Transformation of Reliability Engineering to Platform Engineers

Data Integration Platforms is an internal organization within Dell Digital which accelerates business outcomes by providing secure, robust and ‘as-a-service’ platform solutions. The organization enables the enterprise applications to integrate anything, anywhere at anytime​. I would like to share a success story of how we recently transformed our process and organization by introducing a new “Service COE.” This group performs activities in service of stakeholders with the objective of enabling and accelerating the creation of products and enhancing their experience.

Product Model at Dell Digital

Dell Digital started its product transformation journey in 2019 and is committed to embracing the product-driven software development model fully by Q4 2022. Transitioning to the product model is enabling teams to deliver new business more quickly and increase our software ecosystem’s quality and security capabilities. Team members are better aligned with the business in an agile fashion, applying modern methods and technologies, allowing them to own their end-to-end products, deepen their expertise and spend more time on high-value work.

Product Taxonomy is the organization of product teams at Dell Digital in a four tier hierarchy – Product, Product Line, Experience and Domain. The structures ensure that teams working together are in proximity.

    • Product is an independently built, delivered, managed and evolved collection of software that provides both business and user outcomes; Products have explicit responsibilities and have well-defined interfaces and workflows, be they API or GUI. The product’s entire life-cycle is owned by a single dedicated product team.
    • Product Line is a logical grouping of related products, that delivers a cohesive business and/or user capability.
    • Experience is a logical grouping of product lines that enables an end-to-end user outcome; an experience may be via a UI or purpose-specific APIs. A business process may be a suitable substitute for a user outcome.
    • Domain is the overarching functional area that contains the experiences necessary to deliver a business function. It serves as a logical grouping and does not affect product management or strategy of individual experiences for day-to-day operations.

A Center of Excellence (COE) is an organization or team that supports best practice operation for product teams. These teams provide processes, training and set standards to help product teams be more responsive to customer and business needs, increase productivity and empower teams to deliver high-quality secure software. Examples are End-to-End (E2E) testing or Site Reliability Engineering (SRE).

Product Model within Data Integration Platforms Organization

There are three primary roles in the Product model – Product Manager, Engineer and Designer. The product teams use the Product Operations Maturity Assessment (POMA) tool to understand their maturity status in adopting the Dell Digital Way to develop and deliver products, measured against four levels of maturity.

Early 2020, the Data Integration Platform organization began transforming teams to operate in the product model for our seven products – B2B, Service Integration, Orchestration, Cloud Integration, Messaging, Streaming and Integration as-a-Service. These are supported by Reliability COE, who focus on maintaining stability teams and efficiency across all products, providing tools and training to enable product teams to manage their own operations. By mid-2020, product managers consolidated multiple project backlogs into a single backlog for their respective areas. By 2021, our roadmap planning process was aligned to the product model.

During 2021, while we wanted teams to be self-directed and autonomous, we realized we were not there yet. As we found cross-product issues, we took them as opportunities to automate and prevent their recurrence in a future release. We gained deeper insights into customers’ operational environment and problems they faced. We discovered opportunities to improve how our product teams and COE are organized.

Introducing the Service COE Team

The leadership team recognized the need to drive improvements across our customer experience and the need for a focused team who could keep the product teams away from the operational whirlwind and more focused on roadmap delivery. As we planned the COE construct of Product Taxonomy alignment for 2022, we envisioned a Service COE team that would enable Dell Digital through best-in-class automation and customer experience around integration products. This group would transform people from Reliability CoE to product engineers.

The key charter of this team is to:

    • Unify the Customer engagement experience across different products, managing customer service requests through the INaaS (Integration as a Service) engagement process
    • Enable the product teams to maximize platform engineering focus by owning Customer Engagement
    • Accelerate automation outcomes by partnering with product teams
    • Contribute to smart monitoring framework by developing more dashboards and monitors to improve the operations excellence

Reaping the Benefits

We launched “Data Integration Services COE” in early January, bringing team members together from Product Team and Reliability COE. Since the team’s inception, we have observed significant changes in the Product Engineering team’s ability to focus on their roadmap without distractions. Their efforts have contributed to automation and self-service capabilities improvements using the Integration as a Service (INaaS) framework. These improvements are enhancing our customer experience, improving quality and speed of product delivery and increasing the POMA maturity levels for all products.

Continuously maturing products is a key lever to digital transformation. It will optimize our organizational structure and processes, thus increasing value we provide for our customers and business partners. Our organization is strongly positioned to meet the Dell Digital targets of fully embracing the product transformation by end of 2022.

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