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ING Netherlands' Measured Improvements on Transition to DevOps

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Jan-Joost Bouwman and Mark Heistek, from ING Retail Banking Netherlands, presented at Devopsdays Amsterdam how a CMMI-ITIL organization benefited from a more agile mindset. ING saw a marked increase in the number of changes deployed to production and a decrease of the risk value per change.

Since ING's IT department follows ITIL, they were able to measure many metrics over time and assess the impact of the transformation. The number of changes increased markedly, despite a drop while the IT department restructured to agile/devops practices.

Number of changes increased

(Courtesy of ING Netherlands)

ING attributes to each change a risk value. The average change's risk value has been trending down for a long time.

Average Risk Value

(Courtesy of ING Netherlands)

The number of incidents stayed about the same. As a direct consequence of the increasing number of changes, the ratio of incidents per change dropped.

Number of Incidents

(Courtesy of ING Netherlands)

Incidents per change

(Courtesy of ING Netherlands)

This last metric startled ING. It led to the conclusion that process managers, a cornerstone of the previous ways, do not add significant value. Notably, Jan-Joost Bowman is one of the few process managers remaining.

Jan-Joost and Mark offered some learned lessons for the organizations that want to tread the same path:

  • Get the whole value chain on board, like with any other endeavour. It's critical that development, operations, management, business agree on the road ahead.
  • There is still a need for processes, just fewer and leaner.
  • ITIL can be tweaked to meet DevOps demands. ING's experience shows that they are not incompatible and, indeed, ITIL is adapting to some DevOps ideas.
  • All engineers need to add value, in line with one of the core Lean principles of eliminating waste.

Before this transition, delivering a change followed a waterfall approach: requirements gathering, impact analysis, application architecture design, functional design, technical design, development, testing, releasing into production. Three change advisory boards monitored the change process: planning CAB; technical CAB and deployment CAB. In addition, a system of three tollgates with thourough checklists tried to minimize risk. Beyond the process managers, there was an additional role, called the "project aligner". The project aligner was assigned to a project to help the project team follow the process.

After the transition, there remains only the deployment advisory board. There is a Definition of Done (DoD) for essential non-functional requirements. Each team can add additional criteria for its DoD depending on the application, technology or business partner.

But how did the transition started? Three years ago, CMMIPrince2 and ITIL governed ING's IT department. Despite these efforts, instability was still greater than expected. That led to ever increasing acceptance criteria to get a change into production. The change started when a small number of development teams adopted agile methods. At first their results were not as good as of those teams that used waterfall methods. But, after a period of adjustment, they started to improve and surpassed waterfall teams. When their successes became clear, all the development teams wanted to adopt agile. Soon all the IT department, including operations, were on board. All the 150 teams supporting ING's Domestic Bank in Netherlands do Scrum nowadays. 

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