Executives from Boeing, Express Scripts, and MasterCard came together today to share their insights on bringing innovation into their organization through technologies like cloud and DevOps at Gateway to Innovation in St. Louis.
In the 45-minute session, the panelists shared best practices, tips, and, of course, challenges. How do you move massive, established organizations like MasterCard, Express Scripts, and Boeing toward new platforms and innovative practices?
Here are five main themes from the session to keep in mind as you undertake innovation, cloud, and DevOps initiatives:
1. Start small and build
Brian Gregory, Director of Cloud Strategy and Engineering at Express Scripts, cautions to start innovation initiatives with one specific goal rather than taking on a giant system-wide re-architecture. It’s exciting and new – and powerful! Everyone is tempted to transform it all as fast as possible. But developing a tight feedback loop with small wins is the path to success. Then you can incorporate lessons learned quickly and improve your speed and success with each new aspect added to the scope rather than deploying something huge and organization with major flaws.
2. Developers will want to go fast, but keep it slow
“There’s an arms race with nerds for the best tools,” said Phillip Finucane, VP and Chief Architect at Express Scripts. Developers are all about the tools, and once you introduce a new technology to your organization, they’ll want to grab it and not let go. While it’s important to foster excitement around your innovation programs, it’s also important to control the scope and keep it small and focused at first. Developers will want to run away with new tech like cloud and DevOps platforms.
3. Change can’t be isolated to IT
A key insight from Sophia Bright, Director of Strategy Design and Execution at Boeing was around the challenges faced in cloud and DevOps initiatives. She found that while they deployed one aspect in IT that should have sped up development, her team ran into issues when they interfaced with the finance team, nullifying their efforts. Innovation and cloud need a cross-organizational holistic approach that isn’t just limited to IT. If other areas like HR, finance, etc, aren’t transformed, then you’ll go back to the old processes and systems, and your initiatives will ultimately fail. The critical path may not be isolated to your technology teams.
4. Customer input is key here too
“Partner with the customer to ensure you’re steering in the right direction,” says Brian Gregory of Express Scripts. Even though innovation and cloud sound like purely internal initiatives, customer input is still important. If your end goal doesn’t align with customer expectations or needs, then your internal changes won’t help further your business goals.
5. You won’t get it right the first time
“Starting isn’t the problem. It’s figuring out if you’ve had a false start and starting over,” says Rick Clark, SVP of Digital Native Architecture at MasterCard. There isn’t an easy “how-to” guide for innovation technologies that will work for your company. You’ll always get it wrong the first time, because the approach has to be tailored to your environment and culture. Know that you’ll start wrong and need to adjust from there with a flexible structure.