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Buzzwords Not Needed

The debate between SRE, DevOps, and Platforms


By Bradley Clerkin


There is a lot of debate on platform engineering vs. DevOps vs. Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) and which approach drives a more digitally effective execution engine. The arguments try to make them appear as if they are mutually exclusive.


They are not.


To ignore the buzzwords, we developed a playbook for setting up the engineering infrastructure and operations required for successful digital execution. This article covers:

  • What it means to be a digitally effective execution engine.

  • How you align that engine to business outcomes.

  • The operating elements.


What does it mean to be a digitally effective execution engine?


The breakdown:

  • You need a consistent and scalable technology management approach that all digital teams can use. This concept is much more than traditional DevOps technology asset management and includes ways of working that support digital product development.

  • To enable teams to deliver at velocity and scale digital implies, you need to support a self-service and potentially multi-tenant developer platform. This can be an integrated suite or suites of cloud-based and/or custom services that developers can use as foundations for building cool digital stuff.

  • Finally, you want continuous improvement in IT operational outcomes like reliability, downtime, failover, and problem resolution.


Aligning the Engine to Business Outcomes


So that you don’t go down the path of implementing some hyped approach for implementation's sake, ultimately, your digital execution engine needs to be measured against business revenue and profit targets.


It is easy to measure cost/spend and efficiency or velocity. Digital forces IT to speak a different language and measure its success in the context of top-line or end-customer impact. For example, how does greater velocity drive more revenue? Instead of measuring how much new technology was implemented, define what tradeoffs the business would want to make for new technology that supports bespoke product needs over using more standardized cloud building blocks across products for customer support or better cost.


The Operating Elements


Once business impact and priorities or tradeoffs are understood, then you can define a playbook for enabling, building, and operating digital stuff. In Financial Services, engineering executives typically start with the following:


  • Cloud foundational team manages cloud infrastructure that is shared across products and integrations to legacy on-prem data and applications. This step is important for scaling and sustainable operations. However, more is required.

  • Platform engineering team(s) build, enhance, and enable consumption of tools, applications, etc., that measurably make digital product engineers even more effective builders. Removing administration and ensuring platforms make it easier for engineers to do their job enables faster product delivery and innovation.

  • DevOps enablement team(s) operationalize transparency, accountability, and predictability necessary to support self-regulating teams. Any workflows or governance needs to ensure the ability to standup development environments, and enable and build new digital product, adopt new technologies, and support incubation and scaling.


If you focus enabling functions on anything other than building and operating effectiveness in the context of business outcomes, it is an anti-pattern.


To be successful, you need to align your IT operations with revenue and profit targets and create an environment that encourages innovation by enabling teams to build products more quickly. Additionally, it is essential for businesses in the financial service industry to have a cloud foundational team, platform engineering team(s), and DevOps enablement team(s). By following the steps outlined in this article, companies can ensure they are able to successfully adopt new technologies and develop innovative products at scale.


About BreakFree Solutions


Our DNA is financial services. We started BreakFree Solutions as the digital execution engine for a bank back in 2015. Over time, we expanded our focus and went independent to help financial institutions and insurance companies build digital product and mature, effective, and sustainable engineering engines (DevOps/Cloud/Agile). We believe we have one of the best digital execution firms.


Many companies are set up to advise you on what to do. Our model is different. We partner and build alongside you with the intention of executing AND building your internal skills. We call this the coach/doer model. Test us. Let’s talk about where we can partner with you to take on the most difficult cloud and digital engineering challenges.



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