A Step-by-Step Guide to Updating Legacy Processes in Your Org

Changing the way teams work is hard. Just think how hard it is to change just yourself. Then sprinkle in the difficulty of getting a group of people using various applications moving in the same direction.

We’ve talked to a lot of teams, and we’ve heard many variations on the same theme in terms of obstacles they foresee in implementing continuous integration:

“My company is a 20 year old company with established processes. Bringing in Continuous Integration would be a huge change to our culture, there are security implications, and it requires a major retooling. I’m going to have to sell this to my boss.”

So, where do you start when embarking on selling a new idea to your boss, to your team, and to everyone else you need to convince to invest? What follows is my tried-and-true method for creating change in a large organization. You can use it to help your team adopt CI/CD (which we heartily recommend), or any other new tooling or process you might want to implement.

Understand Your Company Priorities

Orphaned initiatives are doomed to failure. Any changes you want to make need to align to company priorities. Whenever I start a new job or a new project, the first thing I do is make sure to understand company priorities, how various teams are measured, and what my performance will be judged against. What is success? What is a win? If you don’t know this information, it will be impossible to make a compelling case for the project you want to undertake.

Your goal at this stage is get alignment between your initiative, the company priorities, and your stakeholder’s care-abouts.

Identify Your Haters

Beyond identifying company priorities, it is just as important to understand the people involved. Do they agree with what you’re trying to do? Do they have competing initiatives? What are they being measured on? Understand what objections they have, and address the objections in your plan. And then you have your haters. These are the folks who say, “that idea won’t work.” It might be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they have seen a similar idea attempted and then failed. Perhaps they just disagree. The good thing about having haters is that it helps you identify the weak points in your ideas and your plans. So, engage your haters, and learn from them.

A good reference for how to go about the discussion with stakeholders is discussed in “The First 90 Days,” by Michael D. Watkins.

Excerpt from the First 90 Days: Adopting Structure Learning Methods

Ask them essentially the same five questions:

  • What are the biggest challenges the organization is facing (or will face in the near future)?
  • Why is the organization facing (or going to face) these challenges?
  • What are the most promising unexploited opportunities for growth?
  • What would need to happen for the organization to exploit the potential of these opportunities?
  • If you were me, what would you focus attention on?

Start Small

Nothing is more disheartening than facing what looks like an insurmountable challenge. Instead, you want to break the work into small, bite-sized pieces. And, one of the ways you can start small is conducting a proof-of-concept that is low risk and low cost.

Tip: Make the project less scary for everyone involved. One way to do this is by positioning your project as a test. Let other teams know that this is “just a test” to validate the solution.

Scope your project so that you can test the concept, get results, and finish the work within a quarter (or ideally, faster). This will lower the level of investment required for the project and the project risk. More importantly, you will get results faster that you can take back to your team.

Scale Your Idea, When It’s Ready

You’ve completed your proof of concept and have seen success. You’ve increased your KPI’s by your target percentage. Congratulations! So, what’s next?

Now is the time to roll out your initiative at scale. The process is similar to what you did earlier to get the proof of concept in motion, but just at scale. But, even better, you now have hard numbers to back up your claims.

Update your original pitch with the results of your proof of concept.

  • Include quotes from the project participants.
  • Identify what didn’t work and how you’ll improve upon the execution as you scale.
  • Include your suggested rollout plan. Get feedback from the core team on what the rollout plan should look like.
  • Identify the resources required to scale your program. Ideally, include three options for the rollout plan: the skinned down version, the mid-sized version, and the deluxe version.

Meet with your manager to go over what you learned and what you’re proposing to scale the initiative to the larger organization. What happens after this depends on the size of your organization and the established processes for getting new programs in place.

Though you’re now out of the proof-of-concept phase, it helps to rollout your initiative in phases and learn from each phase. Also, segmenting your audience and then rolling it out to them in phases allows you to tweak the processes and tools as needed for their specific needs.

Starting a Proof-of-Concept Using CircleCI

It takes time and dedication to build and scale a new business capability across your organization. We have seen what a difference continuous integration and delivery can make for teams so we want to make it easy for you to bring CI/CD into your organization.

We’ve spoken to a lot of developers. Most of them like to start by getting a sense of how CircleCI works. It’s easy to sign up with CircleCI using your GitHub or Bitbucket login. If you’re not ready for that yet, you can sign-up with your Google login and check out some of our sample projects. Check out this video from Fun Fun Function for a great walk-through of how to get CircleCI working.

Tips for starting a proof-of-concept with CircleCI:

  • Start with a single repository.
  • …and an uncomplicated app or microservice.
  • Write tests for each feature you build.
  • Measure your speed and show your boss how much more quickly you’re moving than the monolith.

If you’re from a larger organization and want to try our behind the firewall product, sign-up to start a free trial. You can easily install CircleCI on an AWS server using our single-box install process. We also have product engineers who will help you and your team through the installation process during the trial period.

Creating big tooling or process changes in your organization can be hard. I hope this post has given you some ideas and useful resources for implementing change on your team or in your company. Do your research, start small, and track your successes!

Need a little more help figuring out exactly what to say to your higher-ups? Our dev advocate Alek Sharma has you covered with an email you can send to your boss today.