Plutora Blog - Agile Release Management, Deployment Management, DevOps, Release Management, Test Environment Management, Value Stream Management
The Value Stream Digital Transformation SolutionReading time 19 minutes
As the VP of Development at a large multinational wireless telecommunication company, Christian deals with a variety of challenges every day. For example, this morning he reviewed the results of an internal audit of their development teams and their processes. The goal of the audit was to identify and resolve problems now, so the company can be prepared for the regulatory audits that occur every few months.
An hour later, Christian was in a meeting to discuss how to effectively manage their 1800 test environments. This part of their value stream has traditionally been an enormous drain on the divisions budget, largely due to their inefficient management and processes. The challenge was to find a better, more effective way to manage them. After lunch, Christian had a conference call with his management team to explore ideas of how to collect data more efficiently along the value stream that they had mapped out the previous week. It didn’t take long before they all agreed that the legacy reporting methods of SharePoint and spreadsheets were just not an efficient solution for this situation. The remainder of the call’s discussion was around what collection and reporting solutions would be better. After that, he had a conference call with his release and deployment managers regarding a major upcoming release. They felt optimistic about its successful and issue-free deployment, but they, of course, couldn’t provide any guarantees. Due to the inefficient data collection and reporting issue, most of them weren’t able to get current status information on their respective product stream releases in time for the meeting.
To wrap up the day, he worked on a presentation for the senior executives who were still feeling the pain from the last deployment. This meeting was an attempt to provide additional transparency and set expectations for the next upcoming deployment. It would include roughly 600 changes to 154 software tools that directly impacted 260 operations teams and their customers in 220 countries. As always, software deployments are a big deal, and this one was no exception. He was hopeful that there wouldn’t be any hiccups like there were on the previous release two months before. Critical updates had been delayed three days because one of the key components had crashed the network as soon as it was moved to production. It stopped work at 2800 stores for 4 hours. This is not something he can afford to have happen again… ever.
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With this added pressure, Christian was spending his evenings looking for a solution to mitigate risks and help manage and coordinate the 8,000 people in their massive software delivery effort.
While the individual in this scenario is fictitious, the organization, scenarios, scale, and challenges were real. It’s a good illustration of at least some of the issues involved in running software development efforts at enterprise organizations where there are hundreds of software product streams and thousands of developers. When it comes to managing the entire software delivery value stream, leadership can feel completely in the dark. They don’t have the information they need at their fingertips. They are essentially operating blind; trusting in their management teams to somehow make each of their respective contributions work perfectly to deliver an issue-free customer experience. The challenges are huge and the risks are even bigger. If one coding defect, deployment step, or interdependency is missed, or if something doesn’t work quite right, for any reason, anywhere, in any of the hundreds of touch points of the product streams, it can easily cost the company millions of dollars or more.
This leads us to the obvious question; is it even possible to effectively manage an entire enterprise value stream of software development of this scale?
The answer is yes.
Fortunately for our fictitious character, Christian, one of his managers came across Plutora while searching for a way to address their more localized management challenges. When it was pitched to him as a potential solution, Christian immediately recognized it as the solution for which he had been searching.
Why is Plutora Different?
Plutora does things a bit differently than other industry solutions. Its objective is not to replace the dev tools that your development teams already know and are comfortable with. Rather, it integrates with those same development tools to create a single unified value stream management solution. It leverages the functionality and data from each of the tools that are already used within your organization. The result is an amazing end-to-end workflow management and tracking solution that can be uniquely configured for each dev team and product to improve all aspects of delivery.
Development tools like Remedy, Selenium, Jira, GitHub, Chef, XebiaLabs, ServiceNow and hundreds of others can be easily integrated with Plutora creating a single unified development value stream management solution. Plutora collects and tracks every activity from every tool, including who does it, when, and on what requirement, user story, sprint, epic test environment, and much more. With the automatic data collection and the detailed level of artifact tracking, Plutora is able to provide complete transparency of every aspect of the delivery value stream. This completely eliminates the need for data collection, reporting, and roll-ups from each individual and team.
The Problem Plutora Solves?
Unlike other industry solutions, Plutora isn’t trying to displace, replace or reinvent the wheel of existing developer tools that are already widely adopted by, and familiar to development teams. Instead, they encourage your organization to continue to use what your teams are already using and familiar with. Plutora simply adds to them, providing a unifying solution that ties together the functionality, workflow and data collection from each of these disparate tools, combining them into a single-login value stream management solution. It consolidates the silos of tracking data from each tool into a single cohesive data mart, showing the entire end-to-end picture with every detail of every sprint, release, product, and team.
The Solution for IT Management – Plutora improves product development planning, cross-team collaboration, and execution flow throughout the delivery chain. The collaboration function improves clarity and minimizes lost communications that is typical as a result of email overload. Its configurable workflow management ensures that essential approvals are received, the prescribed workflow is followed and that no dependency is overlooked. The visualization that Plutora provides allows management to easily locate and follow the many moving parts and their current state of health. This is made possible with configurable dashboards, distributable reports, and powerful analytic tools that make tracking things like current release state or KPI tracking throughout the organization a non-issue, for both individuals and collective teams.
The consolidated data from each of the collection points throughout the value stream provides a clarity into the current state of things that have never before been possible. The built-in analytics provide the ability to quickly locate and track every user story, sprint, scrum, product stream and team throughout the organization. Users can drill down real-time into hot-spots to determine the exact cause, forecast project completion dates, identify backlogs or monitor resource utilization.
The Plutora value stream management solution simplifies and improves delivery velocity. At the same time, built-in dependency management ensures that every artifact and step is correctly followed throughout the lifecycle to deployment. This level of visibility and control across all teams and products provides management with significant peace of mind. No more managing the unknown.
In a nutshell, it’s a single solution to unify and manage every developer tool, pipeline, architecture, and methodology throughout the entire organization.
The Solution for IT Team Members – Your teams already have development tools that they have adopted and are comfortable using. Plutora integrates with those same tools that your team uses throughout the entire value stream. This provides you and your team with a single-login solution that minimizes the time-sucking need to jump in and out of different applications dozens or hundreds of times a day to do your job.
Perhaps one of the biggest time-savers that Plutora offers is its ability to automatically track work activity, progress, states and defects throughout the different tools in your value stream. This means that you and your team members no longer have to stop work to record work. No more spreadsheets, SharePoint, or any other legacy recording/reporting solutions. It’s done automatically. This is cause enough for a celebration!
Are you tired of missing an important email because it got lost in the hundreds of other emails that you receive every day? Plutora moves primary project collaboration out of your inbox to ensure important communications don’t fall through the cracks and are lost. Email is still used, but as a secondary notification channel of your configurable workflow triggers. This can be used to automatically distribute reports per your defined schedule, or send alerts to specific users or teams on things like approval acceptance, release milestones, items in the queue, and defect alerts.
Plutora offers a variety of functionality to improve the development workflow. Whether you’re a developer, tester, test environment manager, release manager, operations team member or something else, Plutora makes your life and job easier. Managed workflows help to increase delivery velocity while also ensuring that you don’t accidentally miss a step, forget an approval, or drop a dependency. This ensures that your quality of work goes up, delivery times go down, while also provides users with a significant amount of peace of mind.
Plutora = Improved Quality & Increased Velocity
The test environment management function enables developers and testers the ability to request, schedule, and even spin-up and spin-down test environments as scheduled or ad-hoc. The test environment management functionality tracks and manages every environment configuration and each of their respective components, minimizing conflicts, downtime, and delays. This helps to ensure release delivery is on time and that each release requirement is properly tested against the correct environment configuration. Automated notifications bring immediate attention to environment issues such as a failed test, system crash, server failure, incorrect configuration, missing sample data or any number of other related issues.
A Complete Value Stream Management Solution
Managing an enterprise value stream to run smoothly and effectively is enough of a challenge without having to do it blindly. Plutora provides the needed visibility and transparency to expose nearly every dark corner of your delivery chain. Imagine being able to pull up a dashboard while in a remote meeting, or during a conference call, that shows in real time every delivery bottleneck, code defect, and release status throughout the entire organization within seconds. No more collecting and rolling up legacy reports, or trying to make sense of the incomplete, incorrect, or even altered data. The data collection and reporting is all done automatically and accurately.
The Plutora value stream management solution enables managers and team members to effectively manage their respective activities in the value stream while providing insight to what’s sitting in a queue or coming down the pipe. The provided transparency enables the planning and coordination of resources to ensure that work is done when it needs to be done. It virtually eliminates pipeline surprises and those “what’s coming next” miscommunications.
This pipeline transparency and collaboration enables teams to more effectively plan and coordinate resources which greatly expedites the delivery velocity at nearly every touch point. Not only does it expedite the individual delivery of releases, but it has enabled many Plutora clients to significantly increase bandwidth without increasing resources, delivering more changes and releases in a shorter period of time.
While Christian, the individual we talked about earlier in this article, was a fictitious character, the company and those specific management scenarios talked about were all real. They have reported that with Plutora, they are able to run their value stream much more efficiently. This added efficiency has enabled them to increase their changes per release by 2.3 times, and increase their annual release bandwidth by 2.5 times without increasing headcount or labor hours. They have also reported that in addition to the increased release efficiency and delivery velocity, in the few years since using Plutora, they have yet to have a single failed release. They are careful to point out that while they have definitely had the typical release related issues, Plutora has provided the needed transparency throughout the value stream to quickly identify and resolve those issues long before they are deployed and become a problem in production.
They have also reported that Plutora has enabled them to double the test environment bookings while running a leaner and much more efficient test environment management team.
“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 telecom provider
The value stream management solution that Plutora provides has given them the proper transparency, visibility and toolsets to effectively manage workflow and their associated tools throughout their dev teams, individually and collectively. This can seem an impossible task for enterprise organizations with multiple product streams, development teams, workflows, methodologies and a wide variety of development tools. For this telecom company and many other organizations, Plutora was the solution that solved their value stream management and workflow problems.
The Core Challenges of Digital Transformation
It isn’t enough for a development organization to be just Agile any more. Industry experts agree that in order to compete, companies need to undergo a digital transformation. But what does that really mean to “Digitally Transform?” The definition of digital transformation can mean different things to different people. To some, it may mean automating as much of the value stream as possible. To others, it means moving everything to the cloud, and to another, providing digital transparency. Regardless of what definition you and your organization use, there are three core challenges that all organizations have to resolve as they transform.
- Connected Management – Evolving methodologies and technologies are great for the local processes, but they are also making it more difficult for management to stay connected and have the needed transparency of the state of things. That leaves many asking, “How can you manage something you can’t see?” Plutora addresses this issue. It integrates with and unifies your organization’s chosen development toolsets into a single solution. Its single inter-connected data source provides full transparency of the entire value stream. With this, management is able to connect like never before. Whether you’re planning releases, tracking test environments or managing the deployment, Plutora provides the solution.
- Strong Continuous Improvement – Digital transformation is a process, not a destination. It’s an ongoing evolution of your value stream to leverage technology to achieve targeted objectives. This evolution will have a number of milestones along the way that measure key metrics at many points throughout the delivery chain. The only way to effectively track and measure the digital transformation is to establish your baseline metrics, then continue to measure, monitor and adapt as the processes continue to evolve. The value stream management solution that Plutora provides delivers complete visibility and trackability on every touch point, gate, development tool, KPI and SLA. This enables team members, managers and stakeholders to identify exactly where bottlenecks, issues, and trouble spots are before they become critical. This trackability improves the evolutionary efficiency of your value stream with fewer back-steps to address issues.
- Smart Pipeline Delivery Management – Imagine an intelligent pipeline delivery solution that automatically identifies code defects and routes them to the correct people for resolution. This is Plutora. Its workflow management ensures that each user story, sprint, and epic receive the correct approvals, dependencies, and testing to ensure product quality. As a direct result, the delivery velocity is also significantly improved. Like the wireless telecom company discussed above, many companies report that Plutora provides them the ability to ramp up delivery velocity to multiples of the number of releases per year, with each release containing multiples of the number of changes.
Visibility doesn’t just mean powerful analytics. It also means automated tracking and notifications regarding issues, defects, delays and of course milestones. As a SaaS solution, Plutora has the ability to track and manage pipeline delivery solutions that are on local servers, on the cloud, or a hybrid of the two.
We Enable Hybrid Everything
Enterprise development teams are comprised of a diverse array of methodologies, development tools, processes, requirements, workflow, and project needs. Trying to reconcile delivery alignment with these fragmented environments can be impossible without Plutora.
It collects and translates the data from each of the data sources throughout the IT organization into a single unified language of metrics. This allows development teams to adopt those methodologies, tools, and procedures that are best for them and the project. Simply put, it provides the flexibility for your development teams to adapt to the needs of the project, and not be limited to the capabilities of the management solution. It bridges the gaps between teams and their fragmented environments to coordinate and align delivery across highly diverse product delivery chains.
The days of requiring team members to interrupt productive work to log their progress and results are behind us. No more collecting and rolling up data from spreadsheets and other legacy reporting tools. No more consolidating dissimilar data types from each team throughout the organization and trying to reconcile discrepancies with their respective toolsets and processes.
With Plutora, data collection and alignment are automated, completely eliminating the unproductive process of manual reporting, logging and rolling up data. It tracks every aspect of every release, development tool, and human workflow items, creating a single source of data. This unified data mart and its role-based access model provides pipeline and release health visibility across all products and teams in the organization.
The management of a development organization with a variety of dev teams who use different methodologies, tools, and processes, requires the tracking and monitoring of a wide range of KPI’s and other related metrics. Plutora provides a broad range of pre-built analytics and metrics that focus on key indicators and performance factors. Additional metrics can be easily configured and tracked to provide focus on those metrics that are of particular interest within your organization. Examples may include a variety of performance indicators including velocity, quality, productivity, customer satisfaction, trends cycle time, MTTR, failure rates and many more.
These metrics and analytics unify your fragmented environment by providing the ability to track, visualize and drill into performance metrics, release states, delivery alignment, hot spots, and much more.
In our example of the multinational wireless telecom company, Plutora was able to directly address each of the trouble spots mentioned, as well as many others not mentioned, throughout their IT organization. They now have a high level of confidence in their ability to pass regulatory audits. The automated data collection function that is part of Plutora has given them a bulletproof audit trail. This has completely eliminated the issue of incomplete or incorrect data being recorded, stored and propagated throughout the chains of reports. It has also eliminated the need to research and reconcile reporting discrepancies.
Their test environment management used to be a black hole of inefficiency. Though they had a good management team, there was just too much information to track and manage on spreadsheets. With Plutora, they have eliminated booking conflicts and misconfigured environments. They’ve doubled their testing capacity, and drastically shortened the time needed to approve, configure and verify a test environment. This increased efficiency in their test environment management has resulted in higher quality and more efficient testing throughout the organization, which has significantly increased the pipeline throughput and on-time release deliveries.
The issues they had regarding the collecting, collating and rolling up data is now a non-issue. The data is now automatically and accurately collected by Plutora. This unified data source provides complete visibility throughout the value stream. The built-in reports, dashboards, and analytics help users and stakeholders to visualize current project health, real-time delivery projections, hotspots and much more. The issue of not being able to get value stream data collected in time for a particular meeting is non-existent since all reports show real-time data and are easily accessible by laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Plutora also delivers notifications to particular individuals or teams to bring attention to particular milestones, hand-offs, issues or defects. This helps to keep everyone informed, aligned and coordinated in the workflow choreography.
Release managers at this telecom company love the ability to track every detail of any given release from planning to production. Plutora gives them the ability to visualize the release progress and workflow across all of their product development lines, teams, tools, and delivery channels. This allows them to coordinate resources, releases and product delivery like never before. The analytics also give them the ability to drill into every release to identify defects and bottlenecks and resolve them before they become a problem. Since they began using Plutora a few years ago, they haven’t had a single failed release. They feel this is significant for a number of reasons. The first is that they are able to identify issues and get them resolved much easier. The second is that they have more than doubled the number of changes in a given release, and have also more than doubled the number of releases. They’ve noted, “This is an impressive track record that would not have been possible without Plutora.”
In the scenario above, Christian was collecting information and creating a presentation for the company leadership in an attempt to provide assurances after the previous release failed, costing the company a lot of time and money. This issue has been nearly completely mitigated by Plutora. The instant availability and transparency of the entire value stream, including performance and quality metrics, make collecting that information easy. That information can also be set up to be automatically distributed to any and all stakeholders to provide them with the exact information and visualization you want them to see.
This issue is further mitigated by the ability to identify, track and resolve issues before they make it into production. As this real-life scenario above illustrates, failed releases are significantly reduced, if not eliminated altogether. This makes those types of uncomfortable meetings where confidence needs to be restored in the delivery process and product quality, a thing of the past.
Regardless of whether you’re on the IT or the operations side of things, if you’re involved in any way with the development and delivery of software, Plutora can make things better… a lot better.