Forbes Technology Council members are in a wide range of industries and come from a diverse set of experiences. However, they all have lots of great insights to share, from best practices for technology departments to smart predictions for the future of tech. To showcase their expertise, we’re profiling Forbes Technology Council members here on the blog. This week: Anders Wallgren.
What is your background, and how has it influenced what you do today?
I’ve always had a passion for designing and building software. After graduating from MIT, I had the opportunity to work across the full stack of technologies. I spent more than 25 years leading engineering and product development teams, the last 10 of which as the CTO at Electric Cloud.
It’s a great privilege to be involved in developing software that is so essential to our customers in delivering their own software innovation to market. Having worked at Macromedia and other large organizations in the past, I can personally attest to the challenges that large enterprises face when releasing software, and to how slow and painful this process can sometimes be.
It’s exciting to see how some of the largest enterprises in the world use Electric Cloud’s DevOps Release Automation platform to deliver software faster, and with lower risk. By automating and accelerating their entire end-to-end software delivery pipeline — from code check-in, through build, test, deployment, all the way to releasing to end customers — these organizations turned their software delivery process into a competitive advantage for their business. It’s incredibly rewarding to witness the ROI that they’re seeing.
As a scientist and an engineer (and I still enjoy writing code today), it never ceases to amaze me how much time we still spend waiting on machines to finish doing what we’ve asked them to do. It’s a privilege to be helping today’s organizations to essentially focus on letting humans do what we’re good at — thinking, writing code, building great products — and having DevOps orchestration do the rest, to speed up the “factory” production process that’s an essential part of releasing software.
What do you think is the most interesting piece of new technology today? (And / or how do you see the technology landscape changing in the next 5 – 10 years?)
DevOps and Continuous Delivery (CD) practices have emerged to help us get better at delivering software. To a large extent, it is a “process optimization” question: What are the right processes, tooling, and culture/people that we need to get the job done?
From a technology perspective, some of the new technologies I’m interested in are containers and microservices, which have evolved as a way to scale productivity and simplify some of the software release processes (albeit, they can create other management/operations overhead).
I believe, though, that they are still at the beginning of the hype-cycle. As an industry, we haven’t quite figured out how to optimize them. Think about 10 years ago when everyone had to have a “cloud strategy,” even though they didn’t fully understand what that meant or how to implement it. Today, cloud strategies are much better defined and widespread. Eventually, containers and microservices will reach this point as well. In my experience, they make larger systems more efficient by increasing the throughput. For example, you can throw more people at microservices and get more done than if you did the same in a monolithic system.
What many organizations need to figure out over the next several years is what exactly microservices and containers mean to them and how the two are going to increase productivity. There are tons of organization doing awesome things with containers and microservices today, but that doesn’t mean they are right for you.
My advice? Be a sponge and figure out what other people are doing in these systems to see what’s working and what’s not, and find out if adopting one (or both) is the right fit for your organization’s needs.
What’s your best piece of advice for technology executives to keep on top of the rapidly evolving tech space?
One thing I think is important for tech leaders, especially those in an established business, is that you really have to be agile about innovation — especially now that software is eating the world. For example, tech executives should consider how specialization of teams (and particular team members) can lead to segregation and operational silos. One of the things DevOps does, for example, is not necessarily getting rid of those functional silos, but acknowledging them, understanding where they’re creating bottlenecks and issues, and fostering collaboration between them. I’d charge tech executives to be looking end-to-end and attacking problem areas first.
Another concept is to focus on a system-level view of your entire end-to-end software delivery pipeline — analyzing it and treating the pipeline itself as a product that you continue to optimize, enhance and add features to. Truthfully, this idea of an “end-to-end” approach is a little bit new to the software world we play in, while it is not new to some other industries such as manufacturing (lean). To be efficient, you really need to be cognizant of all the steps along your “production line” and how to quickly, cost-effectively and with high quality, deliver your product. In the software world, there has a been huge investment in authoring of software, management of source code, how we monitor and choose application servers and databases, but just now in the last five years are we paying attention to how we move all of those things along the pipeline, without mistakes and without delays, so we have a predictable and repeatable process.
If tech executives are trying to deliver innovation, they should be establishing a roadmap and understanding the time it will take, so that they can have success and also be able to scale that success throughout the organization.