It seems that now, more than ever, everything is moving at the speed of light, including business. There are growing expectations, new product ideas, a world of test and learn and an overwhelming thirst for data — lots of it — and in real time. Most companies in this day and age, Allstate included, are able to use information in real time and for long-term strategic decisions. The data is being constantly ingested, from a rapidly growing and changing list of sources, and is being used in ways that weren’t even conceptualized a year or even a few months ago. The challenge is to keep pace with the rising demands of real time product development.

In the past, keeping up with these accelerating demands might come though faster turnarounds, shorter deadlines and, where necessary, later nights at the office. But these fixes have offered incremental improvements in accelerating the production of a finished product. There remains a widening gap between business expectations and the ability of IT teams to produce the tools needed in the time desired.

Faced with such scenarios, IT infrastructure leaders need to think radically. Sometimes, when you need to get to the finish line faster, you can speed up the car. Other times, however, you need to find ways to shorten the race track.

One technique that has helped improve speed and efficiency is DevOps, using standardization, full automation and tighter alignment to the business’s needs. By moving from custom to standard, and from physical to virtual or software services-based infrastructure, companies can see their product development cycle shrink, and that can mean the difference between customers getting what they want from you or going somewhere else. This environment enables products to be developed through a test-and-learn approach or extreme agile methodology, removing delays in infrastructure delivery and putting the power into product developers’ hands.

These kinds of shifts in standards, delivery processes and operating models do not come easy or without challenges. You run the gamut of changes, from process to environmental to workflow to organizational and even cultural. More and more as technology drives business, it’s critical for organizations to accept change and become good at it — with velocity. It’s human nature to resist change but, in this case, any hesitation or resistance could be fatal to the efforts. DevOps is a model; it’s not for every environment or every company. The goal is to enable the business to function at speed — however you get there depends on all the challenges mentioned and more.

Andy Zitney is Senior Vice President, Technology & Operations, Information Services at Allstate.

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