Nike’s DevOps transformation has had a lasting impact on its culture and productivity, while allowing the company to connect with its customer in ways it never could before. Its journey down the path to DevOps was shared at the DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES UK) 2018, in London.
For a company of its size and success in the current market to take a giant leap of faith and come out even more successful takes incredible courage, hard work and collaboration. But that’s Nike for you: Shoes, apparel or DevOps—it doesn’t make a difference to the company. From day 1, Nike has lived its mantra, “Just Do It!”
Imagine this: You’re a high-level IT employee at a non-technology-focused company with a market value of just over $110 billion. All of a sudden, the newly appointed CEO makes the most significant announcement in recent history of the company, essentially saying, “We are entering a new era of growth and we expect to use technology as our main way of getting closer to the customer.” Pretty crazy, huh?
This was reality for Randy Lyons, a longtime employee at Nike with an extremely strong taste for competition and the opportunity of a lifetime in his hands. Based in the EMEA region, Lyons teamed with global Nike CFO Michelle Power with one goal in mind: to bring customers closer to the products, available at any of their 7,000 branded stores globally, through a digital platform. The aim was to tap into consumers’ need to check our phones before making a purchase. The scale was momentous; arguably, larger than any other company achieving a successful DevOps or Agile transformation before. To pull this off on the scale CEO Mark Parker had intended, a complete culture shift was necessary.
Luckily, the unlikely team shared the motto, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and they were eager for the challenge. To start, they needed to change the self-identity of the IT branch. For too long had the underutilized IT staff heard the narrative that “technology helps the business succeed,” rather than existing as a part of the business. Lyons and Power placed a heavy emphasis on the new role of cross-functional IT teams as an integral part of the company rather than a useful helper. They adopted the hashtag “#OneTeam,” which promoted interaction and alignment of the tech team with all other teams, and showed everyone working for them that they were fully invested and energized in positively changing the culture and structural hierarchy of Nike. Additionally, they sought to point out the impact each person’s work was playing through the lens of the overall strategy. The “How is what I’m working on going to effect the direction of this company?” question versus “What else do you need me to do?” was a significant change—it boosted the overall motivation of the teams to work together and even raised individual production significantly.
However, the transformation was only beginning. Early on Power and Lyons discovered a fundamental flaw in the company they sought to transform: Their employees didn’t feel rewarded for their work. While it might be easy for some companies to blow off this issue in favor of dealing with “bigger” issues, they wanted to promote a company culture that would foster growth and speed, which would not—or could not—happen unless their teams felt beyond satisfied with their workplace environment. So, instead of the annual award ceremony Nike regularly used to reward and congratulate its employees, Lyons and Power decided to implement a simple change they felt would satisfy everyone: They added 15 minutes to the end of their weekly Friday staff meeting to give shout-outs everyone who had performed above expectations on a project. It was awkward at first, Lyons admitted. He also described it as “quite American” (ha ha)! However, this simple idea created a complete culture shift. Suddenly, the tech team was being praised by the supply team, while the supply team was being praised by the sales team, and the sales team was being praised by the tech team. This weekly validation of a job well done turned into more jobs well done!
Ultimately, the agile teams were motivated enough and aligned in such an efficient way that they were able to produce five separate software systems fully integrated into a single one-member profile:
- com (full selection of products sold in store)
- Nike app (for a more personalized experience)
- Sneakers (collection of shoes sold in store)
- NRC (for running products)
- NTC (for training products)
These software products were incredibly effective in creating an emotional attachment with the brand and the products. Finally, the goal of getting the customer closer to the product through a digital interface had been achieved. The process to get there wasn’t easy. There were many problems to overcome and many things that changed drastically to allow for a newer and more efficient way of doing things. However, Lyons noted this transformation was the most influential on a personal level for him: Before undertaking this project, he didn’t feel as though he could effectively serve as both a team leader and participant. He could easily take orders and sometimes give them out, but it wasn’t until he partnered with Power that he learned to become a not just a team player, but the best player on his team.
The DevOps journey was a transformational process for both the company and the people involved. Today, “Just Do It” means exponentially more to Nike than just a slogan—it’s a way of adding value and efficiency to business.
This was just one of many of great presentations at this years DevOps Enterprise Summit UK this past week. We will be highlighting others in the days ahead.