When transforming processes at a company, whether through a DevOps Transformation or otherwise, it's important to start small, scale, and slowly roll the changes out to the teams. This is where a "Lighthouse Team" can help. Let's explore that below.
What is a Lighthouse Team?
A lighthouse is tall structure, containing a beacon that guides ships at night. When discussing digital transformation, it's important to find a team within your organization that can be the lighthouse that guides others, as they go through the pain that comes with change.
This team could be a smaller team, or a team that works on a newer product, in which switching to the latest tooling will not be as impeded by a long history, entangled with old tools and processes. It's also great if members of the team have experience in the new tooling you're switching to.
As a brief example, if you have fresh out of college junior developers who are very familiar with git and GitHub, but your existing senior developers only have experience with Subversion (SVN) and TortoiseSVN. This is a great opportunity to have the junior developers gain some experience through teachbacks, and to help ease the transition into the new tooling. This team will figure out a lot of the quirks that will undoubtedly occur during the transition, and they'll document their solutions, allowing others to follow a template to adopt the new tooling as well.
You need a Lighthouse Team
Change is hard. Digital Transformations, while necessary, can cause a lot of pain to the teams and individual contributors who are being affected by new processes, tooling, workflows, etc. A lighthouse team can help ease this transition and reduce the number of pain points.
If you've ever heard one of my talks, you've likely heard me make the following statement (or a similar one): The people and their culture in the workplace is the key to everything we do. We can shift processes left, change tooling, force new workflows, and develop new standards, but without the buy-in from your end-users, you'll be facing an uphill battle. I talked about this in my talk: "What is DevOps?" for example.
You may initially think that changing the tooling shouldn't necessarily mean changing processes and workflows, however I challenge you with the following analogy. You need to use the right tool for the job, but if you aren't using the tool as intended, you won't see the benefits of the new tooling. I can buy a hammer to finally get the right tool to nail nails in and finally replace my old technique of using a screwdriver's handle to pound them in. But if I take that hammer, and then use it's handle to pound them in, did I really change anything? It's only when you turn the hammer around, and use it as intended, that you see the improvement in your workflow.
This is where a Lighthouse Team can shine. Your Lighthouse Team can pilot the new processes and tools, document the issues they've encountered, and form 90% of the workflow that can be used by all teams on all projects. The final 10% will typically be filled with the specifics of a team, in case there are certain nuances unique to their projects. The documentation this team produces can be used in the rest of the roll out plan and assist other teams to adopt the tooling faster.
I hope by now, I've convinced you to use a Lighthouse Team to lead your digital transformation. But how do you roll these changes out to the rest of the organization?
In software, we often talk about "iterating" in terms of development lifecycles. When it comes to a large digital transformation, we also want to iterate, and go slow while making changes. Moving too quickly can put more pain on the individuals, and moving too slow can cause you to never accomplish your task.
The key is to leverage your Lighthouse Team's documentation and findings, and slowly identify additional teams that will be least affected by major tooling changes. Inevitably, over time you'll have to roll your changes out to teams that are greatly impacted by the new tooling and processes, however with a slow roll out plan and a lighthouse approach, this impact will be greatly reduced.
If you are getting ready to roll out a new digital transformation plan, you need a Lighthouse Team. These teams will go through the major hurdles, document their findings, and ease the change for other teams in your organization by providing templated documentation, build pipelines, and guides on how to use the new tooling with your software projects.
Finally, all change can cause some pain, but a slow roll-out process with buy-in from your team will alleviate much of this perceived pain. If you have further questions or want help rolling out your own digital transformation plans, I'm happy to consult with you. Please reach out via my contact page.