allowed me to think innovatively, and Al Versitely fostered that involvement for us in Citizant to bring out the innovation and help think different. That's what we did. We came here working with Jeff as a program manager on IRS and Amin Gazi as a technical advisor. We had a very good involvement for us to work on it, and we have come a long way. I would say from where we were in IRS with the DevOps journey and today.

I think we stand proud and super excited, but at the same time, we have long way to go and we are hoping to actually add more innovation, more hand-holding, more guidance along the journey. It has been a pleasant ride. 

Brian Dawson: Awesome, awesome. Yeah, it is a continuous journey, right? Well, thank you, Rupesh, and welcome. Next, why don't we go to Amin? Can you introduce yourselves and tell us about your role in this award-winning project?

Amin Gazi: Sure. My background is in application development as well. I started off with the insurance industry developing applications for them. Then I moved on to Ameritrade, which is the trading company, and at that time, we were all moving from Smalltalk which was object-oriented language of that time to Java, so did lots of Java JE development work there. And again, later on, joined IBM in their global services area. 

Then decided to move on to the federal section and came to Social Security Administration. We did some wonderful work there, how we converted the Cobol applications to Java and then also ramped them up the U.S. We kind of started that DevOps journey in Social Security Administration as well, but again there were lots of maturing that had to be done. So when I started here in IRS, I think it was really prime time for DevOps. About five years ago, we started our journey on DevOps. It was just a very humongous task for us to onboard, because as you know, any agency which is very big, like mature agencies like IRS, we have hundreds of applications to onboard all of them and make all of them happy and get excited about it. 

It was a big challenge. So that's where we got involved, and we made some really significant improvements in our processes to make it happen. 

Brian Dawson: Wow, so I look forward to later on, digging in and learning some more specifics about some of those accomplishments, challenges, lessons learned. Before we get there though, let me go ahead and hand it off to Alba Aleman. If you can go ahead and introduce yourselves and introduce yourself and share a little bit more with our listeners about your role here. It sounds like you might be the champion and the glue that holds this thing together here. 

Alba Aleman: I'm the company cheerleader.

Brian Dawson: Okay. [laughter]

Alba Aleman: But I'm the CEO and founder of the company started in the late '90s, but I've been serving with the IRS specifically since 1992. So when I started the company, coming back to serve in this environment was a real honor for me. And then I am a technologist by trade, application developer, been around a little longer than Rupesh. We won't say how much longer, but definitely a little longer than Rupesh.

Brian Dawson: [laughter] None of us will say how long we've been around.

Alba Aleman: But today [laughter] today, I specialize primarily in architecture, so enterprise data management strategies for organizations like the IRS and Department of Homeland Security, and organizational maturity. So helping organizations mature is kind of what I specialize in and can support agencies with, but my real passion is people and service. Having the opportunity to work with folks like Amin, and Rupesh, and Jeff. They're a fun group to work with. They feed off of each other in terms of generating ideas, and it's just really exciting to watch them. I just am kind of just their moral support and their cheerleader.

Brian Dawson: Awesome, well that is a highly skilled, highly qualified team cheerleader based on that. I commend you as the CEO, bringing about this level of transformation in federal agencies is no small feat. It's no small feat anywhere in any large organization. So kudos to you, Alba, to Citizant, and to the team here for taking on that challenge. So thank you for those introductions. Now, as I mentioned, you were selected as the winner of a CloudBees innovation award specifically in the category of diversity. It looks like you could have been a candidate for almost any one of the other categories, but the diversity category is focused on recognizing organizations and people that implemented diversity and inclusion practices within its DevOps community that embraced the uniqueness of all employees, and have adopted practices that empower and celebrate team members to spur innovation and stronger business outcomes. 

So first off, to say it live on the air, congratulations. Thank you, first, for the work that you did. Thank you for the submissions, and congratulations on the recognition. I'd like to dig in a bit. Can you take a moment to tell us about the project or projects that resulted in you being recognized as one of the CloudBees innovation award winners? And how you drove achievement in the areas of spurring innovation and stronger business outcomes, paired with diversion and inclusion practices?

Rupesh Kumar: Sure, so I can take that. So suddenly, for IRS, as we know, IRS is a federal agency, which is pretty complex. 

It is actually an organization in an organization. It has been there for almost 100 years now. And as you can imagine, the folks working there, they have their own set of – mindset of what works, what does not work. Now, when we talk about DevOps, suddenly DevOps is more of a mindset, or a culture, where we are actually trying to change something for the betterment of everyone. In order for that to happen, we, as a DevOps enterprise, DevOps team, we were in there to make sure that we add the value to IRS in terms of the whole ideation through the implementation of things going out to the market. Now, how do we do that? Now certainly, we had quite a few different silos in IRS. We have the application development organization. We have a system test organization. 

We had a cyber organization. We had a – operations organizations. Now, how do we actually bridge the gap? So that's where we, as a team, enterprise CICD team, we came up with a solution where we actually involve all the stakeholders, and we empowered them to make the change for themselves, for the betterment. It's not that we came in as a change agent and saying that "Hey, we know better". So we actually took a step back. We understood – we did a value stream mapping exercise to understand where the pain points are, what are the problem areas where we can actually provide the best value for the efforts. 

With that study, we were able to identify the processes which needs to be changed, the people, how their perceptions could be changed. In order to do that, Brian, as you mentioned, I'm super excited to hear that we got in the diversity category because diversity is the key for innovation. 

You cannot – if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting. I think I had read that somewhere, and it always stick with me. So you have to think differently, and that's what we did. We actually started doing a lot of experimentations. We had a joint innovation lab set up within IRS where we did a lot of analysis to see how can we fail fast. How can we not invest too much of time and effort, if we know that we are going to fail? Things of that nature helped us slowly and steadily come up with a solution which actually worked for at least 45 applications, which we onboarded, which were the real thing in IRS, which we onboarded them on our CICD pipeline, but then that was it. After that, okay, how do we now scale it? So we did complete our DevOps adoption journey.

But now what about sustaining it? How about now getting to the next level? How do we make sure that all of the other projects which are out there in IRS, which are close to I think 360 or 370 applications, how do we get them now on CICD pipeline? That's where we had to think more innovatively and that's where this project came about, where we will deep dive more into it. But at a very high level, the philosophy we went with was how do we make the team self-sufficient, so that they can actually onboard themselves? So they are in the driver's seat and they onboard themself, rather than we handhold them, and become the bottleneck for them to actually transform themselves to DevOps. So that's where this whole self-sufficiency and empowerment of – so these are not mere words, but they were put in action, and we had some very good feedback and statistics, which we have gathered, which we submitted for the award, which we can share later on as well as needed. Yeah, so I think that's where we are. The journey continues. We are trying to make this a self-driven living pipeline, if you will. 

Brian Dawson: Rupesh, that's actually a excellent overview. Thank you for sharing. I can already say now for Bruce and Harper, I could see that in the future, we probably want to get a full episode where we can really dig in and unwrap this journey, but for now to continue to see if anybody else wants to chime in on that question, we've been joined by another team member that Rupesh mentioned, Jeff Redman. I go to Alba, Jeff, or Amin, do any of you want to add anything else to that answer in regards to how you guys – how you all achieved success in this project?

Amin Gazi: I can take – just add something more to what Rupesh already said. As you will probably read in any of the documentation or any of the studies, that the culture is the hardest to change. I think the culture part is probably hardest to change in the other organization, but in a federal agency which is as old as we are, it's probably ten times harder, because we have been trained to do things a certain way and no one wants to change from that. The basic idea of the framework was that no one wanted to give up their territory. No one wants to say, "Yeah, go ahead. Do it in your corner. Let me know when you're done." Everybody wanted to keep the control. So it is how do you bring all of people together, but still let them have the control? That is where we saw – made really good use of the Jenkins ability to orchestrate and have everyone keep control on their things before them that fiber team or someone would say, "Yeah, whatever you do, we are fine with it", they like to make sure that nothing is going out which is not all the way secure. So they still have the control. They tell what is the level that is acceptable. 

So how do you make it into something which is all collaborative, and yet people have the control? That was the kind of work we tried to do out of this framework that we developed, which really helps you keep control yet work very collaboratively and as Rupesh said, the challenge is to not every one of the new projects have to come in and reinvent the wheel, and try to learn everything from scratch. 

This would have to do minimal work to be onboarded to the CICD pipeline and go and do – start their DevOps journey all the way to the end.

Brian Dawson: Thank you, Amin. So you will be receiving this award – Truth in Reporting. Listeners, you will hear this after DevOps World, but we are recording this before DevOps World, which will occur next week, September 22nd through 24th, with workshops on the 25th. During the keynote at DevOps World, you will virtually receive this award. A lot of the subject matter at DevOps World is not only about heritage and legacy applications and what we're doing today, but also consideration of what the future of DevOps and DevOps transformation is. To that end, I open up the question to any of the IRS or Citizant, anybody on this team. 

For you, what does the future of DevOps look like for this team, and for IRS? I.e., where are you going next?

Amin Gazi: I can start with that, and again, I know Alba probably has some good ideas on it too. I think the wonderful thing about DevOps is that this is whole IT brought in together in one place, as opposed to you may hear about any fascinating technology which may be just working in one area of it, maybe a security thing. You may have find out some really wonderful things which are only working for operations, and some wonderful development in the field of application development or something, but DevOps is where it all comes together. DevOps is the one melting pot where you're going to bring all of these innovations together and make them work together. 

Really, it is like you are not – if anything is happening in one part of your organization, how you bring it together and how you make everyone get the benefit out of it is through DevOps, because if you have innovation in your automated testing areas, in your security area and your operations or application development, this is where it all comes together. That's why I feel like the more and more DevOps is pretty big right now. It's probably the top technologies on all of the matrices that gets published. But I think it is only going to get bigger and better because it is – everyone is participating with it. 

Everyone is contributing to it. That is, to me, is the biggest enabler for everything.

Brian Dawson: I hear Amin, agree, that DevOps is a real enabler and really the place where those things that are recognized, diversity of thought, diversity of background and experience, as well as diversity of purpose to an extent, with a notion of empowerment come together. Alba, Rupesh, or Jeff, anything to add in terms of what the future looks like for you?

Alba Aleman: Well, for me, I just have to say diversity and inclusion are part of the culture at Citizant, but is also an important part of the culture at the IRS, and I think that has a lot to do with why our combined teams have done so well together, and have been able to – like, Rupesh says, create bridges and not break down silos. 

I think that's been a key to the success, and as much as I love technology, I think it is about adoption. It is about mindset, and it's about how you work with people in order to create the mindset. So it's about stakeholder engagement. It's about how you work with those stakeholders, and one of the things I love about this team is they ask more questions than they speak, so that they try to always put themselves on the map about someone else's world, whether it's a fellow contractor that's trying to onboard from a project team, or it's someone from Amin's organization, they always try to put themselves on the map of other people's worlds to understand and in order to help them, because that's how you serve. 

Brian Dawson: Phenomenal. Phenomenal. I love don't break down silos, build bridges. Before we move to the next question, anybody else have anything to chime in? Any thoughts about where you're going, Rupesh?

Rupesh Kumar: Sure. I just have one funny incident I would like to actually share. I was in a Jenkins World conference two years ago, and I happened to work KK, founder of Jenkins. I asked him how about we can have a self-sustaining, self-healing pipeline, which actually spins up, spins down on its own mind. He was like, "Okay, are you available? We can hire you." [laughter] So it was like I think the machine learning, I mean even though they are the buzz words, we want to make sure that we talk about self-autonomous cars, we have drones. We have things. We certainly would like to get more things moving in that direction for the self-healing of the pipelines, making sure that the pipelines are self-sufficient and capable to actually fix themselves and get up and running again.

Certainly, it requires a lot of innovation in that area and thinking in that perspective, so that's where I envision and hope that we take it to the next level, but at the same time, to Amin's and Alba's question, DevOps is just not technology and tools. It's people and process, and they are the one who actually drive the innovation. I feel that we would require a lot of, I guess, innovation in terms of how to make people accept and embrace change and always think that change is good. Kind of look at the positive aspect of it. That will be the area where we will have to put in a lot of work. 

Brian Dawson: Love it. Yeah, and I love that story. As many people may know, KK or Kohs K., the founder of Jenkins is actually now off applying ML to optimize testing. 

Rupesh, I agree with you. I really look forward to what I've temporarily for myself termed DevML as opposed to AIOps, where we start to leverage AI to reduce the cognitive load of the developer to focus on innovating while ensuring quality. So I love that thought. 

Well, so as we get ready to wrap up our brief session here, I'd like to queue everybody up to share a lesson that you've taken away from this project, from this journey that you've been on together that could be of value to our listeners. So Rupesh, you spoke last. I'll go ahead and start with you. Do you have a lesson that you can share as a final thought?

Rupesh Kumar: Sure, so my lesson certainly comes from the experience I had with Fannie Mae, with United States Postal Service, and with IRS. One thing I learned is don't try to change or try to come in as a change agent and recommend that you know all. 

Try to understand the process, why they have been done the way they have been done all these years. Because no one actually creates the process just like that. There has to be a reason behind it. So understanding their current situation, the current state of why things were done that way really helps you to build the trust and relationship with the folks to have their things change. The second thing I would like to point out is that people actually want to change, the only thing is the fear that it may cost them their job, or they have to learn a new skill. 

So I think one of the thing is to really handhold them and tell them we are there for the long haul. We are with you as a marriage. We are with you in the good and the bad times. So we will not leave you high and dry. 

So those are the things which really connects with the people. Alba does it all the time with all the other customers we have. And I think that is really one thing which I have learned along the way that we are there for the long haul. We are there in good and bad times.

Brian Dawson: Phenomenal. Phenomenal. Amin, do you have a lesson learned to share?

Amin Gazi: Sure. I think, as I think for all the technologists, we all know technology part's the easy part. The harder part is the people part. So even with IRS, we have achieved lots of automation, but the automation is just one part of it. You have all of these automations, but yes, you can still have the silos. You can still have delays and where people like to keep the controls on. So that part has to happen.

The only thing – the way I see it happening is that you need to have an executive buy-in. So in our case, Steve Lambourne was really championing. He was our executive, and again, I think that Kashif Pandya, he's the CIO now. He's also very much in favor of making IRS a DevOps shop. So you need definitely an executive commitment for this – to make this happen because as Rupesh said, people like to be – stay in their comfort zone on how they were doing the work. It's – it takes some commitment from executives to have them – ask them to change and line up with the new way of doing work.

Brian Dawson: Excellent. Excellent. Great points. Thank you for sharing that. Jeff Redman, do you have anything to add? Any lessons learned during the project?

Jeff Redman: I would say just that there's generally not a perfect solution, so you have to be willing to go out there, try things, see what's working well and see what's not working so well, and then make adjustments and backtrack if you need to. It's trying to wait for that perfect solution to come along, it's not a recipe for success because there's always going to be a way you can tweak it to make things better.

Brian Dawson: Continuous improvement. Excellent. Thank you, Jeff. Alba, our fearless servant leader who has helped build and guide this team, any lessons from this project, or in general that you would like to share with our audience?

Alba Aleman: I think the obvious thing that I think we've all heard on the call is it is about the people, but my greatest wish for my team is to just stay humble. This is amazing recognition. 

We're known as the best kept secret at the IRS because we don't self-promote. Nobody knows we exist. Amin knows this. He's constantly like, "No, no. My Citizant team, they did that." They're like "Who?" So it's a very tiny team that does – it's like the little ant that could move the movement. That's what they're like. They're so busy moving the mountain, they don't have time to promote themselves. So but my caution to my team now with this amazing award and recognition is stay humble. Don't let it get to your head. Don't let it get in the way of the mission. Keep focused on what we're trying to do because the journey has just begun, even though a lot of progress has been made. There's still additional mountains to move, so stay focused.

Brian Dawson: Awesome. Those are perfect words to end on. Thank you, Alba. I just want to say to the team, both IRS and Citizant, congratulations. We appreciate the work you do. We appreciate you taking the time to be acknowledged and share your experience with us and I look forward to seeing you at a DevOps World or non-Truth in Reporting. I hope you enjoy DevOps World. But no, all jokes aside, I do congratulate you. I do look forward to crossing paths in the future. Hopefully, we'll be able to get you on for a DevOps Radio session where we can really take a deeper dive and unwrap. Thank you.

Amin Gazi: Thank you, Brian.

Brian Dawson: Have a great day.

Rupesh Kumar: Thanks, Brian.

Alba Aleman: Thank you. Bye.

Brian Dawson

Brian is a DevOps evangelist and practitioner with a focus on agile, continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD) and DevOps practices. He has over 25 years as a software professional in multiple domains including quality assurance, engineering and management, with a focus on optimization of software development. Brian has led an agile transformation consulting practice and helped many organizations implement CI, CD and DevOps.

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