Continuously evolving: DevOps at ITV

Cecilia Rehn, Editor of TEST Magazine and DevOpsOnline, got together with Tom Clark, Head of Common Platform at ITV plc, to discuss the TV network’s IT transformation.

ITV’s technology background

In the past five years, ITV has switched from waterfall into agile development.

“It was all manual before, and it wasn’t keeping up with the pace of change that we needed,” Clark said.

The decision was made to introduce automation into the stack from end to end. There was a transition from a more traditional functional silo approach into a product team approach.

“We now have development teams headed by product owners. The smaller teams encompass everyone from developers, to testers, scrum masters and platform engineers. The team takes ownership – you build it, you run it.”

As traditional media companies have evolved to embrace new multi-channel commercial opportunities – ITV was one of the first with its online player and user-friendly online hub ­– Clark explains that a transition to DevOps came out of a more collaborative strategy.

“ITV is set up with different independent divisions, from studios to commercial, broadcast and online,” Clark said. “They all run and operate very independently. We began working in a DevOps manner in Online around three years ago, and once the company as a whole began to adopt the Common Platform, it was natural to use the DevOps practices that were working so well.”

In March 2015, ITV began implementing DevOps across the rest of the company in earnest.

Cultural changes following a DevOps transition

The transition into smaller product teams across ITV has had a positive effect. And by allowing teams to take ownership of everything they build, it has changed the psychology of team members, who benefit from instant feedback and increased collaboration.

“Our developers are really happy that they get to see their code in production. Even if it fails, they’re happy they get to fix it quickly,” Clark said. “From a dev perspective it’s been hugely positive. And also from a business perspective. It can seem like shifting to a DevOps model would be more expensive, but in actual fact we’ve been able to achieve a lot more with less, thanks to increased automation and standardisation in tools used. We can do more work in parallel than before.”

Challenges

The road to full DevOps implementation was not always smooth. Convincing people was the biggest challenge.

“It was hard to convince everyone to give it a try,” Clark explains. “Also, it’s still a tricky concept, whereby people still don’t fully understand what DevOps means.”

The team at ITV were aided by the fact that colocation was possible for the small product teams, and indeed, collaboration and communication is working so well that many team members can be spread out and/or work from home without disrupting workflow.

“We have engineers in different cities, and people can work from home. We use a lot of communication tools such as Slack, Trello, Github and Google Hangouts. We make sure that the flow of information is always there,” Clark said.

The future

The future looks bright at ITV as it continues to evolve and invest in DevOps.

“We’re investing a lot in building the right teams, recruitment is a challenge – I joke that I went into management at the wrong time, as DevOps skills have never been in more demand,” Clark said.

To help train and support its staff, ITV encourages team members to go to conferences and attend meet-ups, as well as holding internal workshops to promote self-learning.

In terms of the future, Clark is excited about new technologies and increased awareness of DevOps in general.

“Personally, I’m interested in containerisation, and where this technology will take us. Also, I think security is an area where we need to devote a lot of energy –we’re working closely with our security team to make sure they’re working at the same speed as the rest of us,” Clark said.

“ITV is a FTSE100 company and people make a lot of assumptions about what goes on behind closed doors – and it’s exciting to tell people about our DevOps journey and help promote this IT philosophy.”

Tom Clark will be speaking on DevOps at ITV at the DevOps Enterprise Summit

Written by Cecilia Rehn

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