How the right IT solution can help you respond to customer demands in an agile way 

Cloud and digital technologies enable new business models in which technology – and thereby IT – plays an increasingly central and critical role. This means even if you adopt a digital strategy, it’s vital to look beyond employing traditional infrastructure and relying on traditional change management.

A good example of this is when working with code for online applications. Your organisation may still be dealing with code in a conventional manner, but testing can be revolutionised through automation. This results in a more creative, productive and efficient environment for development teams, but also have wider-reaching business benefits.

The need to be responsive and creative

My team and I recently worked with a financial services company keen to enhance creativity and respond to customer demands in a more agile way. If a new customer feature was required for one of its internet applications – be that in an app, on a website, or on a terminal – it  could take months for a piece of code to work its way through development, testing, and pre-production to go live. This was down to processes and procedures not keeping pace with the ambition and needs of the business. For example, test environments weren’t set up in an optimum manner, and software was not in complete sync with the production environment. Problems occurred when code went live, and engineers were frustrated in having to secure budgets for and create test environments.

The solution involved taking stock of the organisation’s existing processes and procedures, and examining how it could take advantage of DevOps tools to make customer responsiveness integral to their day-to-day operations. Consistent environments were created across all areas of development, and because these environments are in the cloud, they’re only spun up when required, which saves money.

Everything is patched and maintained to a consistent specification, and automated test scripts can be deployed. So now a developer writes code in the development environment, and it’s automatically tested. Should it fail, the coder fixes the code, until it passes the test. It’s then automatically escalated to the next environment (each becoming more sophisticated and representative of the final production environment).

Developers at the company now have a real sense of focus and satisfaction. They can get on with coding, rather than dealing with infrastructure and arguing about budgets. Attrition rates have dropped, and the unlocked time has made space for creativity and trying new things.

The wider impact of better IT processes in a company

That this kind of change results in happier developers is to be expected, but what’s perhaps more surprising is the wider impact on an organisation. When changes to apps and websites are made much more swiftly, the pace of iteration can increase. This improves customer satisfaction, and enables an organisation to more rapidly discover whether updates have worked as expected. This in turn can be beneficial to customer service and support staff, who deal with fewer complaints, because the testing process is better at weeding out bugs.

In a more general sense, this project highlights how technology enables new business models that change the way in which a company can operate. Through bringing automation to more areas of a business, you can respond to customers better, try new ideas quicker, and be more competitive. This works because Rackspace takes a holistic view on approaching such projects. It’s not about grabbing a bunch of tools and plugging them in, but examining a business and its teams, how everyone operates, and how their productivity, efficiency and work satisfaction can be enhanced.

In the case of the financial services company, we also wrote the code that deals with the code testing process ourselves, and the IPR belongs to the customer, so they can do what they want with it in future. Our ongoing management of the environments ensures they are fully optimised to reduce resources and keep costs under control. And, vitally, everything meets best security practices – essential for financial services, but really for any company that wants to be a modern digital business.

This was a great project to be involved with, in terms of how swiftly it was executed and the end result. But mostly it was exciting because it shows how you can create a platform you can further invest in and extend to cover other workloads. It demonstrates how what might seem like an isolated change in one area of a business can have a positive impact elsewhere, helping you to improve customer engagement and be more agile.

To find out more about how we can help make your company more agile and efficient through secure automated testing environments, call +44 203 811 3332

 

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Dave Hills is a Client Director in Rackspace's Enterprise Business team. He works with clients technology teams, helping with cloud infrastructure (AWS, Azure, Google, VMware, Red Hat and Rackspace) and cloud applications (ERP, eCommerce, Databases, Big Data, etc). Dave’s clients are either IT teams embracing cloud and digital technologies and wanting managed services to help optimize their resources or they are Partners partnering with IT / Technology / Marketing teams to help them leverage cloud solutions. They use Rackspace's experience, expertise and resources to transition and run cloud infrastructure and applications so they don't have to. Dave’s job is to help his clients move from 'having 70% of their resources keeping the lights on' to 'having 70% of their resources focused on innovation and business outcomes', while keeping the lights on for them.

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