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

Last Updated Sep 26, 2018 — DevOps Expert

Orchestrating Success: How John Hancock Created a “DevOps for Everyone” Culture


  • Organizations must adopt a “DevOps for Everyone” approach to transform to modern software development practices at scale.
  • Kurt Straube, DevOps Tools Pipeline Lead at John Hancock Financial Services, followed a 3-part philosophy to drive a DevOps transformation: DevOps for Everyone, Bring Your Own Build/Deploy, and DevOps for All Apps.
  • With the XebiaLabs DevOps Platform, John Hancock brought all stakeholders into the process with full visibility into the pipeline, standardized processes regardless of tools used, and integrated all apps, including mainframes, into the software value chain.
“DevOps is for everyone” is a mantra that large organizations must take to heart to improve the speed and quality of software delivery at scale. Kurt Straube, DevOps Tools Pipeline Lead at John Hancock Financial Services, learned this first hand. Straube’s team provides services for the many Business Units within John Hancock’s massive ecosystem, which serves over 20 million customers and 34,000 employees. The team is responsible for the research, development, adoption, and maintenance of tools and services for the entire company. A few years ago when top-down pressure for faster software delivery amped up, Straube’s team took on the task of figuring out how to create a DevOps pipeline that teams would use across the organization to accelerate software delivery. Their chief goal was to enable a true transformation to modern software development practices across John Hancock’s varied portfolio, which includes many decades-old apps. Straube and his team began researching tools that would help them accomplish their mission, including Application Release Orchestration (ARO) platforms. ARO platforms are designed to enable large organizations to automate, standardize, and scale extremely complex delivery environments, such as John Hancock’s, while integrating compliance and security. During the course of his team’s research on ARO, Straube recognized that, while having the right DevOps tools was important, the real key to accelerating delivery across the enterprise is to create an inclusive culture where all people, tools, and apps are welcome. To learn more about John Hancock’s DevOps transformation, and how the XebiaLabs DevOps Platform for ARO helped, see the write up below, which is based on Kurt Straube’s presentation with XebiaLabs CPO Rob Stroud* at the DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 in London. You can also hear Kurt discuss his DevOps transformation story in detail by watching the video below.

A DevOps Philosophy that Emphasizes Culture

Kurt Straube and his DevOps Pipeline Team set forth on mission to transform software delivery for the entire John Hancock Financial Services organization. They were driven by a three-part philosophy: DevOps for Everyone, Bring Your Own Build/Deploy, and DevOps for All Apps.
  1. DevOps for Everyone

DevOps has many different stakeholders—from the highly technical to the business-oriented. To make faster release velocity a “business as usual” priority, Straube recognized that each impacted group must be brought into the process and fully understand what’s going on. The XebiaLabs DevOps Platform allows every person and team—Development, Q&A, Operations, Release Management, Security, and Compliance, as well as management and colleagues from the business side—to log in and see their release pipelines in real time. It didn’t take long for software delivery stakeholders throughout John Hancock to get behind the DevOps for Everyone concept and the role the XebiaLabs DevOps Platform plays: “We brought [the XebiaLabs DevOps Platform] in and started demoing it, and within 15 minutes, people were getting it,” said Straube. “We have one highly-technical executive, and within 15 minutes he was asking such engaged questions and was thrilled that he could see all of his pipelines and calendar them out. Tech leads like that get it in less than 20 minutes.”
  1. Bring Your Own Build/Deploy (Or Stop Valueless Tool Fights!)

With several Business Units bringing in their own Build and Deploy tools, Straube was being asked why the company wasn’t standardizing. "We had TeamCity [for Continuous Integration]. We were being asked ‘why don’t you move to Jenkins?’” said Straube. While researching ARO solutions, Straube said that the concept of “Bring Your Own Build/Deploy” hit him. “It occurred to me: ‘why take something that has been working well for five years and overhaul it without adding any sort of value?’"By using the XebiaLabs DevOps Platform to orchestrate the disparate tools and tasks in its release pipelines, John Hancock was able to ensure that standard release processes would be followed, regardless of the tools teams were using.DevOps
  1. DevOps for All Apps

The John Hancock ecosystem includes dozens of applications, powered by legacy technologies, that still deliver value to the business. Fortunately, the DevOps Pipeline Team was able to leverage the XebiaLabs DevOps Platform to modernize these applications by integrating them into the delivery pipeline. This brings the benefits of DevOps—speed and quality—to John Hancock’s mainframe applications and enables those applications to continue to deliver value with the assurance that standard, auditable release processes are followed.

Winning at Culture: The Keys to the Successful DevOps Organization

When many people think about DevOps transformations within an enterprise the first thing that comes to mind is a technology overhaul. It turns out one of the most challenging aspects of a successful DevOps transformation is changing how people work together within the organization. It’s about culture.

Mission Accomplished

Kurt Straube and his team at John Hancock Financial Services set out to create a standardized yet flexible DevOps pipeline that would transform software delivery for the entire organization. Achieving such sweeping change meant embracing the culture. Everyone, from Development and Operations to Security and Compliance to business staff, along with their tools and apps—would need to be included to make the transformation work. The XebiaLabs DevOps Platform has been central in helping John Hancock bring in all people, tools, and apps—including legacy—to the delivery pipeline, with end-to-end control and visibility. The result is an example of an effective, streamlined DevOps pipeline that teams see value in and want to adopt—no mandate required.*We are extremely saddened to have recently lost of our CPO, Rob Stroud, to an accident. Rob was deeply connected with the DevOps community, and we feel certain that he would want us to continue to share his knowledge and experiences with you.

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