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InfoQ Homepage Interviews Ian Culling on DevOps and the Latest Innovations from VersionOne

Ian Culling on DevOps and the Latest Innovations from VersionOne


1. Good day. This is Shane Hastie with InfoQ and we're here at Agile 2015. I am sitting with Ian Culling. Ian is the CTO of VersionOne. Ian, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today.

Yes, anytime.

Shane: You're with VersionOne. You've been with them for a reasonable amount of time.

Nine years now.

Shane: Nine years now.

The longest I've been anywhere. Shane: [0:00:23] Obviously that says something about the company. Ian: It does, absolutely. Yeah. And it's a company that we've built to be a place that we want to be part of. People ask me "What are you going to do? Are you getting bored?" The fact is we've hired, we've grown our teams very selectively and I can't imagine a better place to work or to be generally.


2. Before we get into talking about the product and the company, what are you seeing out there in the wild? You've got hundreds, thousands of organizations using your products. You've got a pretty good picture across the industry. What's happening? What are the important trends?

We're seeing enterprise level adoption now. Before people would do pilot teams, and now it's, I think there's people that -- organizations that have not started down the path or just starting their path are feeling like a really deep sense of urgency to get a clue about Agile. I'm not sure how much the whole DevOps thing is contributing to that, but that's another thing that's pretty interesting. In the past, probably three or four years ago, we'd have or you'd hear of people that were looking to buy “the Scrum” or “the Agile” or whatever so they'd come to people like us.

Shane: Give me a box of Scrum.

Yeah, exactly, right? And now it's like they want to buy “the DevOps”. I think a lot of that has to do with the analyst community. they are all the buzz about it. You see there's a whole DevOps track here at Agile 2015. But it's an interesting kind of thing. I think DevOps is an overload term. Everybody has different interpretations of what it really means. I think when they ask for -- when they're looking to buy “the DevOps”, they’re really talking about Agile methods from a discovery and delivery but then you can't have DevOps without that and then integration with obviously an operations mindset in the team. So whether that's a combination of people: I mean there's a whole variety of ways of realizing a DevOps mindset within an organization. So that's a big thing, I think. It’s driving some things from our perspective too. We've always had source control and continuous integration, CI integrations to provide some visibility into kind of that stuff. So commits and builds and now we've got integrations with deployment automation platforms as well to give some visibility into what features are in what environments. What have we deployed to staging? What's queued up to be deployed to production? That kind of thing.

Shane: VersionOne is one of the big players in this marketplace. What's happening with the organization at the moment? Everyone else seems to be merging and growing and doing all sorts of interesting things.

Yeah, sure. There is that. So we took our second round of investment late last year, pretty significant round of investment from LOR, out of Philadelphia. That was really about -- so the first round we took seven years ago I think, and that was when the marketplace started to take off and we didn’t want to get left behind. So we made the choice to do that versus become a boutique software company. Same kind of thing this time because it's now sort of crossed that chasm and it's 100% of the market basically. People are just -- they are transitioning enterprise-wide to Agile methods, in most cases. We really needed to be able to broaden our reach from a marketing and sales perspective.

One of the things from my perspective is we will be an independent entity for it at least a few more years, which is fantastic because obviously when people make an investment they don’t want like a lousy return in six months. They're in it for a while. They're interested in, and we're interested in, building up more of a platform. Broadening, the reach we have from a product perspective whether it’s downstream stuff like deployment automation, upstream stuff, discovery or portfolio management, we're looking at all those kind of options with their help, which is really cool.


3. So what is happening inside the VersionOne product? What's are the key things for the latest release?

Over the last six to nine months we have focused on enhancing our ability to support strategic planning so lightweight portfolio management. We added the ability to do lightweight budgeting in the summer release. We refreshed the UI to get current -- mostly visually. I mentioned earlier like “flat is the new black”. It looks really good. The integration with deployment automation platforms I think is really pretty exciting. We use ClearCode internally. ClearCode is a partner that's based in Atlanta. It layers on top of our original Jenkins build pipeline that we have broken up and then deploys to staging and production and we have visibility of that within VersionOne. We obviously use our own product to build our product.

Shane: This is good.

Yeah, it's a good thing. We just released a new integration with JIRA called TeamSync that allows teams within either existing customers and new prospects where they have pockets of JIRA that have developed over time. It allows you to implement VersionOne at the higher level and then allows teams to continue to execute in JIRA and have progress reflected back in VersionOne. So you might have product managers working in VersionOne, breaking things down into features. Those are pushed into JIRA. The team fleshes out that backlog there, works it and the status is reflected back in VersionOne for a release level progress.

So that's pretty exciting just because, to go into an existing situation where a team is using whatever tool successfully, it would be super disruptive to like yank that up from one of them. So in this situation, teams can continue to do that JIRA. Other teams can work in VersionOne on the same project, it doesn’t matter. That's pretty cool.

Shane: Peaceful coexistence.

It is. It's a coexistence thing. And we've been talking about it for years, so we're doing it now because the timing makes sense. We'll look at other tools too.


4. Anything else or anything that's coming up? What's on the roadmap?


Shane: That you're allowed to tell us.

Yes. We'll continue to enhance budgeting. One of the things actually that I mentioned that we've initially released in the spring and enhanced in the summer is support for communities of practice within the product. This is something that as a former customer, I was first customer and customer again, would have been really valuable for me. So what it is, is within the product you can capture for a given community topics, best practices or the way we do things and surface that content in context wherever you are on the product. So this is how we estimate. Here's what priority means. Here's the different priorities we use and here's how we rank our backlog, or whatever.

So that is really exciting: we've seeded the content really with samples but our services folks and our partners are going to be able to build out how we do what we do or at least how to get started. And then we are in a specific place like a team room or on the backlog, those topics will be surface so you can understand how to do things in context. So that's really cool. So we'll continue to enhance that too. We'll look at enhancing our API. So we have a REST-based API, have had for years, probably seven or eight or nine years, where I'm adding endpoints for other integrations whether it's reporting, activity streamers, pretty interesting from an understanding of what's going on, so for external systems to listen to that. We just released a hosted multitenant source control innovation called CommitStream. That's pretty exciting. It supports GitHub now. We have three or four other connectors coming out and it's open source. So that's a free hosting service for people to connect whatever source control and varieties of source control flavors into VersionOne. So you understand kind of what commits we need for what stories and defects and those kinds of things. Yeah, so that’s pretty cool.

Shane: Ian, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. It's been good to catch up and good to hear what's happening with VersionOne.

Great. Well, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

Sep 16, 2015