DevOps comes to the enterprise

A conversation with ServiceNow’s RJ Jainendra

“Move fast and break things” has long been the mantra of digital startups, a philosophy driven by a significant shift in how companies develop software today.

By combining developers and operations specialists into smaller, more agile DevOps teams, organizations can build software more quickly than ever, enabling them to respond faster to changes in the market.

That’s a difficult challenge for larger companies, however, that haven’t been able to realize the full benefits of DevOps for a variety of reasons, including the complexity of manual processes they manage, and a shortage of DevOps expertise.

DevOps has allowed businesses to dramatically improve how they quickly they write and ship code. But what’s been missing are the needs of large enterprises.

RJ Jainendra, general manager and vice president of IT business and DevOps at ServiceNow, hopes to change all that. In a conversation with Workflow, Jainendra explained how large enterprises can keep pace with their digital-native rivals.

What’s your definition of enterprise DevOps?

DevOps has allowed businesses to dramatically improve how they quickly they write and ship code. But what’s been missing are the needs of large enterprises. If you’re a large financial institution or healthcare provider that’s implemented DevOps, you probably still have a lot of manual processes around security and compliance issues. So your dev teams are asked to hurry up and wait while those things are addressed.

Big companies like Netflix and Amazon are well-known for their DevOps expertise. How is this different?

Over the last five or 10 years, born-in-the-cloud companies like Amazon and Netflix have been able to integrate things like compliance and governance into their technologies. But if you’re a bank that’s been in business for 100 years, you’re still doing a lot of things manually.

Today, developers at these organizations spend a significant amount of time filling out forms and providing evidence that they did what they were supposed to do, so they can have their code changes approved.

This problem is only getting worse. Three years ago companies needed to review hundreds of code changes each month. Now, with the rise of microservices, they’re looking at several thousand. We’ve seen a tenfold increase in the volume of changes, yet by and large they’re being still handled manually.

So how do you solve that problem?

ServiceNow is in the business of automating business processes. Now we’re applying that same methodology to enable DevOps on an enterprisewide scale. We integrate directly into the tools developers use—JIRA, GitHub, Jenkins, and so on. When they have software that’s ready to be deployed, we automatically create a change request and populate it with all the data needed to approve that change.

One of our clients is a large financial services firm in Norway with 11,000 employees. They produce deployable code several times each day.

Each time they write new code, they need to create a change request that includes what they changed, why they changed it, the risk it entails, and whether the change has been tested. This gets reviewed by a change approval board that meets once a week. So they’re creating all this code that’s ready to be deployed, but it’s being held up by a manual process.

Instead of meeting once a week to approve changes, organizations can create policies that automatically approve certain requests once certain conditions are met, and flag the ones that require more attention. That speeds up the approval cycle significantly.

We have one large banking customer that used to need an average of 22 days to approve each change. Using our platform it now takes them about two and a half hours.

What’s the big picture here for enterprises?

Teams want to go faster—that’s the whole point of DevOps. But it’s not enough to just focus on the work development teams do. You also need to look at how long it takes your organization to recognize a good idea, plan it, fund it, and execute on it. So what we’re really providing is technology that leadership can use to drive their transformations.


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