As service providers adopt New IP technologies to support customers, it's critical that their internal IT departments become equally disruptive in order to create innovation and support business goals.
With decades of growth -- along with reams of data and legacy systems -- AT&T Entertainment wanted to ensure it competed with younger, nimbler startups while leveraging its many assets, said Frank Palese, senior vice president of IT Strategy and Innovation, during a keynote at Amdocs Americas Summit in Orlando.
Transitioning to cloud, SDN and NFV may be a sophisticated undertaking, but changing mindsets to embrace speed and experimentation in a design and development process that previously took months to years can be even more challenging -- unless well-planned and executed, noted Palese in his presentation.
Encouraging Innovation in IT
The technologies are changing fast and IT professionals must adapt to an agile, DevOps world in order for their organizations to not only thrive but survive, says Frank Palese, SVP IT Strategy & Innovation, AT&T Entertainment at Amdocs Americas Summit in Orlando.
(Source: Tsahi Levent-Levi/Flickr)
"If you just worry about the technology and you don't bring the people along you really are going to get stuck. It's really about fundamentally changing the DNA of the company. Technology is the easy part," says Palese. "In startups this is what they do. They don't need to be trained to do this. If we can't learn those technologies, we will die or be relegated to a smaller piece of the market."
Perhaps nothing drove that home more than an experiment conducted at AT&T Entertainment Group, he says. During an internal "Shark Tank" type contest among IT employees, one group took a traditional approach to a big data project -- collected business requirements, and then moved into design, development and testing and then production, said Palese.
The team sought $1 million and lots of time despite managers' encouragement to use a creative, DevOps style. AT&T Entertainment's IT executives recognized they needed to do more than simply ask staff to be innovative. Employees needed training and guidance, he said.
Instead, a group of about five people sat down with pencil and paper to hash out a way to leverage technology tools and platforms such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), implement standard practices and processes and train the top people in a way that used design thinking -- or putting the customer in the center, DevOps and agile methods, he says.
"Then we broke out the minimal viable product: What are we going to start with?" says Palese. "Right now we're doing the development and the development is in that kind of microservices -- PaaS, IaaS -- model. This then is the process of how we do every problem."
Technology is the easiest part of any disruption. Encouraging people to think differently and to work outside traditional departmental walls is more challenging. To tackle that challenge, AT&T Entertainment used gamification, creating an app to teach design thinking and creating competitions between mentor-led teams, he says.
"Ultimately we want to build a pool of folks who are available for projects. They are production support, development, product engineering, developers in CRM and then we have business folks. Our theory is if they're building it together and talking about it, going through the process together, the acceptance of what they're doing would be higher," says Palese. "We're trying to instill new processes, we're trying to train people and we're trying to empower this team to drive it into production. To me, this is trying to avoid that problem with velocity and experimentation."
— Alison Diana, editor, The New IP. Follow her on Twitter @alisoncdiana or @The_New_IP.