The Meltwater Transformation

Posted on Friday, Oct 25, 2019
In this episode, Gene Connolly and Joan Freed discuss their DevOps transformation at Meltwater.

Show Notes

In this episode, host Jessica Kerr is joined by guests Gene Connolly and Joan Freed to discuss DevOpsiCon and their DevOps transformation at Meltwater.

DevOps at Meltwater

The panel discusses how DevOps has transformed the working environment at Meltwater. When Joan started at Meltwater, engineering and operations were kept entirely separate.

Joan: “There was this huge wall because engineering knew how things were built and operations knew the production systems…but there wasn’t any cross-pollination there.”

The lack of communication between the teams caused friction and slowed down product delivery. The process could take as long as six months.

Joan: “We’re a Software as a Service company so we always want to build products that are sticky and keep our customers around.”

Joan discusses how Meltwater began to move to a more agile business model. Getting engineers and operations people in the same physical location to work this out was important. Creating truly cross-functional teams couldn’t happen over Skype alone. DevOpsiCon was born to facilitate this transition.

DevOpsiCon!

Buy-in wasn’t immediate throughout the firm. Teams were updating legacy systems throughout the company and some were more focused on work than enablement.

Joan: “The first one was a little bit sneaky. The next one was in Manchester and that one was a little less sneaky.”

The panel discusses the importance of investment in enablement. This allows the feature teams to focus on the features they were actually building instead of all the underlying infrastructure.

Joan: “Having them build everything they need is not realistic.”

The fact that Meltwater has offices all over the globe makes any wholesale shift of company culture difficult. The panel discusses the need for face-to-face interaction to facilitate change.

Gene: “There are these events like DevOpsiCon where we solve the problem by bringing a broad set of people together.” DevOpsiCon has grown beyond just developers. Product, UX, support, and even sales have joined the event to help build relationships and give insight.

Jessica: “That is very DevOps in the sense that DevOps says that you need to take these concerns that cannot be separated…and you can’t put those responsibilities on different teams and make them fight.”

Unconference

The panel discusses the value of DevOpsiCon as an unconference. Attendees collectively set the agenda on each day of the event.

Gene: “That format has been so much fun and created so much value.”

Gene: “The event becomes the conference you didn’t know you needed at the start. It adapts collectively to what the organization needs at that moment.”

Ongoing Transformation

Gene discusses how allowing teams the freedom to experiment can yield results that a top-down structure could not provide.

The panel talks about the structure of mission, framework and support teams.

Joan: “By keeping things loosely coupled, it gives teams a lot more freedom to make the technology choices that are best for them.”

Ownership Challenges

The panel discusses the ownership challenges of moving from the datacenter to the cloud specifically and large enterprise changes more generally. The investment in enablement is critical.

Joan: “There’s very much a not built here mentality that can take place.”

Gene: “Software can benefit from being owned by many people.”

The panel talks about overhead costs to both software and human changes.

Gene talks about the challenges of moving to a full mission responsibility model.

Gene: “You need to find efficiencies more effectively than you’ve ever had to find efficiencies before.”

So! Has It Worked?

Gene: “Oh wait, you’re looking to me for an answer?”

The panel discusses the results of the ongoing DevOps transformation at Meltwater. The six month process for production changes has transitioned to a constant stream. Beyond the productivity, it has also been a quality of life improvement for the employees.

Gene: “We’ve got a Slack channel for all the production changes and it is constant activity in it all week long of changes going out.”

Joan: “We’re now getting hundreds of features out every six months to our customers.”

The panel discusses the ways in which transformation is, or should be, a constant process. The change goes on.

Find out more about Meltwater, their DevOps transformation, and the process of an unconference on their blog.

Episode art by Evelyn Kerr.

Guests

Gene Connolly

Gene Connolly

Gene is a Software Developer with ~20 years of experience currently working at Meltwater. He lives in Southern New Hampshire. If he isn’t working, he is trying to keep up with his three children.

Joan Freed

Joan Freed

Joan is currently leading the development teams for Meltwater’s social engagement product. She was part of the leadership team for Meltwater’s DevOps transformation several years ago. She is passionate about agile development and has been involved in several agile transformations throughout her career.

Hosts

Jessica Kerr

Jessica Kerr

Jessitron is a developer at Atomist, where she works on very exciting development and delivery automation tools. She is into resilience engineering, domain-driven design, and symmathesy. She works remotely from St. Louis, MO, where she raises two daughters. Find her also on >Code, and at conferences around the world.


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