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Boston DevOps MeetUp: Building to Scale, Challenges with Growth

ebernsen's picture

There has been much discussion surrounding DevOps over the past few years. From clearly laying out its definition to formulating strategies that can be easily executed, many organizations are using the DevOps model to deliver applications and services at high velocity. 

While growth is always a great thing, sometimes it can be difficult to properly manage it. This was the topic at the latest Boston DevOps MeetUp on ‘Building to Scale, Challenges with Growth’ held at Izotope in Cambridge, MA. After listening to speakers from companies such as Liberty Mutual and HERE.com, here are a few takeaways we came away with from the event.  

Boston DevOps MeetUp
David Brainard of Liberty Mutual speaking at the Boston DevOps MeetUp. 

Functioning like a startup in a regulated industry 

When you work at a large, highly regulated enterprise, it can be quite challenging to achieve growth without hitting roadblocks. Getting approval from several departments and having to work through multiple pipelines to get to production is an unfortunate standard at enterprises. The question posed by David Brainard from Liberty Mutual was this; how do you function like a startup in a regulated industry? 

The answer lied in the decision to bring a new service (i.e. insurance for skiers/snowboarders) to market in less than 3 months via cross-functional participation, careful prioritization and the willingness to pivot. His team offered enticing product features (ex. convenient, on-site payment methods) and overcame the previous challenges brought on by legacy systems and lack of in-field consumer testing. By being adaptable and acting in a lean fashion, the organization became a reflection of their evolving, flexible software architecture, with the end goal of increasing velocity and having a sincere desire to change the company culture, not just save costs. 

Real insight into the cloud

Whether your business originated on the cloud, has resided there for several years, or is growing into AWS in early stage cloud adoption, there are several factors in play when you are managing cloud at scale. During Jason Fuller’s (head of cloud management & operations for HERE.com) presentation, he discussed how infrastructure and platform services at scale can amplify ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’. 

This was reflected when listening to his firsthand insights working with AWS. Fuller pointed out AWS’s organizational priorities and provided a few tips on utilizing on the popular platform: 

  • AWS’s main motive is the globalization of technology, placing strong focus on large enterprises
  • IoT is the future of how AWS will operate, despite regulatory issues still getting in the way
  • The most important aspects of managing AWS instances are setting up policies to control costs and identifying areas of misuse 

Ultimately, Fuller’s last piece of advice was to only implement the most essential DevOps tools that work for your team while taking advantage of being able to build from the ground up in the cloud. 

Cultivating people as the organization grows 

The last speaker of the night was Stephen Vance (a stealth startup founder), who focused on how to scale people management. When companies grow at a faster pace than expected, there are times when misinformed managerial assumptions are made and employees end up suffering. 

The first step in uncomplicating hierarchy structures during expansion is defining what ‘managing’ specifically means to your organization. Vance mentioned how not all great technical minds who become managers are fit to cover certain responsibilities such as career guidance, budget ownership and team leadership. 

In order to avoid this situation, mapping roles and having managers specialize in different functional areas has proven to be the most successful in cultivating individual growth.  By maintaining transparency, trust, and open collaboration, teams can move forward in cohesion and organizations benefit because of it.