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Adopting a DevOps Culture as Part of a Traditional Company's Digital Journey
Michelle DeCarlo, SVP, Head of Technology Engineering Enterprise Delivery Practices, Lincoln Financial Group
At Lincoln Financial Group, a 114-year-old financial services company, we are committed to enhancing our customer experience through automation. One aspect of that digital journey involvesthe adoption of a DevOps culture to help deliver high-quality software to market faster than ever before. Continuous Testing is a critical lever in that process.
Solve for the Business Problem
Continuous Testing is what supports the speed of Continuous Delivery in DevOps by eliminating friction and enables us to operate faster and leaner. Historically, we took more of a waterfall approach to our projects, which meant a lot of manual testing from a technical perspective at the end of development. While there is still a place for this approach, part of our evolution has been understanding when we incorporate and automate testing as part of the ongoing process.
Teams automatically receive and respond to feedback as they are building software so they can make any necessary adjustments to the code throughout the process. We need to confirm the technology not only works, but it works to effectively solve the business problem and support the end-user experience.
Our philosophy is that teams are accountable for everything required to get their code developed, tested and deployed to production. We recognize advanced engineering practices mean doing things differently than before.
Build, Measure, Learn
Automation is key because you need a continuous cycle with no weak links. Dropped code will stop production for hours, but companies can gain an advantage by decomposing the code base. For that reason, testing at the most granular level is now a part of our DNA.
Our philosophy is that teams are accountable for everything required to get their code developed, tested and deployed to production. Test-driven development and service visualization are table stakes today, and so we embed test engineers in the delivery cycle to drive acceleration
At Lincoln, weuse good encrypted test data to test multiple parameters and scenarios. Our strategy is to make data on demand. It allows us to be more responsive because we can tap into data anywhere in our service architecture.
Our journey is about going to market more quickly, and Continuous Testing enables us to do so approximately 30 percent faster. When you make modifications and improvements continuously, view them as learnings and failures. At the same time, resist the temptation to automate everything, given there is a cost to keeping things current.
Create a Cultural Shift
Adoption is the hallmark of a digital transformation, and we are still striving to create that cultural shift. The people skilled in the subject matter at Lincoln aren’t necessarily engineers, so this is a radical transformation for us. Everyone has different skills and talent.
We use demos, scans and multiple quality checks to measure success. Remember that nothing is foolproof, though. Not only do you need immediate feedback and the voice of the customer, but there has to be a tight collaboration and partnership with the businesses. Doing so helps facilitate understanding of the use case.
For example, today half of all our test automation is occurring in-sprint, which means real-time. We are realizing immediate benefit from our automation with the first software release as opposed to needing to wait to realize the benefit.
We use industry-leading tools that integrate into the delivery life cycle. It is an automated ecosystem that is very much plug and play, but the tools still need to be integrated. A data visualization dashboard can create much-needed transparency.
As Lincoln continues along this journey, our metrics and analytics are maturing. Throughout every step, we are validating and interpreting data. Whereas testing used to be a cost, now it is what differentiates us—and we are excited for the future ahead.