Agile restructuring driven by DevOps and a committed organisation

OP has been transitioning towards an agile corporate culture since the beginning of 2019. Instead of a one-off project, this restructuring process is a journey and all about learning a completely new way of approaching our business, which also requires us to thoroughly overhaul the way in which we work.

The technological driving force behind OP’s agile transformation is a set of practices known as DevOps. And there is an entire team of dedicated professionals pushing for the adoption of DevOps practices across the organisation. This dedicated team of experts makes up OP’s DevOps community. 

What is DevOps and what is its impact on OP?

To put it simply, DevOps is a set of practices designed to increase technological agility and eliminate manual tasks and repetitive routines that increase the risk of mistakes in software development. It gives us more time to focus on what really matters: generating added value that is instantly visible to our customers.

DevOps Specialist Mikko Pietola is part of OP’s DevOps support team and responsible for developing technologies that promote the adoption of DevOps practices. Mikko and his team are currently working on a “toolchain” that will enable OP’s software developers to deploy two DevOps approaches: continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD).

This pipeline aims at shortening the process by which OP adds tangible value to our end customers’ lives from a few weeks to as little as a couple of days and, therefore, to make the process considerably more efficient.

“OP as an organisation has identified and recognised the scale and indispensability of the changes that we need to make in order to become genuinely agile”, Mikko explains.

“Our goal at the moment is to scale DevOps practices and operating models into software development across the whole organisation. There are three ways in which the success of our transition to DevOps can be measured. Firstly, we hope that it will speed up the process by which we make the added value that we generate visible to our end customers. Secondly, we expect it to improve the standard of our work and what we deliver, as manual tasks that increase the risk of mistakes are eliminated”, explains Head of Engineering and DevOps Henri Helakari.

“Thirdly, DevOps will change the way in which our software developers see their work. It will leave them with more time to dedicate to meaningful tasks, which in turn will boost morale and increase team spirit and job satisfaction”, Henri adds.

Effect of DevOps on employee experience

DevOps Specialist Juha Kreivi works in close cooperation with OP’s developers. This role sees him wearing many hats – from that of Product Owner to Agile Master – but his most important job is teaching teams and tribes how to follow and develop DevOps practices. For him, DevOps’ biggest advantage is its ability to make work more enjoyable thanks to simpler processes.

“DevOps eliminates unnecessary manual steps and time spent waiting around, which leaves developers free to focus on the more meaningful aspects of their work. We have been introducing our tribes to the 70-20-10 model for learning and development, according to which 70% of work is contributions based on the requirements of the business, 20% is developing procedures, and the remaining 10% is personal development. In order for this to work, the entire tribe must be committed to the model”, Juha explains.

“The 70-20-10 model has two key benefits: putting 110% of our energy into churning out special features is likely to result in apps that are difficult to test and maintain and that may or may not work. In other words, the 70-20-10 model reduces our technical debt. The 70-20-10 ideology also makes developers’ work more meaningful and increases their job satisfaction, which leads to a better employee experience.”  

Juha’s favourite moments are those when a team of developers suddenly grasps the benefits of DevOps and begins to champion the practices independently. This lets him know that the approach is actually benefiting developers on a daily basis.

Change is exciting and challenging – but also scary at times

DevOps is not only an efficient, highly automated approach to software development but also a means to revolutionise OP’s employee experience and the entire ethos of our work.

“While DevOps is about technological agility, everything always ultimately comes down to people. A major shift in culture such as this one cannot succeed if there is even a hint of its being just a superficial fix”, says Pauliina Juhola, who specialises in change management at OP. “Change takes more than a decision from the top.”

Pauliina Juhola

“DevOps, for example, requires absolute transparency to work. Teams cannot follow DevOps practices without fully understanding the role of each member of the team. It can be scary at first to have to show everyone what you are doing or what you intend to do”, Pauliina says.

“In my opinion, OP has done a brilliant job in also factoring in the human element during this process. Our use of human-centric methods such as humour and personalised communications has been extremely effective in increasing awareness about DevOps throughout the organisation”, she continues. “Everyone at OP now knows about DevOps and its benefits to our software development process. Every developer understands their role in driving the transition.”

What makes OP so compatible with the DevOps ideology?

Mikko is delighted about how dedicated OP has become to the journey towards an agile corporate culture. The entire organisation is behind the DevOps approach.

“Our DevOps community is growing and building an amazing team spirit. The community is strong, and every member of it truly lives and breathes DevOps and wants to excel at it”, Juha says.

“Our DevOps training course produced its first 25 DevOps Coaches last week, and they will now begin passing their know-how on to their teams. The course is designed for software developers”, Pauliina explains. “Ultimately, we’d like our DevOps Coaches and Agile Coaches to begin working in pairs and training teams through a combination of technical know-how and human behaviour expertise.”

“We have succeeded in making the entire organisation appreciate the importance of continuous improvement. For example, our Product Owners now understand that developers need to set time aside for this purpose every day”, Mikko says.

“Developers have both the right and a responsibility to dedicate time to their personal development. Investing in employees’ competence is a strategic priority for OP. We want our developers to constantly invest time in devising better and more efficient ways of working”, Henri says.

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