Putting your best foot forward in your DevOps transformation: an interview with GIRO

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Putting your best foot forward in your DevOps transformation: an interview with GIRO

Interview held May 5th, 2022, with Vanessa Rousseau, organizational performance analyst, and Denis Lemarchand, DevOps transformation team lead at GIRO.

By Philippe Bourget, vice-president sales & strategy, and Lise-Andrée Duperré, head of marketing at Gologic.

Current context

Over the past few years, GIRO has been overhauling their processes to respond to the new digital reality. In 2021, the transformation support team kicked off an assessment of current product development processes with the assistance of the technology team. One of the main goals was to pinpoint the changes necessary for GIRO to meet the demands of its market. This called for faster, more frequent software updates and deliveries.

The team already had a roadmap, but felt the need to seek out the services of an external firm to review it and provide them with feedback.

The perspectives shared by Vanessa Rousseau, organizational performance analyst, and Denis Lemarchand, DevOps transformation team lead, will shed light on this assessment process from start to finish, including:

●   what inspired GIRO to want to pursue this process

●   why they decided to seek out the services of an external firm

●   the structure, products and teams involved

●   the process of selecting a partner

●   their expectations and fears before embarking on this process

●   the workload required to carry out this process

●    the results and conclusion

We will start off with a brief overview of this jewel of Quebec’s IT industry that, according to our interviewees, boasts a unique corporate culture.

A little bit about GIRO

GIRO is a Montreal-based company specializing in the development of software for planning and managing the operations of public transport authorities and postal delivery companies. Its optimization solutions and the expertise of its 600 employees have earned GIRO worldwide recognition with over 300 software installations spanning 28 countries. Its mission? Improve quality of life across the globe through software and services that boost the efficiency of public transport and postal delivery.

GIRO’s clients include the most well-known public transport authorities and postal delivery companies, such as the STM in Montreal, the LA Metro in Los Angeles, Canada Post, SNCF, RATP and La Poste in France, Hochbahn in Germany, SBS Transit in Singapore and Yarra Trams in Australia.

Interview with GIRO

Lise-Andrée: What inspired you to want to carry out this assessment of your processes?

Denis Lemarchand: Some clients want to have biennial updates and deliveries. Meeting this demand for accelerated delivery requires significant effort along with internal continuous deliveries to then be able to deploy the product on the client’s end.

“The need to modernize and adopt the DevOps culture basically came from our clients, who demanded faster, more frequent updates and deliveries. This demand led to organization-wide deliberations.” 

Denis Lemarchand, DevOps transformation team lead at GIRO

A number of initiatives had already been implemented in conjunction with these deliberations. The technology team was working on a new method for delivering more quickly and efficiently. For my part, I was working on a DevOps approach for delivering to certain clients.

We came to the conclusion that we needed to know where we were at. This is where the idea of doing an internal assessment came from.

Lise-Andrée: What led you to seek out the services of an external firm to carry out this assessment?

Vanessa Rousseau: Rather than carrying out this process ourselves, we wanted to seek out external expertise to lend credibility to the transformation that we are undertaking. We already had a good sense of our roadmap, but we wanted to get some advice.

 Lise-Andrée: Give us a brief description of your structure, products and teams.

Vanessa Rousseau: GIRO offers 3 software solutions:

  1. HASTUS: this optimization software solution is intended for public transport authorities to plan networks, create schedules and manage operations.
  2. HASTUS-OnDemand: this software solution lets you manage on-demand general transport services and paratransit services.  
  3. GeoRoute: postal companies use the GeoRoute software solution to optimize key steps in postal collection and delivery, whether it’s for letters or packages.

A significant component of GIRO’s operations are focused on the HASTUS software solution. We have around 200 developers working on a generic version of this software. In tandem with this, we have smaller development teams doing coding on families of related products (planning, schedule creation, operations management, etc.). Besides our strictly development activities, we install and/or update the software solution for our clients. Within this project sector, there are teams that personalize the product according to clients’ specific needs.

Lise-Andrée: Tell us about your process for selecting a partner for this assessment.

Denis Lemarchand and Vanessa Rousseau: First of all, we created a grid of criteria listing the main points to take into account when selecting our partner:

  • Long-term partnership: a partner who would be able to implement recommendations with our teams post-assessment.
  • Expertise: a partner who is an expert in their field.
  • Approach: a partner who uses a structured methodology to carry out the assessment: training sessions, follow-ups, deliverables, etc.
  • Client references: a partner with solid references. 

We then sought out providers from our references and online. From there, we narrowed it down to four potential providers. Following meetings, discussions and the submission of service offerings, two providers stood out from the crowd. We filled out the grid and brought it to the selection committee who met with the two finalists.

Discussions and progress led to the addition of a new criterion—the composition of the partner’s team. This carried a lot of weight. With Gologic, we realized that we would be supported by a well-rounded team of experts, not just by one person. They would be the bedrock of the entire process.

The two elements that carried the most weight in our final choice were:

“We knew what to expect from the analysis process and that we would be supported by a team of experts.”

Vanessa Rousseau, organizational performance analyst at GIRO

Lise-Andrée: What were your expectations at the start of this process?

Denis Lemarchand: From my perspective, the main goal of this process was pinpoint the changes that GIRO needed to implement. We were aware of our current challenges and we knew that working with a firm to get an external opinion would help us shed more light on them. And this was exactly the case!

Lise-Andrée: Did you have any fears before embarking on this assessment?

Denis Lemarchand: We worried that Gologic’s experts would be too optimistic and disconnected from our actual situation and that of our clients. Gologic’s message needed to be credible and realistic, taking into account our context and our story. Gologic’s experts did a great job addressing the situation. We came to the following conclusion: “What can we do better to tackle this challenge, without overhauling everything?”

Lise-Andrée: Was it difficult to include stakeholders in the process? Were people enthusiastic, fearful or hesitant?

Vanessa Rousseau: Around 40 people participated in the assessment. Over the course of the training sessions and discussions, they learned from trusted experts who were able to support them in this transformation. This is reflected by the fact that, following the assessment, a number of participants asked for Gologic’s help with various DevOps-related projects.

Lise-Andrée: What do you think about the workload required on your end to carry out this process?

Denis Lemarchand: You can’t deny it, this process required a lot of participation and effort. Many hours of work, communication, back-and-forth and feedback. You need to be ready for this level of participation, because change requires effort. The success of this process hinges on the team being well-prepared. 

“Transforming yourself is a bit like changing the handlebar on your bike while you’re riding.”

Denis Lemarchand, DevOps transformation team lead at GIRO

Vanessa Rousseau: This assessment covered 100% of the company. It affected many processes and protocols. The entire ecosystem was impacted.

Lise-Andrée: When it came time for the roadmap and the deliverables, did your observations match your original hypotheses?

Denis Lemarchand: There weren’t really any huge surprises, thankfully! It was more of a heightened awareness of the priorities we needed to focus on. This led to a number of questions about the roadmap and its prioritization. It clarified and strengthened our original game plan. We validated our transformation..

Lise-Andrée: In conclusion, are you happy with how this process turned out?

Vanessa Rousseau: Definitely! I’m happy with the elements that the experts pinpointed and, above all, with the way that they were brought to light. I would even say that Gologic’s experts were daring, but in a positive way. I am pleased with how things unfolded.

Denis Lemarchand: Yes, I’m really happy with this assessment that we carried out with the Gologic team. Gologic helped us champion the call for transformation throughout the organization. Overall, this process was a team effort that helped us think outside the box. Two heads are so much better than one! It’s great to have a clear, detailed, well-thought-out plan of what’s going to happen, but sometimes by leaving yourself a bit more room for collaboration, you can accomplish some amazing things.

Our services

Gologic is a company offering DevOps maturity assessment, training and DevOps on demand services. Gologic has been involved in major digital transformation projects over the past decade, including migrating banking, government and telecommunication institutions to microservices. Our incubation formula combines human talent with an operations-based, hands-on approach to boost your teams’ independence within the delivery cycle.

By Philippe Bourget, vice-president sales & strategy, and Lise-Andrée Duperré, head of marketing at Gologic.

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