The wireless division of a telecommunications company in the US that offers wireless products and services and has industry-leading 4G and 5G wireless technology. There are 10,000 people in IT and 8,000 of them work on applications and releases.
The Promise of the Digital World
In 2015, the telecom company invested $11 billion to meet the surging demand for
wireless data and video, and to get the network ready for 5G technology. Alongside,
competition was heating up. The company was laser-focused on getting ahead of the curve to “deliver the promise of the digital world.” For the Release and Delivery Management Services (RDMS) team at the company’s wireless division, that meant revving up the release engine to handle the torrent of business demands.
The Release and Delivery Management Services team is responsible for coordinating all releases. They scope release train engineering, ensure readiness and availability of environments, mitigate Mean Time To Repair (MTTRs), provide uniform understanding of testing efforts, manage risk through predictive analytics, and show due diligence to ensure compliance in testing and sign-offs. They knew they were in crunch time to up release frequency and cut time-to-market. But that was no easy feat given the challenges.
“Plutora helped establish a centralized, authoritative source for managing workflows and integrating data.”
Enterprise Release Manager at the wireless provider
Challenges in Software Delivery
Releases were hard to coordinate in the two months that the Release and Delivery Management Services team had for each release. Hundreds of people were updating dozens of spreadsheets and SharePoint sites to share release schedules and coordinate environment bookings across projects and dependencies. IT teams would waste time following up on every detail of test environment availability, and when communication fell through the cracks, their projects would run into contention.
Each deployment to production was a risky endeavor — a 10-hour affair that involved significant collaboration because of heavily-coupled systems. Hundreds of steps in deployments were being managed and coordinated manually and there was no centralized planning or real-time progress tracking. “We knew we had to simplify the high-level sequence to reduce risk,” said the IT manager who leads the Release and Delivery Management Services team.
He also wanted to make sure there was clear understanding around sufficiency of test levels by introducing test coverage information into the release process. There were around 2,000 testers without a formal process to get details around test coverage and defects. An audit finding sanctioning the release team to stop releases that didn’t have rational criteria added to his team’s list of concerns.
The Release and Delivery Management Services team had to tackle the cultural side of things as well. Back then, the culture at the wireless provider was primal. People would send each other lots of personal emails to follow up on coordination. This was clearly error-prone and not scalable.
The Release and Delivery Management Services team knew how critical it was to enable collaboration on well-known information as well as timely and effective communication that would help identify and escalate resource gaps. One thing was clear: they needed a tool that would serve as a single source of truth for all releases by gluing together information from IT Service Management, Project and Portfolio Management, and Application Lifecycle Management toolchains to iron out challenges in the company’s enterprise release management.
Solving change management from idea to production was paramount for the wireless provider. The IT manager wanted to streamline the process and make sure information was communicated seamlessly across stakeholders. He started looking for solutions and learned about Plutora. During the initial meetings and demos, he realized Plutora was the perfect solution that stacked up against the demanding release landscape at the wireless provider. Right away, the company kick-started a plan for incremental implementation of the Plutora platform.
|Before Plutora||After Plutora|
|Releases per Year||10||24|
|Projects per year||2,000||4,800|
|Changes per year||3,500||8,000|
|People in a shared team||17||12|
At the telecom company, a release is an integrated set of deliverables or changes. Each release has 200 projects where a project is an application. Each change is a unique release. Its wireless division uses Plutora for the application management view. As the IT Manager puts it, “We release software, not projects.”
Streamlined Deployment Management
The Release and Delivery Management Services team chose to first implement Plutora Deploy since deployment is a
repeatable process. Plutora Deploy serves as a virtual command center — a one-stop shop for hundreds of people in IT to understand dependencies and coordinate deployments. Plutora Deploy also provides a highly presentable way to share information with other stakeholders.
Plutora Deploy gives the wireless provider a single place for deployment plans and associated tasks that can be easily replicated for each release. It allows deployment managers to delegate those tasks and track progress in real-time. It integrates with ServiceNow for task assignments and status reporting. Plutora Deploy supports deployment automation for individual steps and their interactive execution. It also helps the Release and Delivery Management Services team ensure governance and compliance.
“There’s no way my team could have managed the rapid increase in release velocity without a solution to manage it all.”
Senior IT Manager at the wireless provider
Control Over Test Environments
Next, the wireless provider set up Plutora Environments to manage pre-production logical application environments and their dependencies around deployment plans and releases. Plutora Environments gives the wireless provider one place to support the intake of booking requests, change requests, and allocation of environments. It helps detect conflicts, analyze impact, and set up notifications for stakeholders.
Plutora Environments has eliminated collisions and made it easy to track changes. Since the wireless provider started using Plutora, it has improved efficiency and more than doubled the number of changes in the last year alone. “The acceleration curve looks like a steep rock,” said the IT manager.
One Place to Manage Releases Across the Enterprise
The wireless provider implemented Plutora Release in two stages. First, it arranged for release impacts or changes to be managed on Plutora, which were previously being managed through multiple mechanisms. Once the process of integrating all the sources into Plutora to track changes in the release trains was complete, the IT manager asked the teams to start using Plutora as their primary tool.
Plutora Release has helped establish a centralized, authoritative source for managing workflows and integrating data. Business partners use Plutora to understand the status of each change they need to sign off on.
Next, the wireless provider implemented gates, criteria, notifications engine, and checklists to understand release progress. The Release and Delivery Management Services team took up around 60 activities – referred to as accountabilities at the wireless provider – for each release and set them up by function. Plutora Release provides a clear audit trail for due diligence, without leaving any gaps in accountability.
The Release Dashboard provides rich insights and reports to teams and management, giving them a precise view of where they stand in the release train. Before Plutora standardized and consolidated notifications, figuring out statuses involved a lot of manual work and communication through phone calls, meetings, and emails.
“People are more engaged now,” said the IT manager. “We’ve improved efficiency by 30 percent because of a single source of truth for over a hundred application teams.”
Results and Benefits
Increase in total number of major and minor releases.
Increase in number of changes delivered per release in 2017.