With innovation constantly changing the world of business, large corporations can find themselves lagging behind as they struggle to rapidly enact change and implement practices such as cloud transformation and DevOps. It frequently falls to external consultants to provide a guiding hand in change management. Can you make big structural and process-driven changes at work and still maintain a sense of fun? Should you have fun at work? We recently spoke to Holly Cummings, Development Lead at IBM Garage prior to her presentation at Codemotion’s online conference: The Italian edition to find out more.
IBM Garage equips large enterprises with business strategy, design, and technology to help them perform more like a start-up. By using agile development, scaled adoption, and design strategies, an enterprise can hone workflows and improve product and/or client outcomes.
As Holly describes, The IBM Garage Method involves “combines design thinking, lean start-up, extreme programming, DevOps, cloud-native sort of mashes them all together, and then add some other things that we think are important.”
The biggest challenges in business transformation
According to Holly, some of the biggest challenges in implementing cloud-based technologies is bringing the people along on the end-to-end journey. Technological challenges aside, managing client expectations and updating organizational structures to be best positioned for rapid shipping is tricky. Sometimes clients are nervous during the process of navigating microservices processes and will not update their release cadence or automation, meaning, the biggest benefits of the cloud can be lost.
“Organizations will want to do microservices, but they won’t be making any move to update their release cadence. And they won’t be bringing in the automation. So, they don’t really know whether their microservices are independently deployable, and so they deploy them in a big batch.”
When do companies need help in their company transformation?
The short answer is at any stage, depending on the company and their general stage of development. While start-ups with a great idea will approach IBM Garage at the beginning of their journey, seeking guidance on where to begin, larger companies might work with cloud services already but not yet be achieving their desired outcomes.
“We work with start-ups, and they want to make something, and they’re not really even sure where to begin. And now we need to put the technological wrapper around it so that we can either go faster or enable them to scale their idea.”
Holly gives the example of working with a startup who wanted to see if they could use AI, to reduce a bunch of toil in setting up a Dungeons and Dragons games:
“So, when trying to manage these D&D games, there’s potentially hours of work, some of which is pretty dull. So we did a design thinking workshop with them. Then we did a build with them to see if AI could be used to write the stories for Dungeons and Dragons. It was a lot of fun because we combined some really cutting edge AI technology, with historical research on what makes a good story. It was really cool, and they were happy with the outcome.”
Ultimately, success is the best evidence of successful transformation. Holly notes, “Some of these ideas can be really scary because they’re the exact opposite of what was a good idea 10 years ago. So you need to kind of build that trust and confidence.”
When working with larger companies, it’s crucial to determine where things are going wrong before overhauling their entire systems in an effort to transform their workplace practices. Holly suggests in the first instance, “rather than boiling the ocean and doing a big audit of the development practices across the organization, let’s actually just find a small piece of work, and do that in a way that we think really exemplifies the best practices. Then we can prove that we can do this with continuous delivery, we can roll this out in a way that actually delivers.”
Management vs development teams
Often the will of management and the developers‘ desires are in conflict, so it is critical to get people together and flesh out what the actual problem is, find the common interests, and get people on the same page.
Holly asserts that it’s important to ensure teams are not simply throwing technology at a problem, but rather, digging into determining what the core problem is and how to solve it:
“There is a legitimate organizational need to demonstrate that we’re going forward and that we’re adopting new technologies and that we’re on the leading edge. And there are also quite a lot of pain points in an organization.” So while management can’t find one thing, and development teams insist on digitizing another thing, the challenge is to align these two goals.
What does cloud success look like?
Success in cloud transformation is multifaceted. It means that “ideally, we’ve got something that’s innovative, and we’ve got it to production, and we’ve got it to production sustainably.”
Cultural factors also matter – did the process bring people along with it? Will the client developers benefit and maintain the project? Answering yes to these questions is critical to project success.
Holly shared: “I think it’s so much more sustainable, technically, and organizationally if you are enabling the co-creation of skills. Were we able to do a skills transfer of the things that we know about best practices for cloud development, and really share those? Were we able to get that ripple effect from the people that we were immediately working with so that they then go and teach their peers? How does this spread through the organisation?”
What about fun in the workplace?
Holly has been speaking about fun in the workplace for the years and asserts that fun in the workplace makes a good business and workplace fun is more than cocktail Fridays and ping-pong tables.
She asserts: “So there’s this sort of tension between this puritanical idea that fun has no place in the workplace and the fact that a lot of fun things actually yield good business results.”
After previous presentations, conference attendees have come to her and said “Oh, no, actually, you’ve missed a step. Because my workplace actively prohibits fun.” They create an atmosphere, that’s not very nice.
Holly explains, “This includes pronouncements like, if you bring cake into work, you’re not allowed to send an email using the company system to tell people that you have a cake to share. And someone told me a story that they were sort of typing away and things were going well, so they were smiling. And a project manager crept up behind them, and sort of said, Why are you smiling? Work isn’t a place to be happy!”
Holly shares:”I think the organisations that are most successful have kind of resolved this on the side of actually it is okay for employees to be happy, and we’re going to have a more sustainable business if our employees are happy, but we do see the opposite as well.”
Want to learn more about business transformation and fun at work?
Join Holly to learn more at our upcoming digital conference where she’ll talk more about how IBM Garage can assist large corporations with agility and meeting the needs of a rapidly changing business world as they endeavour to transform from legacy philosophies and practices to lean, efficient, customer-driven processes.
The Codemotion Virtual conference: The Italian Edition started yesterday and will last until tomorrow, from 14:00 to 19:00 CET.
A single ticket grants you attendance to four conferences spread over the week, offering a deep dive into a plethora of topics relating to Backend, Frontend, Emerging Technologies, and AI / ML / DL. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn first-hand about the best state-of-the-art technology, activities, good practices, and case studies for everyone working in tech regardless of your profile or your level of experience.