Ticketmaster VP of Engineering talks DevOps

Stephen Williams VP Engineering TicketmasterIs there anything that Stephen Williams, VP Engineering at Ticketmaster can’t do? Whether it be leading the technology and development of the International Ticketmaster and Live Nation consumer platforms for the last 10 years or building web and apps across a heterogeneous range of technologies that include the best of breed OSS and commercial software founded on Java, PHP and .Net stacks. There is no doubt that he will be a great addition to the speaker line up and the upcoming DevOps World event on November 4th in London.

Over the last 2 years Steve has been focusing attention across all international teams to define and direct the change and implementation of co-ordinated engineering strategies in collaboration with Product and Technical Operations teams. A primary focus has been the evangelising and embracing DevOps culture: Steve led defining the aspects of Ticketmaster DevOps program, the development of a unique way to visualise the program of work and the journey they’re now on. Prior to the event Stephen shared some views on DevOps and a few other things besides.

What does your role involve and how are you involved with DevOps?

My role involves overseeing the management of two teams, in London and Sweden, working on the Ticketmaster International and Live Nation consumer platforms both supporting in 10-15 markets and growing. I’m very fortunate in having two great managers on both platforms, which enables me to also focus on larger strategic projects across our entire international engineering organisation.

I’ve been very involved with DevOps from the start within Ticketmaster International. Myself and another colleague together defined the International TM DevOps strategy. Following the release of the strategy we set up focused working groups to create some essential standards around tooling and instrumentation. From there we worked with various teams to convert the strategy into requirements and enable all teams to begin their journey. At the same time defined KPIs show where DevOps is having positive impacts and allow us to report this back to the business to promote the benefits, or if benefits are not being realised as expected then we can re-evaluate the strategies.

How have you seen DevOps affecting IT teams’ work?

Our TM DevOps Strategy has provided goals and a shared vision for our Teams. The strategy is defined in a way that allows each team to select their own path, which they select depending on the context of their needs. If you think of a roadmap, there are many ways to get from Point A to Point B – you the driver will determine which is the most appropriate route depending on various factors. Our strategy works in a similar way.

Having the right vision and ability to choose your path has created motivation and desire to succeed across our teams. It’s inspiring them to want to deploy faster and create opportunities for the business to learn quicker about new features. Having standards for tooling and best practices is helping to create a culture where more collaboration and sharing of ideas is starting to happen so we only solve problems the one time.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing with DevOps and how are you trying to overcome it?

The biggest challenges is capacity within the systems engineering team to align closer to the product delivery teams, whilst still having a large operational support requirements to service. It can be a slow process to unpick some areas and re-align teams when so many demands are coming in. There are several initiatives we’re employing such as shift left, moving operational tasks to support teams and free some capacity for the Systems Engineers to work more closely with developers. A lightweight CAB and improving demand management filtering have also been put in place to funnel requests.

Can you share a book, article, movie that you recently read/watched and inspired you?

I’m currently working on an organisational strategy to implement competency based skills frameworks to standardise the roles across the international engineering organisation, increase operational efficiency and support career progression and the satisfaction of staff. Research to develop the strategy led me to several articles and videos on Holacracy. Holacracy is attempting to define a way an organisation can be more flexible by allowing individuals to have more authority to solve problems and cut through bureaucracy.

It’s a fascinating approach to creating more autonomy, increase flow and a higher performing organisation. If Windows and MacOs are to an agile organisation then it’s more like mobile O/S for the organisation. I’m starting to ask what if we tried this, how could we, where will the benefits be. A great video to learn more about Holocracy is by Brian Robertson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJxfJGo-vkI.

15880-DevOps-World-LogoWhat are you hoping to achieve by attending the DevOps World?

As with all conferences there is a bit of promoting our brand through the promotion of the exciting and great work we’re doing at Ticketmaster but also to use it as a learning opportunity to hear more about Devops, maybe we can use the information to extend our own DevOps strategy, or learn what not to try potential risks to watch out for, from other people and to meet new people to make relationships.