Rachael King had a great article in the Wall Street Journal’s CIO report about how Target Corp., is rebuilding its engineering culture and embracing DevOps.
King reports that Target, which announced in March that it would spend $1 billion this year on technology, including inventory and supply chain management tools, recently funded an internal incubator environment to teach engineers, as well as senior IT executives, how to work in a DevOps model.
Ross Clanton, senior group manager at Target, who leads engineering practices across the retailer’s information technology organization, told an audience at DevOps Enterprise Summit that “A year ago, people wouldn’t even use the word DevOps and now it is part of daily conversations in the hallways.”
The DevOps movement at Target started out as a grassroots effort more than three years ago, but it is gaining steam under CIO Mike McNamara, who became CIO in February after Bob DeRodes retired. The new organizational approach focuses on tighter coordination between engineers and product deployment staff along with a more agile way of developing and testing applications.
Previously, Target’s IT organization was incredibly complex and difficult for engineers to work in, said Heather Mickman, a director at Target who leads the enterprise application programming interface integration and cloud engineering team. “Just to get a server provisioned would take 10 different teams to make that happen,” she said.
The company had also outsourced and offshored its engineering work. “Technology was really treated as a commodity,” said Ms. Mickman. That led to lower quality solutions and not owning the technology work, she added. “Our traditional delivery model was more about managing contractors than it was about building actual technology solutions,” she said.
People working in the grassroots effort had team members do engineering, not contractors. They insisted on full-stack ownership meaning that the same team was responsible for the development and operation of the software – it wasn’t handed off to another team. They also brought in more modern development tools such as GitHub, Jenkins and Chef, even though they weren’t given the green light from IT to use them. “When we asked for permission, we were told no but we did it anyway because we knew we needed to,” she said.
About five months ago, the company created Dojo, an internal incubator environment to teach employees how to work in a DevOps model. “We are trying to create what an engineering culture should look and feel like in the Dojo,” said Mr. Clanton.
Teams come to the Dojo with their real work for 30-day challenges where they do two-day sprints. There are coaches and subject matter experts in the Dojo that teach employees engineering and agile practices in a highly collaborative environment. So far, about 200 employees have completed about 14 challenges.
Mr. McNamara is putting senior IT executives through hands-on DevOps workshops where they push lines of code into production. “The purpose wasn’t for them to learn how to code but for them to build empathy and understanding for how their engineers are supposed to work in this model,” said Mr. Clanton. It worked so well, that Target is now rolling that same workshop through the ranks of middle management, he said.