Europe 2021
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How to DevOps the Hell Out of Your Covid Crisis

How to DevOps the Hell Out of Your Covid Crisis


Pieter Jordaan

Group Chief Technology Officer - Technology Transformation, TUI



Sir Winston Churchill is credited for saying never waste a good crisis. And there are a few industries that experienced existential crisis due to the global pandemic than the travel and hospitality industries. I am grateful to my friend, Dr. Mccarsten author of the book, project to product who told me about one of the most remarkable stories of how an organization was able to use a global pandemic as a way to radically transform their organization and also accelerate their pre pandemic goals. I'm so honored that our first speaker this morning is Peter Jordan group CTO of Tuohy group. The world's largest integrated travel company before the global pandemic. It had generated nearly 20 billion euros in revenue. When the pandemic hit, they simultaneously needed how to figure out how to bring nearly 2 million passengers safely back home, as well as figure out how to survive a period when almost no one wanted to travel and still leave the pandemic even stronger than when it entered it. I think this transformation story is so remarkable for so many reasons. One of which is to the extent of which business and technology leadership was impacted. I genuinely believe that their story will be deeply studied for years to come. Here's Peter Jordan.


Thank you, Jean, for that great introduction. Um, yeah, I'm feeling honored to present your arm. Um, so I am going to talk about how to dev-ops the hell out of your cover crisis. So I'll be you find this interesting. Um, so a little bit, who am I? So my name is Peter Jordan. Um, um, two week groups, chief technology officer, I report to Frank Rosenberger. He is, um, the member of the executive board, um, and he's responsible for it, future markets and reports to the group CEO. So, okay. So today why we'd like to try and achieve in this 30 minutes is really tell the story about how our journey of a 20 billion Euro group company went all in on cloud. Totally transform ourselves into dev ops as a group and moved to a pro organization during the COVID crisis. Okay. So we're going to try to tell you a little bit of how we start this journey, how we did, um, how we initially started with small local initiatives and now within eventually in an up doing a global scale, all, um, all in and what we learned through the COVID, the COVID crisis, how it accelerated us and what we discovered again, then I'm going to share with you all the textbook rules I broke.


So gene will mark my homework when I'm done. Okay. So, so who are we? So Tuohy is, um, the world's largest, um, well number one, integrated travel company. So what does that mean? So we have, we take about 27 million customers on holiday every year. Um, that, of course, all these things is pre COVID would be too hard to explain that for you in, in COVID times to get about what does it mean to be integrated travel company? So we have our own airplanes. You can see 150 plus airplanes, 380 plus of towels contracted in hotels, branded hotels, resorts. Uh, we have 16 cruise ships. We go to over 115 destinations worldwide. Okay. And our pre govern turnover is in 19, 19 off. We were, we had our best year ever, uh, just before COVID he'd done. Um, and you know, and then of course you have thousand 600 travel shops all around Europe on the it side, you know, have 20 data centers, 400 million per the nation's eight, 8 million price updates easily on a daily basis.


Um, 58 million billion of sorry, 58 billion searches, big hours. So me coming from a technology background, working for investment banks, building large automated trading platforms going to do it was very interesting because of it's the type of company. It is really. It's not just an airline. It's not just so towel, actually, it's a trading company underlying with heavy assets that needs to operate and you'll be surprised how many different ways you can price airline seat. Okay. So, um, so how did our journey start again, not very different to most people, we, of course decided that we needed to go to the cloud. And until he was very traditional company, we tried, you know, all the move of small assets to the cloud first and, you know, trying to get buy-in in the cloud, um, focused on our data center migration. So eventually that the big business gauge, we were going to close all our data centers.


That was our goal. And from agile perspective, you have these eight big countries all have their own e-commerce teams, you know, spearheading agile in their country, in their initiatives, but really very localized. And if you did that and when we do big programs, big programs, big projects, and we measure time, we measure costs, right? And we really focused on risk management. Don't touch the revenue deliver on time. Okay. Um, but just before government, we actually realized as a business, we need to change. We have to consolidate, we can't continue to operate as tons of small markets. We need to start to come together. And again, we set up a big program and every MD of all the markets are there and all the CEOs and a group CEO, and we have this big plan and it's going to take us years to get there here, because everyone's protecting their revenue.


Everyone's protecting their local initiatives, their local nuance, and then go with it, go with heart attack, hit the travel industry really, really hard. As you know, suddenly we find ourselves in a situation where we have more than 2 million customers abroad that we have to report to here. We have cruise ships support. Um, you know, all the news about the cruise ships airlines could not even fly back to some countries. We, we had cruise ships, couldn't, Interport suddenly we have to report, rate all these customers. And all the focus is back to how do we control our burn rate? How do we bring all our customers back? Um, uh, one of the number one decisions the board made was that this initiative to consolidate cannot go to waste. Especially the fact that we, as a company probably will experience prolonged, um, reduction in revenues. And that's when they decided we have to change the way we do it, we have to do it now and we're going to have to do it fast.


So that really changed the way we approach the transformation. We went from small local transformations, picking the best, moving one country at a time to consolidate. Now use this crisis, use this depression of our revenue situation to consolidate the business, consolidate it. So what do we do? We decided we're going to go from a project structure to product. We're going to totally change the way our local organization is organized. We're going to change the way it is organized. We're going to have one, it, one platform that delivers value and capabilities to all the markets. We're going to change the business to also consolidate around a single capability, no half, 5, 6, 8 different e-commerce teams, five different ways to contract. We're going to contract once we're going to price. Once we're gonna sell once I really digitalize our processes. So that was then our remit given to us, given to me.


And that set us on this journey. Of course. Um, luckily I can come here and tell you already about some of the successes, successes we aren't. So I'll let a little bit out of the bag we managed to achieve in a few months. Well, probably would have taken us here, looking back at our pre COVID program plan. It would have taken us years to get to what we've already achieved. Okay. And now I'm going to tell you how we did it, what principles we followed and also what rules we broke. Okay. So let's go through that. What was our goal? Our goals pretty similar to most companies, right? We want to have a global product organization powered by single digital platform. What does that mean? We don't want to have 10 selling platforms. We don't want to have 10 contracting platforms. Don't want to have 10 customer service desks.


Um, we want to do stuff once, which is, uh, which is the right thing to do, which is the right condition. The question isn't, whether you should do is the question is how do you get there? And this is really what we started to do. We consolidate it, we decided we need to consolidate it all it, and then let the business capabilities consolidate around it, but we still need to serve the local markets. And of course in any big program markets fight for their little nuances or with the crisis, suddenly that changed massively. So we ended up deciding to build a single occupant form based in the cloud, totally Def ops and focused on flow. And I, I think most of you probably that's your goals as well, but I think you'll see how timelines can, um, massively help you. Okay. So why I say to Jean is actually, if we did this, the textbook, why would take us 20 years to complete?


Okay, so, so what did we do? How do we achieve this? Okay. Um, our first rule we broke was actually on cloud migration. Everyone says always, you know, take your smallest little application, move it to the cloud, learn, you know, grow, get people confidence. And it was another big program that actually forced us to migrate a launch part of our business and consolidate our Northern region. And what we decided to do at that stage is take the selling platform, which is, um, responsible for, for easy 50% of our revenue, um, and move it through the cloud. And because of the program timelines, we, we only had six months. So I asked the team, how long is it gonna take you? They said, oh, will take us two years. And at least two years, we can't see. I said, well, you have six months. Um, of course we, we didn't have to skills.


We got cloud experts in, but we trained our staffs alongside these experts. We migrated this whole stack in six and a half months. And this was the catalyst for us to be able to start to feel confident that we can do this program. We can do this total transformation of the group. And it changed the way the business started to view it. And it transformations because they started to see the benefit. Um, shortly after we did this migration, we had some airlines collapsed in the UK. And actually we could scale to hundreds, hundreds of times the previous peak volumes, because we were an Amazon and everyone recognized it would not have been possible if we did not do this. So suddenly I think we, we got over this, what's the benefit of cloud trying to convince people based on cost to convincing them based on business value.


Okay. So the next thing I want to talk about really is the transformation, how business is on the going and has to undergo because of this transformation. So we are a big group. We grew through acquisition and the obviously required in different PNLs to exist in a certain group. So each BNL have their CIO looking after their KPIs and uptime. And you have different general managers looking after their sales and their purchasing and their product education. Um, and he's one of them responsible for their revenues. But if you want to consolidate all of that into a single group use, you have to give up certain autonomy and you have to try off autonomy with the benefits of doing stuff once and what a dancer changes and requires free fundamental shifts in leadership. And I'm applying this to it leaders by the actually also plus the business leaders and, and this is something we have to undergo and still on the going and, and forcing in a way in the way we hire and the way we train.


Um, but I would say this is, this is the biggest single accelerator you can have in your business. If you talk to anyone about cloud migration, if you talk to talk to them about, um, transforming your business, they will say executive buy-in okay, what does executive buy-in mean? Okay, this is what it means for me. I think it's not just buy in and saying, yes, here's the money, go do it. You also need to get the buy-in to change the way the leaders are acting, making decisions on what they are protecting. So in the old world where you have different P and L smaller companies, each one of them protecting their little KPIs, right? The CIO has a very wide remit. He has these ITIL capabilities. He has to look after everything, right. He asked these KPIs and reports to the board. What does this cost, what does this at time?


Right? And you manage this risk. It basically tries to avoid to break things and only touch staff if the business wants to do it. So avoid failure or dies is number one goal, right? Um, there's, there's a great book. Um, a seat around the table. I think it's called, which talks in depth about this. I really, while we are shifting towards, as a global it team around the domain organization, product based structure for our group and the, it, we had to change from white to deep single domain ownership. And what that requires then is a technical leader that can transform that can also perform transformation. And what does it, what does it mean when I say transformation? I mean, maturity, maturity of cloud maturity of dev ops maturity of your flow of business value out of the door. And that, that, that requires tech technology, understanding it requires organizational understanding.


It, it, it requires to also understand what the market is doing. Um, it's a very different leader type of leader, right? And we had to change our top, structuring it to also become these type of leaders. And we starting to recruit very drift different away from general managers who is managing a third party supplier to people that can lead and transform in house. We made a conscious decision. Now we want to own our destiny, our future, our intellectual property. And that required us to change the way that we recruit. And I think the main difference for me is in the mindset of these leaders, right? Then the management risk as the first principle versus managing the creative process. And what do I mean by managing the creative process? Um, there's a great book about Pixar, um, creativity, Inc. I think it's called you can, you can read the book talks about how big SAR actually, and I stole this from them.


So I'm giving them credit, um, actually forced almighty leaders to read the book. And I was like, why am I reading a book about, um, big song? I said, because you are, you all are trying to not make mistakes. And in this book, it changes your perception that creativity is part of failure is part of the creative process. And in order for you to deliver flow, in order for you to transform quickly, you have to fail. You have to fail fast, you have to fail safe, you need your Blas righteousness to smell all these dev ops principles actually, um, applied to a completely different type of industry. Animation was great to see out of context because it actually forced him to realize this is a mindset requirement. This is not a tool set. This is not something I download and get my team to use.


This is a way I think, and this is a way I make decisions. Okay. So, so where, where did we start? Um, we decided that we need to make some fundamental decisions in our process of making this transformation. So at this stage, just as COVID hit us, we already set up this big program. Uh, suddenly our pipelines got shrunk massively instead of having here. So we have months, actually we have a window that's not quite certain. It's closing on us all the time, where you were making decisions based on revenue. Now you making decisions based on, um, how fast can I bring this, this transformation about in the safest way so that I can protect the benefits instead of my previous way of thinking, I need to protect risk all the time. Okay. So like I said, that was our first success factor was really the change in leadership.


All our leaders started to read the books that helped us think about the transformation program, progress and process in terms of flow and creativity and incremental delivery. Instead of big programs that typically does, what's my milestones, what's my costs. And the next bit that we realized was the cloud is oxygen. Okay. Now we really actually made that decision a long time ago when we made this large migration before you cloud this oxygen. So you can't really do this launch type of technology migration without going through the cloud. So what we decided was that we need to change the cloud migration strategy. We had the strategy to close our data centers and the decisions was based around that. And it was based around, okay, take the easiest asset migrated slowly, slowly moving it, that would have taken us here. So we changed it and said, no, we going to build net new and just retire the data center.


We just going to close it. We not migrating anymore. We building what's required for this business for its technology and business transformation. So I'll talk a little bit more about that in the next, next slide. On what rules we then applied bum cloud is for me, the fundamental starting block with a different type of leader. So the next thing we changed was instead of saying, okay, which business wants to change? We said, no, no, let it consolidate. Then let the business migrate. Why do I say this? The CEO came to me and say pizza until you can't, until you give me a single platform. I can't consolidate my business because my business is organized around individual capabilities. So I realized I had to go much, much faster, um, and consolidate building the platform so that there is a single commercial platform. There is a single pricing platform, and that's why we decided to shift to both product and all in on cloud.


And what you get is product helps you to become an agile organization and cloud helps you to become default. You, you can try to become therefore to our cloud. It's really hard. Okay. So actually starting with cloud and product as your primary goals, agile and dev ops is the natural outcome. The culture that you, that you then adopt and a way of behaving and changing. So I talked about the way we had to change the view, our view of risk. And we had to adopt a day, one mentality. We decided we don't go and we not can solve problems. That's not existing. We have to move fast. We're gonna deliver on global increments. We actually had the global hackathon. We had all the teams working together and we decided that hackathon will become the ways of working. Now we run these six weeks in increments.


We have hackathon free to hackathon day, a demo day and we'd deliver. And then the last thing is we, we moved to focus on visibility on flow and business value. Okay. So what does this translate into practical decision making? So we came up with these rules and, um, and actually we say this so much, we didn't actually realize how fundamental it is when I did this talk. I realized this might not be natural for a lot of companies to act this way. So the first thing we decided was we have to move fast and we have to move in increments and because of COVID, but because of this accelerated timeline, the business also suddenly have to make decisions quick. So when I say, Hey, I'm building pricing module, which one of your 10 pricing structures do you want me to build? I'm building one, which one do you want?


And that brings you to second rule. A capability exists once I'm not building 10 different pricing structures, I'm building one. I'm not building 10 web platforms are building one. So that forced the business to break the universe down, join the transformation, joined the incremental thinking process. And our creative flow of business value started to really take value. Okay. The third decision we made was everyone will go to AWS. We basically abandoned all activities that was multicloud. We said, you will go to AWS, not just that you will use the highest level available service possible. You won't build something that already exists. You will do some or less the step function first and only build something. If you can't do it with those, I want to add that, that it helped us to really accelerate and focus on business value. And it's net new services that we built is services.


We migrate this existing SAS services we use, and there's other services that we said, okay, we will migrate, or we will transform over time. But the majority of our platform now is net new being built. And I don't have to worry about migrating old third party legacy platforms to the cloud because frankly, those guys would not interested. So I'm just going to retire it on building, why need, and I will retire my data centers. So four thing, avoid one, my daughter, seasons wine. So I can make decisions quick and I can stay flexible. I can change in the future. So we talked about invest once, use multiple times. So I'm building it for everybody. I'm not building it for this market or this market, their nuance, they're little different green button versus that pink button on a different page. I want to build once. And that really helped with the business flow.


And that's probably one of the hardest bit is to get all these markets to agree on what they want. And the pressure of COVID helped to distill this down to the most essential business value components that we need to deliver. Okay. And I bring them into the second last one, which is consolidate launch versus value first. So why is that important? It's important because in the partial will leave your biggest business to come on board loss because they're like, Hey, I'm making too much money. Don't touch me. You build the first. Then I will decide to come on board. Let me see what you deliver for me. It no, no, no, no. Suddenly it's about the late benefits. Okay. You come on board, you immediately get the benefit of the other market of the other market. So you've in the past where I invest 5 million, 5 million, 5 million, totally.


I'm investing 20 minutes. I'm only moving forward 5 million. Now I can invest 10 million in everyone's collectively moving forward twice as fast. So consolidating lounge, the largest business is really important. So that is, that is the biggest challenge, but also one of the biggest shifts that we made. Okay. And I really forced the business to break the universe into smaller parts. So nothing bigger than one increment. Like I say, we running incremental global increments, six weeks free to hackathon and a demo day. And then we release and why do we need to do that? Suddenly our teams is not in the same office. They're sitting anywhere in the world. We need to now collaborate from home bolt, develop release in an agile DevOps fashion, move to cloud and moved to a pro organization all at once while everyone's working at home. So there's some other talks that some of my colleagues will give about how we had to do that.


But that is essentially I think, a brave step that was forced on us, but the benefits of doing all three of that was enormous. Okay. So that brings me to what's the textbook rules we broke. Okay. So I touched on some of this, but I want to highlight it and I would not recommend you do this, but I would also want to caution you that you should really think about the consequence of following, you know, everyone else's path. And the reason I say, like I said, I said to Janie five, I have to follow all these rules a little bit at a time will take me five years to finish maybe Navy finish. Okay. So, so, you know, you typically hear star with small workloads to migrate to the cloud. Okay. We did that and we realized that it won't work. I won't get to a critical mass where the, the business belief in cloud.


So I took the biggest, most critical one. And I moved that first. That really pushed me into a next level of confidence with the business on cloud. Okay. Lift and shift your workloads to the cloud. Do data center migrations, use those applications. Do the firefighters with this program. We actually decided against that. We said, no, we're going to build, make me why we can get to the business outcome, the fosters, if I have to choose the best out of five different dinosaurs and breeds, and then hope that one of them turns into the giraffe. I want just built the giraffe. So it's much faster for me just to build net new in the cloud and go after the business value from an agile perspective, you know, you, you always have to prove the concept of agile initiatives in scale. I did not have that luxury.


It's not really a choice. I did not have the luxury. Suddenly my whole organization is thrown into a global pandemic, having to work globally from different locations. All my offices is closed and now I have to bolt this new platform, consolidate multiple countries onto a single platform, single it organization, single product structure for the business. I had to do it all at once. And in fact, by doing it all at once, you take out so much noise and leverage and, um, ability for people to argue about the little nuances and you really go after what's valuable for the business. So why didn't we do this? We did this organization sort of two. We is competitive in the market and could provide the best business value to their customers when COVID this over. Okay. So I'll, I'll talk about two testimonials, our group CEO, uh, when we did our cloud migration.


Yeah. He was the one that had to stop. He owns all the markets and it was a year where you guys say agility and flexibility and scalability. I just don't understand it. Um, so you have to prove it. And then in those days we still had to come back with cost benefits. Okay. So I actually managed to still save costs, going to the cloud. But after we did this launch migration of the Northern region selling platform, we had some airlines collapsing, unfortunately, and all those customers had to flood somewhere. They were looking for four airline seats and we could scale to hundreds of percent, our previous peak volumes with no problem. And everyone recognized if we did not go to the cloud, we would have not been able to capitalize on that, but it convinced them that cloud is the place for us to be cloud is no longer a discussion for it.


I think, um, maybe from Aaron Sugarman is our group commercial architect, but also lead all global transformation on, on the business side is that if we did not move to a product based organization, which is responsible for consolidating his business entities and business values around a single capability, but it leading this is a great partnership because it is building what he needs, rebuilding it once. And he can now design the best commercial business model that we need. So, um, so with that, I want to leave you guys with, you know, what are we doing next? This is obviously not over, we still migrating tons and tons of capabilities. We delivered our first small stones. Um, we delivering more and more holiday product lines into this platform. And we still moving these large markets out of their legacy platforms into the new platform. It's not a single big shift migration you're selling off on the old system.


You set up in the new system. So this is ongoing process. Um, and we continue to build out a digital capability across all our markets, um, across our assets and across for our suppliers, whether that's aviation airlines, hoteliers, um, ticketing. So it's a very diverse capability. So one of our biggest challenges, my biggest challenge is really hiring people fast enough. Um, dev ops engineers, hiring, um, SecOps engineers, cloud experts, cloud architects, cloud, enterprise architects. Um, so you can reach out to me on LinkedIn. Um, and also you can look up to, to regroup on LinkedIn and we always advertise there. So we currently hiring, and I think it's exciting business. I come from very exciting realtime trading platforms, and I've got stuck at two because it's such interesting business. Actually. It's not just one company. It's multiple companies in a single large group that has to work together.


So for me, the challenge is how do you apply these principles of agile dev ops product, product flow cloud across all these different markets, all these different companies and bolt the best billion Euro group enterprise that we can leveraging the best in the world. So I would be interested to kind of also your other companies that's on that same journey. So please reach out to me. I would like to share my pain here about your pain and also learn from you. So, um, please reach out to me and we'd love to have a coffee, virtual coffee and a chat. So, um, thank you very much for having me. And I'm looking forward to, to hear some of you in the chat later. Thank you.