Team Daugherty Competes In RGA Blockchain Hackathon

It was a busy weekend for a group of Team Daugherty – St. Louis consultants as they participated in a Reinsurance Group of America hackathon event. RGA World Headquarters in Chesterfield, Mo. transformed their cafeteria and conference room areas into the home base for over 60 participants as they competed in the RGA Blockchain Hackathon.

Daugherty, an RGA partner for this event, was well represented. All three teams walked away with awards for their hard work. The team of Alex White, Joe Shehata, Marshall Bono and Will Stampley came away with a close second place finish. Andrew Maxwell, Mark Schilling, Suzanne Zimmerman and Ted Berger were presented 1st Honorable Mention. The third team – Lucia Dell Pino (RGA), Alex Gillete, Joseph Ondrus and Venus Patel – earned the Best use of IBM BlueMix recognition.

This invite-only event differed from your typical hackathon. RGA encouraged Team Daugherty employees from all of the Lines of Service to participate. The challenge that participants faced was designed to help RGA fully utilize blockchain technology.

Before the event began the hackers were supplied with educational tools about blockchain technology. Materials ranging from seminars to white papers were provided to help participants succeed in crafting the best solution possible during the timed event.

When the 5:00 pm deadline came on Saturday judging began. Teams had the opportunity to pitch their solutions. The group that increased the effectiveness and efficiency of RGA through blockchain technology won the prize money and earned the opportunity to pitch to RGA leadership for the opportunity to continue to build their solution.

Juan Burriel, Senior Manager at Daugherty, issued the initial challenge a few weeks ago to the account teams to participate in the event. After seeing the success that all three teams experienced this weekend he said, “We had a fantastic opportunity to showcase Daugherty’s skills and understanding of the industry and business, and our teams delivered. My hope is that this is just the first of many and that our consultants keep responding to the challenge in the same fashion.”

If you weren’t able to participate in the RGA Blockchain Hackathon, don’t stress! GlobalHack VI is only a few weeks away. This event is being held at Chaifetz Arena from October 21-23 and is designed for participants to solve a single civic technology problem centered around homelessness. With $1 million in cash prizes being awarded to the top teams, this hackathon is sure to draw in top talent from across the country. A Team Daugherty group took home the top prize last year and there are already multiple Daugherty teams registered to defend the crown. Interested in participating in GlobalHack VI? It’s not too late to register. You can use the discount code “DBSGH6” to receive 50% off admission until September 30th.

AnnaColeMarketing Specialist

Anna is a member of the corporate marketing and communications team at Daugherty Business Solutions. Her time at the St. Louis branch is split between coordinating social media efforts for the enterprise recruiting team and working on multimedia projects for Team Daugherty. Anna’s multimedia production experience comes from her time at the University of Missouri School of Journalism where she earned her master’s degree in Strategic Communications and Convergence Journalism. Prior to her move to the Show Me State, Anna was living in Chicago. She completed her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University and was a member of the women’s basketball team. Before joining the Wildcats in the Windy City, Anna was a Wildcat at the University of Kentucky. She was a part of the team when the ‘Cats made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament during the 2009-2010 season. Anna is still actively involved in the basketball community. She currently coaches for a St. Louis-based club.

The Urgent and Important Work of DevOps

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight Eisenhower

There are things in our lives that are urgent and important, urgent and unimportant, not urgent and important, and not urgent and not important. The idea is, you first want to get your urgent and important things out of the way, then put a lot of energy into important but not-so-urgent priorities. DevOps adoption, as it’s currently being practiced, tends to focus on not-urgent or not-important problems – and sometimes both.

Some Background:

When the term “DevOps” was first introduced in 2009, the largest barrier to adoption was awareness. Managers and leaders didn’t know what DevOps was, much less why they needed it. As an industry, we tackled this problem with two main strategies: we appealed to the unicorns (i.e., Amazon is doing production deployment every 11 seconds), and we built grassroots proof of concepts. At the time, this was both urgent and important. Urgent because our competition was reading the same articles about the industry leaders, and important because the first step towards solving a problem is to recognize it and name it.

Seven years later the unicorns have all been spotted, rounded up, studied, analyzed, reported on, photographed and imitated.  So why do we still feel that it’s important to drive awareness? Certainly there is still a good deal of uncertainty about what DevOps really means, and this needs to continue to be refined.  But the awareness is there. IT VPs are beginning to put DevOps initiatives in their budgets.  The elusive “DevOps Engineer” is a hot commodity for enterprise recruiters. Go to any technical conference, and there’s sure to be a session on DevOps for developers. Undoubtedly, many organizations have at least one team that can showcase automated builds, tests and deployments. It has now become urgent and important to begin realizing the gains that have been promised by all the grassroots champions.

It’s Not About the Tools:

Any student of the DevOps movement will tell you that it’s not about the tools – it’s about building the culture. And yet, everyone is organized around building and leveraging those tools. We are seeing teams that are able to check in code and automate processes all the way to deployment into QA, but then things stop. The change advisory board is still there.  IT security is still there. Ops is still on edge about frequent deployments. But let’s not forget what the whole point of all of this is: to deliver business value quickly. It is now unimportant if you go from 1 build a day to 10 builds a day, if you’re still sitting at 1 deployment per quarter.  It’s not urgent to lower your WIP from Dev to QA if you’re letting it all stack up on your staging servers. Clearly the important work is to address the culture, relationships, security, and change control processes that have previously been stuck in a not-urgent/not-important quadrant.

DevOps Graphic

What You Can Do:

This shift towards focusing on non-technical matters is hard for developers. When we’re staring at our screens thinking, “what can I do to make this better?” we usually come up with technical answers like writing a script to automate a process, or creating a tool to assist with build metric collection. These are great ideas, but a better answer may be to go find an ops guy and take him out to lunch or to sit in on a release management meeting to better understand why getting through production control is so difficult.

Rule of Thumb:

If you’ve already developed some automation, then do not favor more automation over relationship development with operations. I witnessed one mid-sized company focus entirely on agile development practices and build automation without ever addressing the production control variable. Sprint velocity and story acceptance was high.  Builds were automatically deployed to development servers on code check-in, and were push-button deployable to QA servers when QA was ready. All final binaries were automatically packaged up for deployment without any developer involvement. Yet, during a 12-month period not a single line of code was deployed to production. Clearly automation didn’t provide any business value here.

Conversely, I worked with a Fortune 500 company that was struggling with large, complex software releases. Big-bang releases would frequently be rolled back, causing the deployment complexity to continually ratchet up. Some rollbacks were the result of configuration or usage issues, rather than bugs. Failed deployments became a self-fulfilling prophecy. While developers were improving the build pipeline no new build or release automation was put in place to mitigate the deployment issues. Instead, the problem was solved by establishing a better relationship with our operations partners. We figured out that if we had the right players involved, we could collaboratively deploy smaller incremental releases to a limited production audience. This allowed developers to work side-by-side with end users to quickly certify changes and develop fail-forward plans in the event of mistakes. Release frequency went from a monthly ordeal with regular rollbacks, to multiple weekly deployments with nearly zero rollbacks.

It is time for the development managers and directors to start playing a more active role. Managers need to recognize that to fully realize the benefits of DevOps, they can’t simply delegate all the work down to the technical staff. Someone needs to champion the organizational changes that need to occur to get development, operations, QA, change management and security all working to take the same hill. Someone needs to start the grassroots work of building the organizational tools (not technical tools) to get the products through security and release management teams. These are the highly important, and increasingly urgent tasks that are needed to solve the DevOps puzzle.

JimDrewesManager

Jim Drewes joined Daugherty Business Solutions in 2013 as a Senior Consultant. With extensive experience in account management and sales growth, Jim quickly became a key member of the Customer Development Line of Service team. He moved into a managing Application Architect role at Daugherty, specializing in DevOps practices and large enterprise software engineering. Prior to his time with Daugherty, Jim worked in a number of IT management positions. In October 2010, he was named a Top Small Business Executive by the St. Louis Small Business Monthly. Jim graduated from Truman State University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He earned his MBA from Webster University, specializing in business and IT management.

Technically Speaking Podcast Features Larry Hill of Daugherty STL

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 8.56.23 PMA new podcast debuted last Friday called Technically Speaking. The show, hosted by Caryn Tomer and John Hartmann, is all about tech and how it’s shaping our lives both personally and in business. Each episode, Caryn and John interview a new guest.  Typically, their guests will include industry experts sharing stories on how people and business are using technology to lead better lives and drive business value. Their first episode features Larry Hill from our St. Louis office. He’s a telecom industry veteran, currently serving as a senior engagement manager for one of Daugherty’s top clients.

Listen in to learn more about Larry as he shares great insight into a very interesting industry ripe for disruption.

Let us know what you think of the show by emailing hey@speaktechpodcast.com. You can also tweet the show @SpeakTech. This week, Caryn and John talk to Steve Ambrosius, co-lead for Daugherty’s Software Architecture and Engineering line of service for insight into application development and the future of mobile.