Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks; Infrastructure as a Product (Las Vegas 2020)

The transformative benefits gained in evolving from a project to product mind-set should not only be for the devs. In today’s digital age, it is more important than ever for the infrastructure itself to be fast, fully automated, self-healing, and scalable to meet the ever-changing business demands. The move to the cloud provides these capabilities, but the real transformation is in the people. Infrastructure teams and their traditional silos across the enterprise must transform to measure their people in terms of their collective contributions to a shared goal rather than by their efforts. The hero culture and its rewards just won't scale. This value can only be realized by changing from a project to a product mind-set. In this talk, we'll take you through the journey that started with automating everything in Discover’s traditional infrastructure through the capabilities of the cloud to a more valuable shift in treating the infrastructure as a product. The shift to a product-centric organization has allowed Discover to move from a less valuable traditional functional model to one that is agile and focused on delivering business outcomes and capabilities that provide real value that can help anticipate customer needs. We'll talk about our journey from a plan, build run organization to a culture of empowerment and autonomy, focusing on the tenants of 'You build it. You Run it' . Creating delightful consumer experiences through the delivery of products and services that are supported and run by the engineers that designed them. We'll walk through our transformation and the operating model that was invoked, with distinct focus on both 'what we deliver' as well as 'how we deliver' to drive efficiencies and enable faster outcomes across our value streams to meet the rapidly changing business landscape. We'll share how we were able to take 'traditional' infrastructure engineers and evolve them into more valuable e-shaped ones. How moving from traditional silos into cross functional teams allowed us to deliver in an optimal way and invoke shared responsibilities that brought the right people to the problems while promoting self service and empowerment across all our teams. Faster feedback loops and rapidly delivering capabilities through product characteristics allowed the company to move faster and made its platforms and services more resilient and relevant. Most importantly, now being able to focus people on value-added work, rather than toil, allowed for increased business agility to give Discover an advantage over its competitors. Lastly, we'll share how we measured our success by utilizing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to drive and map team alignment to broader organizational goals; How we standardized, scored and measured consumer satisfaction across our products and services to increase value and established 360 Leadership forums with our Cyber Security and Enterprise Architecture partners to broaden alignment, ensure prioritization and allocate just in time resources to rapidly respond to the evolving and changing needs of our business. While there has been much success, the road has had its fair share of bumps and, at times, potholes that almost swallowed the department up. Discover is a company of very tenured technologists that have at times been extremely resistant to change. As they say, the technology is easy; it’s the people that are hard, and we have the bruises to prove it. We'll share some lessons learned in the hope you won’t make the same mistakes and that you can accelerate your own journey. We’ll share our perspective and guidance to get started, quickly mature, get unstuck, and find yourself delivering infrastructure with more value and intention than ever before.


Edward Russell

Infrastructure Tooling & Automation Product Management, Discover Financial Services


Heather Martin

Director, Value Stream Engineering, Discover Financial Services

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