Our guest on this DevOps Chat is Jonathan Fletcher, CTO of Hiscox. Jonathan will be quick to tell you that he is actually “interm” CTO. But as I told him in our Chat, if Hiscox is as sharp a company as I think it is, it will make that title permanent soon. I have known Jonathan for about 3 years or so now; I believe it was at a Ranger4 event in London where I met Jonathan. It was readily apparent to me that he was the driving force behind Hiscox’s impressive DevOps transformation.
Jonathan is on the program committee for this years DevOps Enterprise Summit London. We spoke a bit about what it is like to be on the programing committee for DOES. We also spoke about what he is presenting at DOES. You will have to listen or read along to find out.
As usual, the streaming audio is directly beneath, with the transcript of our chat below that. Enjoy!
Audio of our Chat with Jonathan Fletcher
Transcript of the chat with Jonathan Fletcher
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone. This is Alan Shimel, DevOps.com, here for another DevOps Chat, and I’m very happy to be joined by our guest for this DevOps Chat. It’s Jonathan Fletcher, CTO of Hiscox. Jonathan, welcome to DevOps Chat.
Jonathan Fletcher: Hi, Alan.
Shimel: Great to hear from you, Jonathan. I probably haven’t spoken to you since, oh, maybe DOES London of last year, which was also in late June and –
Fletcher: No, that’s right.
Shimel: Yep. Since that time, looks like you’ve got a new title over at Hiscox. Is that correct?
Fletcher: That’s right. Interim at the moment, but, hopefully, that will develop into a permanent role in the not-too-distant future.
Shimel: Well, if they’re smart, they’ll make you permanent.
Fletcher: A CTO office.
Shimel: Yep. Excellent, John.
Fletcher: Yeah, I think you’re quite right.
Shimel: And well-deserved.
Fletcher: Thank you.
Shimel: So, Jonathan – excuse me – Jonathan, I wanted to speak to you today, though, a little bit about the upcoming DevOps Enterprise Summit London 2017, which is June 5th and 6th, at the QEII Conference Center in London. And you’re actually one of the speakers lined up for the event. That’s correct?
Fletcher: That’s right.
Shimel: And, Jonathan, can you – I don’t know if it’s too early or not, but can you give our audience maybe a little bit of a preview of what you’ll be talking about?
Fletcher: That’s a good question [chuckles] and I’m not sure really sure yet. I think what I’m gonna be talking about is a little about a continuation of our journey, particularly about moving to cloud and what that means, the business results that can be found from doing that, along with sort of where we started and how that changes the IT organization. ‘Cause moving to cloud isn’t just a move of technology; it’s change in skills; it’s a cultural change. It changes things that I hadn’t really thought about, a way we budget, I mean, in fact, from a legal compliance teams. It’s a real transformation program for us. I kind of keep (saying) that savings isn’t IT 1.1; this is IT 2.0. This is a new IT department. So I’m really excited to kind of talk about that. We’ve got a long way to go ourselves, but seen some good early signs with cloud adoption, so I think that’s where I’m gonna focus my time.
Shimel: Fantastic. And, Jonathan, of course, in addition to your speaking role with DOES London, you’re also on the – is it called the “speakers committee”? Is that what it’s called?
Fletcher: Yes, right, programming committee.
Shimel: Programming committee. I’m sorry. Jonathan, can you – our audience, the overwhelming majority of them have not served on the program committee. Can you give us a sense of what is involved in that?
Fletcher: So there are dozens and dozens of people who want to come along and share their story next year, so the program committee really is around trying to filter some of those down – not everyone can come and talk – and trying to make sure they are as much relevant to the audience that’s coming, so I think it was worth reimbursing in last year. it was real stories from people doing transformations at real enterprises, and not unicorns, not ace, but is this a real bank, real insurance company, real companies with a legacy of acquisitions and different types of IT, different technologies, and hearing about how they’ve got on and what they’ve got to do in the future, so that’s really powerful. So program committee’s trying to turn a number of – dozens and dozens of submissions to the program down into a really good, tight sets to deliver over two days in June.
Shimel: I got it. And, Jonathan, I don’t know if you even know the answer, but can you give our audience a sense of how many submissions versus how many speakers are actually selected for an event such as DOES London?
Fletcher: So I’ve seen a bit of pre-filtered list, so I couldn’t speak on Gene’s behalf how many there were, but I’ve seen hundred – in the hundreds, I guess. And I think that’s down to 30-something; again, I don’t wanna get the numbers wrong, get the (incorrect) stats, but it’s significant amounts and significant amounts of people that Gene has conversations with, I guess, _____ _____ _____ _____ get through to a formal submission, so it’s very significant, which I think is a really good thing. Obviously, people are seeing a value in DOES London and wanna come share their stories, so it’s a shame not more people can do it, but it’s only those two days.
Shimel: Yep. Absolutely. You know, and I have some ideas around that I’m gonna talk to Gene about. But, Jonathan, was there any – obviously, the DOES, the Dev-Ops Enterprise Summits, traditionally focus on large organizations, “horses,” as we call them, telling their transformation story. And some of these stories we’ve now seen and followed over multiple years and we’ve seen that transformation evolve. Were there any particular themes or things that the committee wanted to really bring out for this year’s event?
Fletcher: I think it’s lot of different things. I think a – in terms of sense of continuity between last year’s and this year’s, so what are the results that we’ve seen, in terms of transformation and – that seems to be a bit of a theme. To share that continuity _____ _____ years is quite an interesting thing to look at. The theme, obviously, is try and – the _____ tend not to be technically focused, so we don’t have too many groups talking about technology, more about the people and process of things. So I think a lot of what you’ve heard last year, the same kind of thing, but, hopefully, just seeing people a bit further along the journey, where they’re going to and the challenges that they’re running into.
Shimel: So, Jonathan, this – you know, I’m gonna attend this year’s DOES London event, and this will be the, man, the fourth or fifth DOES that I’ll be attending. And, though I think I’ve come to – I think all of us have come to appreciate hearing the transformation stories of these various organizations, bigger picture, in order for DevOps to continue to grow, right, what else needs to come to the forefront at conferences like DOES, other than “Hey, we tried to do this DevOps thing and here’s how we’ve done”? Do you think at some point we need to hear more than that around DevOps?
Fletcher: Sorry, what do you mean?
Shimel: So, in other words, at this point in the game, depending on who you believe and who you listen to, a majority of enterprises have at least dipped their toes in the DevOps pool, if you will. Not many of them have undergone an enterprise-wide transformation, but at least they’ve started along their way. What more – so, in other words, what is there beyond the “We’ve tried to transform the company” type of lessons that the DevOps community needs to learn from these events? Or maybe there is nothing more.
Fletcher: That’s a good question. Well, I don’t know. It’s a difficult question to answer, really, ’cause it depends on the strategic direction for those companies and how far they need to push the barrel. I mean, not everyone needs to release 400 times a day _____ _____. You know, the different companies got different requirements. And I think, really, DevOps is such a all-encompassing term now that it’s kinda lost its meaning. If your company is about improving quality or that’s your strategic goal, rather than the pace of change, there are different things for different people, so dipping your toe in the water is fine. I think DevOps is for everyone, regardless of scale of company, so those focused on enterprise, well, that doesn’t mean that, if you’re a small shop, that’s not relevant to you ’cause it is.
I think, really, it’s such a wide topic that seems to encompass Agile and Lean and technology and people, and it’s so vast in topic that, actually, the next step for people in the transformation program ought to stop worrying so much around necessarily what other companies are doing. The war stories are good, but it’s focusing more on what that really means to your company. It’s no longer about DevOps transformation; it’s about business success transformation and what you need to get to get you there. So I think a bit of maturing thinking from companies that started on this program is really actually what they tried to achieve and where they need to get to because I think there’s an assumption between certainly some people aspect where it’s all about Puppet and getting 4,000 releases out the door, and that’s not always the case. So _____ _____ big business goals and I think really trying to realize some of the results so that the business benefits ’cause we’re doing this not because it’s cool and it’s _____ cool IT; it’s because there’s tangible business benefits in doing it. And I think that’s really what the community needs to focus on and _____ –
Shimel: Yep. And I think you’ve — Jonathan, I think you’ve hit that right on the head and that’s just what I was looking for, which is so many people, especially in the IT industry – I don’t know what it is about the IT industry, but we suffer from “shiny trinket” syndrome, right? Where everyone wants to latch onto what the new cool thing is. And the risk you run is that, when the luster is off of the trinket, people tend to start looking for the next trinket, instead of doing what makes sense for the business, what’s best for the business. You know, ’cause to my mind –
Fletcher: Yeah, exactly.
Fletcher: It becomes a – go ahead. Sorry.
Shimel: No, no, go ahead. I’m listening.
Fletcher: Yeah, it becomes a little bit of a statistics race, like, “How fast can I get a release out the door? How many servers can one person look after?” And, actually, that’s fairly meaningless, unless there’s a business benefit behind it, so that sort of arms race to be the fastest becomes less and less relevant, so. And, as I said, DevOps is such a wide term now that it kind of – it’s just about doing IT better.
Shimel: Yeah. And that’s exactly it. I mean, Jonathan, to me, in my many, many years in IT and in business, there’s very few revolutionary things. There’s more evolutionary type of developments, right? And, when we look at DevOps, we look at the Agile that came before, right, and we see kind of where Agile is and its effect, but yet we still see plenty of organizations that are doing waterfall or some may call it “fast at waterfall” or “Agile waterfall” or whatever you wanna call it. But, you know, it’s a very – the inertia in our systems is such and entropy in our systems is such that nothing moves – we don’t move at the same speed across. And even something like DevOps, though you may have organizations that are now presenting for the third or fourth year at a DevOps Enterprise Summit, there’s still plenty of organizations that are still just starting on that journey, and they will be on that journey for many years going forward. And I think we lose perspective of that when we live in this bubble of “Who’s releasing the most often? Who did this first? Who’s on to the next thing?” That’s not who wins the game, necessarily. People who win the game are organizations –
Fletcher: Well, and –
Shimel: – and their customers. Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Fletcher: And some of these things are – all these things are less relevant, so, if you’ve got a system you’re gonna throw away in two years’ time, there’s – ROI to spend tons of time automating it and putting all that engineering in place with, you know, sort of – is kind of mothballed. So, again, it’s picking the right application, the right teams, to get benefit from this. I don’t necessarily see the – you have _____ all of these other _____ everywhere. Waterfall has its place. It’s about picking what is right for the business and getting the business _____ _____ _____. It’s not about a blanket “This is a right way or this is a wrong way of doing IT.” I just don’t believe that.
Shimel: Mm-hmm. I agree with you. And so, Jonathan, we’ve come full circle in our short little chat, but this is what makes DOES a great conference to attend. Right? Where we are hearing these transformation stories, and some of them may be old hat to some of us, some of it may be a revelation to others. Right? But it’s – the last part of this that I wanted to hit is that it’s, at the end of the day, it’s about the community. We as a collective community learn from each other’s experiences and these shared experiences, and that’s how we evolve and that’s how the whole movement moves forward, not just Hiscox, not just Disney, not just any particular organization, but as an industry, as a movement, that’s how we move forward. And then I think that’s what DOES is about.
Fletcher: Yeah, and that feels fairly unique. I can’t remember, in my 20-odd years of working IT, a movement with such a community feel, with so many people who want to help other people, and it’s – I think that’s amazing. And I don’t ever get – when I speak to people much further down the line than we are and they do better things then we do, I never get that looking down their noses or “You should be where we are.” It does feel like a real community sense of being, that everyone’s gonna help each other. And I don’t know what it is about DevOps, but I think that’s amazing, and you really see that at DOES.
Shimel: Yep. Absolutely. Jonathan, we’re about out of time here – probably, we’re over time – but, listen, I wanna thank you for joining us today on DevOps Chat. I look forward to hearing your presentation at DOES London and we’ll check in before then and get more of a final version of what you’re speaking about. And, also, I wanna thank you for being on the program committee. I’ve been on organizing in program committees of events in the past and I know it’s, in a lot of ways, an unsung job – you don’t get paid for it and God knows there’s ton of work that goes into it – so thank you for your service.
Fletcher: You’re welcome. Thanks very much.
Shimel: No, my pleasure. And, Jonathan, I’ll get together in London beyond that. Maybe we’ll catch up on a video or something. Hey, but continued success. I hope, by the time I see you in June, the interim title’s gone. They couldn’t find a better man or person for that job. All right?
Fletcher: Thanks, Alan.
Shimel: Cheers, Jonathan. Jonathan Fletcher, Hiscox and the program committee at DOES London 2017. This is Alan Shimel for DevOps Chats and DevOps.com, and we’ll see you on another chat soon.