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This post is from the XebiaLabs blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Dec 03, 2018 — DevOps Expert

Bridging the DevOps Chasm at Lincoln Financial Group


Lincoln Financial Group is an American financial institution. The 113-year-old insurance company, ranked #205 on the 2018 Fortune 500 list, manages hundreds of billions of dollars in assets and performs hundreds of software releases each month.

For Lincoln Financial, the goal is to help customers live their best lifestyle by providing a path to financial stability. But when it comes down to it, Lincoln Financial is really in the business of mitigating risk for their customers, a familiar concept in the highly-regulated financial industry.

Combine compliance burdens with the complicated mix of modern and legacy applications that you would expect to find in a company as old as Lincoln Financial and it's easy to see change was a challenge. Yet the company knew its software development processes needed a serious overhaul, so they started undergoing an enterprise-wide agile transformation. And then they started integrating DevOps practices.

But how do you succeed at implementing DevOps in such a challenging environment? And how do you succeed at laying a foundation for success, so that DevOps can be scaled across such a massive IT organization? At the DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 in Las Vegas last month, Kevin Drake, Enterprise Release Management Lead at Lincoln Financial, broke down how his release management team built a bridge for the rest of the organization to embrace DevOps. You can watch the video of Kevin on stage with Lisa Wells––XebiaLabs' Vice President of Product Marketing––or read a breakdown below of Kevin's seven keys to success.

Kevin's 7 Keys

1. Address the culture first

Lincoln Financial quickly recognized that in order to improve the quality of their software, while at the same time increasing the speed of delivery, they'd need a top-down buy-in to DevOps, across the organization. After gaining leadership support they adopted a strategy––individual teams would be accountable for getting their code developed, tested, and deployed to Production, and shared service teams would be in place to provide them with the automation and tools they needed.

2. Agile & DevOps are not separate – bring the processes together!

Kevin told the crowd at DOES that if you're in a waterfall organization looking to do DevOps, you should start on an agile transformation first. The path to enabling DevOps to happen across the entire business happens through automation and agility. You will not be successful at DevOps if you're not agile.

3. Equip your release management team to build a bridge, from Development to Production, focusing on culture, tools, and training

Organizations need to put their release management teams in a position where they can scale out DevOps practices to all business units. Kevin's team played a pivotal role in laying a foundation for transformation at Lincoln Financial, creating standardized release practices that could be applied to all tools and processes in the delivery pipeline.

4. Run pilot programs to see what does/doesn't work

All of Lincoln Financial's DevOps initiatives started with a pilot program, so that Kevin's team could test and evaluate processes before scaling out to the rest of the organization. The pilot programs were executed through the creation of early adopter business units and agile pods of app developers. Kevin told the crowd, “test, learn, expand.”

5. Think enterprise–one-offs won’t allow you to scale

When it comes to DevOps, organizations must think in terms of the enterprise. If innovation is happening in siloed pockets throughout the organization, you're significantly limiting agility. At Lincoln Financial, Kevin's team aims to take the successes from a pilot program, get leadership support behind the initiative, and scale out the processes.

6. Create an automated enterprise release pipeline

Lincoln Financial created an automated release pipeline, ripe with repeatable enterprise patterns. The various business units operating within the pipeline at Lincoln Financial use the enterprise patterns as guardrails for staying on course with their various application releases.

7. Define relevant metrics for delivery performance – track them!

Kevin and his team worked with the various business units to define the metrics that were relevant to their success and provided dashboards to track them––from pilot to enterprise adoption. To reinforce a positive culture, Lincoln Financial communicates the success of their DevOps initiatives throughout the organization. They also document their improvements so that they can look for other scaling opportunities.


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XebiaLabs and Release Management

In working with the nine business units across Lincoln Financial, Kevin and the release management team identified hundreds of individuals involved in software releases at Lincoln Financial. These individuals were responsible for submitting their own change records and managing their releases through spreadsheets. They were emailing spreadsheets back and forth, had no auditing or reporting capabilities, and lacked visibility into release statuses. By turning to the XebiaLabs DevOps Platform to orchestrate and manage their releases, Lincoln Financial was able to create automated workflows for everyone in the pipeline. They now have consistent, less-manually intensive releases, with fewer errors. They also have better visibility across the various tools and processes in all of their releases. This momentum is building a user community within Lincoln Financial that's excited to use the XebiaLabs platform and keeps them excited and invested in the multi-year DevOps journey.

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