Excelling at Enterprise DevOps With Siddharth Pareek

Posted on Monday, Apr 19, 2021
This week Mandi is joined by Siddharth Pareek to talk about DevOps in the enterprise.


Mandi Walls: Welcome to Page it to the Limit, a podcast where we explore what it takes to run software and production successfully. We cover leading practices used in the software industry to improve both system reliability and the lives of the people supporting those systems. I’m your host, Mandi Walls. Find me @lnxchk on Twitter. Thanks for joining us today. We’re talking with Siddharth Pareek, from NatWest. Siddharth tell us about who you are and what you do.

Siddharth Pareek: Hi, Mandi. Good day. Hello everyone to the audience. My name is Siddharth. I work for the NatWest Group. And what NatWest group is? NatWest Group is bank of brands. You’ve heard of NatWest Market, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, NatWest International, Adam & Company, Drummonds and the list goes on and on. So I belong to this group of banks. What I do in those group of banks is I am part of the DevOps center of excellence team. And what does DevOps center does is they don’t control anything, they help in enabling, helping, supporting the cultural mindset, technological change in lieu of having in tandem with the bank vision and the goal how it can meet down at the next level of the technology and the people.

Mandi Walls: Great. How did the bank come to start this kind of program? What about DevOps kind of looks interesting to the bank?

Siddharth Pareek: If you look from the technology perspective, you might hear talking to the people and they would say, “Let’s do DevOps. Let’s do Agile, let’s do Lean, let’s do AI, let’s do ML.” However, at the end of the river, if you talk to the business people, they would say, “We don’t want DevOps, we don’t want Agile. We aren’t bothered about whether you’re doing RPAs or AIs or ML. What we want to know is how the technology is helping us in deriving the value that we want to generate for our customer.” And there are gap into it. So I would say is the DevOps UA is trying to bridge that gap in identifying what is the business vision, values, goals, and how could it be in sync with what the IT wants to do? So what you’re seeing generally is these two different entities talk two different languages.

Mandi Walls: Yes, definitely.

Siddharth Pareek: As a center of excellence, what we start the conversation is we are not here to talk about DevOps, Agile, Lean or IT practices. The [inaudible 00:03:04] know what here understand what is your business priorities and how in those business priorities can DevOps helps you. So if you’re not marketing DevOps, we are seeing business value is the key thing we only seen where we fit in.

Mandi Walls: And what does that lead you to? Are you helping folks discover new practices and tools, or are you more as an advisory position?

Siddharth Pareek: So what we do is in short, you may consider us as more of an internal consulting firm.

Mandi Walls: Okay.

Siddharth Pareek: Which is not charging the bank for anything and everything. We are there to help and consult you. However, at the other end, what we’re trying to build is we’re trying to build up a central majority of various businesses in their DevOps, DevOps adoption journey. And when I say it, I’m just reiterating that we are not marketing DevOps. We’re just seeing how mature they are into the DevOps space. But what we’ve done is we have a peer assessment, which actually tell us 106 different capabilities of the different perception of DevOps. And after making the assessment, we have a conversation with that whole business area, which may have, let’s say between 500 to thousand people, also just a random guess of the average size of the different businesses that we have and try to create a roadmap for them in conversation, both with the IT and the business people. And then what we see is that this assessment, this roadmap is not trying to see that you have a weaker point, what we’re trying to have a conversation is there are the opportunities that we would like to highlight in front of you. So we are not talking about weaknesses or strengths, we’re just talking about the opportunities out there in front of you. So another thing that we do is creating a roadmap for them and the journey doesn’t end over there. Then we have more of a trigger than incremental fashion of measuring that roadmap of where they are. And in tandem, what we do is we help with our standard policies, guidelines, standards, which people can refer, let’s say as a DevOps, what we recommend into the CI/CD space of mainframe.

Mandi Walls: Okay.

Siddharth Pareek: What we recommend as essential, what should be the best practices for the release per se, or the coding quality or the infrastructural service. We act more as a helping hand, more of a consulting one.

Mandi Walls: Okay. Do you work with multiple groups at once or is it more say like years ago, Target in the U.S. had a Dojo program where they’d work with one team at a time to really sort of give them an intensive dev ops occasion kind of thing.

Siddharth Pareek: What has started in the last year was we were only having conversations with the businesses who wanted to have conversations with us.

Mandi Walls: Okay.

Siddharth Pareek: And this came this year, because our target is by the end of this year, every key business area should have been for them. The DevOps roadmap as a service should have been created. So we are now this year going across and talking to the business. Again, the conversations per se is we know what happens in most other conversations and many people assume, or they have a presumption that since they belong to DevOps so they will [inaudible 00:06:40] So the first thing that they start having conversations is tell us which tool to use. And usually is look guys, when we say DevOps, it doesn’t mean tools and technologies. It means the way that you work, the mindset work, the cultural aspect. And that includes the Pluton technologies. No doubt, but it also includes how agile are you, what is your business agility question? What sort of risk are you generating? How can we help in reducing your waste of that? What does it construct of the team? Are you still doing agile and not being agile? It is like the whole landscape we want to have conversation with you. And if you want to really have conversation just for the tools and technologies, then we are not the right team. The tooling team is the best people who you can have conversation.

Mandi Walls: Yeah. It sounds like you’ve got a real 360 view of what the pieces of the organization are doing. And what cultural conversations do you end up having with folks? I mean, I understand the, are you agile? Are you doing agile? Everyone loves an agile ceremony without really thinking about why they’re doing it, but what other kinds of cultural things do you talk about with your teams?

Siddharth Pareek: One of the things that we’ve done to bring that spark within the people about DevOps is we are inviting on a monthly basis industry talk for leaders to come across and share their views on different per se of DevOps, not exactly DevOps. So for example, what we’ve done is we had the Jonathan Smart this month with the alternate route “Sooner, Safer, Happier” who came across and talked about his book, then we had John Willis, who talked about the Automated Governance piece. Then we also had Dr. Mik Kersten, the CEO of Tasktop who came across and shared his part of the Project to Product. So we have a similar great folks coming across every month. This is something which we should think about. So that is one great thing. And I think that is creating a lot of conversations have started to getting across about those aspects. So that is 0.1. Second thing what we’ve done is we have created our community of practice. The DevOps CoP and we are seeing across is not who ever the DevOps enthusiastic is, wanting tourists and would like to contribute to this CoP, come across and be part of this platform, open platform. So now we have over 200 people who are part of this CoP and actively contributing to it. And of course it is both is sharing also their learning, everyone. So that is one thing that started to happen is. Coaching that we have done with the cultural piece of the organization is, as I said earlier also, we don’t have conversations around tools and technology because as a CoE we want to lead with an example that DevOps is not about tools and technologies. The other thing that we’ve done is, and culturally, what we’re doing is we’re aligning with different CoEs and the CoPs of the bank. So let’s suppose we have a business agility, we have a Microsoft as a CoP, we have a chain center of excellence CoP. What we want to see is that all the good things that you’re doing, how can we align as a organizational benefit with people can gain out of it, because what happens is, and you would have seen is every CoE and CoP talks their own language, which is nothing wrong in it, but the more harder part is how do you align to the other center of excellence and gain a common business benefit or value of it. So we are saying that, for example, when we talk about to CoE we say, “You have done great work in the industry mapping, how can we integrate what you are doing with what DevOps we can do?” So you’re bringing that benefit also.

Mandi Walls: Yeah, that’s great. You’re really bringing in a lot of different learnings then from around all these places. How did this whole thing get started? You’re at a point now where it feels like it’s a very large effort and there’s a lot of things going on, but how did it get started?

Siddharth Pareek: It got started way back when I was not even part of the DevOps UA. I have been part of other community events and practices outside that. For example, I’m part of a DevOps Institute. I’m part of the DevOps Agiles Association. Similarly, I’m part of Cloud Credential Council and open source communities within the Linux foundation project. And what I’ve learned out of this is that though I have learned it in the bookish center is if you really want to drive DevOps within your organizations, bring people more and more along with you. Create spark in their thought process, challenge them, bring fresh ideas and do something which is recognizable at the organization. And I think those ideas with each day off contributing outside NatWest in some form of voluntary doing that is bringing those ideas back to the NatWest group.

Mandi Walls: How does that as you’d bringing in speakers and giving your teams all these opportunities, are they looking at these initiatives now on their own? Or is it still more top down? Are you finding more enthusiasm for teams to organize around these ideas on their own?

Siddharth Pareek: I guess it is both grace. As in that, when I say that we are doing the DevOps community of practice, but what we’ve done is we have brought different people on to that channel. And we said, if you have any idea, what you think you want to drive it, if you want to own it, we are there to help you out and support in it. So you take up your idea, we are there to help you out. And then you create spark within the other CoP members. And by doing this, what has happened is we have made them self-dependent among themselves. We have not said, “You need to come to the CoE.” Of course, all the support that is needed from CoE is there for you. What has happened is that having many lot of feature teams I would say has been constructed in CoP. We’re doing a lot of great things within the NatWest group. For example, one of the teams have started creating a lot of bite-size videos for all what is happening in the DevOps space of the NatWest and people are loving it. Secondly, what we’ve done is we’ve created our internal DevOps educational portal, where a lot of knowledge from different people has been accumulated. And it has becoming people who watched to starting to one of the things that our feature team has done is they appear to lot of used cases for people to read the success stories, the failure stories and their journeys, and how to identify the patterns of those cases from those ideas. So in short, you’re making people more self-reliant among themselves,

Speaker 3: That sounds fantastic, especially for a large group like your banking group there’s a lot of folks to reach and it’s definitely helpful when they’re able to help each other and learn from each other directly. That’s sounds fantastic. So, as you were sort of working through all of this, is there anything that you’ve learned sort of the hard way that you wish you’d known when got going with it? Is there any of those interesting little lessons that have come up along the way?

Siddharth Pareek: Yes. I mean, there are a lot of, I can go on for the interesting thing that I’ve come across was there was that we face initially a lot of challenges with how to ensemble people at one place. We used different tools to bring them at one location. We used let’s say Microsoft Skype, chatbox. We use our intranet workplace group. We use our conference forums. How we were then freeze down to the Microsoft teams as the go-to place for channelizing all this energy. So I wish I would’ve known it. The MS Teams would work. I would have saved a lot of time and jumping from one to another. That is one thing, second learning, which I had during this whole sprint was, is really that I think that was jumping on the guns off, talking about what DevOps CoE is, how they could help across to you. For other, I should have started the conversation is what is your perception about DevOps? What is your impression about DevOps? What is your question for us? How could we help you? Learning out of this course was that at times initially I thought I was excited sort of sailing which I did not intend it at the very first place. And then the conversation kicked off around what DevOps is. But I think the one which I’ve learned now is don’t talk about what DevOps CoE is. Let’s understand from people [inaudible 00:16:35] and then have the conversations start. This will help both the business and the IT in the sense. The third thing was people want to learn a lot of things, want to implement a lot of things, but we didn’t have any channel or medium of how they can convert that energy into more concrete sense. But what happened is now I have contacts with the people, but different teams around the NatWest. Now I have given the people a platform and where they can convert their thoughts into more competence. For example, I was talking about bite-size videos. We didn’t know how to create videos into reach out and other any governance of compliance that we need to meet before we do it. Now, all those things are sorted. Now, people have the platform, it just that we have generalized energy into action.

Mandi Walls: Awesome. I really like the idea of folks once you get some successes and you find the places where people have the questions and you can really move on from the basic stuff and they start to see someone else being successful and start to adopt all those things and bring everything back to their own teams. That’s really where things start to kick up and you get more and more improvement sort of snowballs off of that. So that, yeah, definitely sounds excellent. So going forward, what other things are on your plans for this? It sounds like it’s not a one and done, right. It’s not a look dev ops is a journey anyway for organizations and as you’re continuing to evolve your practices and the things that you’re working along with your CoE, what things do you hoping to do in the future as it evolves and matures?

Siddharth Pareek: There are many things that we have planned for this year or which you want to start with? One is the cultural aspect for what we’re doing is we have scheduled a couple of events that we want to do and bridge that gap between the practitioners, between the partners of us, between the outside folks as well. So what we’re doing is, and you’re starting this one thing this month itself is a shared work session. But what happened in the shared work session will be, there will be two teams within that quest who will come across and share their one of the aspects that they have dealt to while they’re in DevOps adoption journey, it could be tools. It could be value stream management. It could be changing the old ways of working. It could be having a new ops. So there a lot of categories that we have defined. So what would happen is in this year talks, they will come up and share their journey in one of the aspects. In that same session, we are inviting one of the speakers from outside NatWest to share across how they have addressed any given problem within the DevOps space. So this is one thing we are coming up this month. And if we continue to be a monthly event. Second thing that we’re doing is we are engaging more with our partners within that. And we’re seeing that all you’ve done within the DevOps space, can you come across and share your thoughts, who the wider audience within NatWest, what you’ve done for Devs team and how it could be replicated for let’s say IT. So we are doing this event known as partner teams. Starting doing this… I know our bank is with a lot of culture that they have came up with. This is like somewhere around four centuries old group, and the banks are dated as old as 1640s, 1630s. So I understand, it cannot be a [inaudible 00:20:33] and what happens is there’s a lot of close your talks with people want to do with complete psychological safety. So we started having from this month onwards a Lean coffee session also, where the session will not get recorded, will not be streamed live as we do it in other events of our workplace. So any person who is coming into the Lean coffee session, the conversation will start there and will end there. So anything that you want to talk about, brainstorm, discuss, come up and speak, ask as possible. So that is one thing we have done is. The second thing we have done is we have got in touch with a lot of publishers. Some for example, we have got in touch with IT revolution and a lot of great books that they have published and similar publishers also. And we’re seeing that whatever grade books you have and you offer us on a… Let’s say something an exclusive price from people where something people may not be able to buy outside of that at the price. So what I’ve done is they have been very helpful and times to the idea of relations and the other publishers is getting at such a discounted prices for those people have started buying those books within the organizations of us. The thought of a bit of a streamline because of reading all those books.

Mandi Walls: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. There’s a lot of IT revolution definitely has a lot of books for folks in the audience who aren’t familiar that’s where you get your the Phoenix project and the Unicorn project and a number of other accelerate was published by IT revolution- [crosstalk 00:22:24] Yeah, Team typology is definitely another one folks should check out 100%. That’s fantastic. Are there any idiosyncrasies of all of this? You find that just because it’s a bank that’s been around for longer than the country I live in, right. It seems like such a huge undertaking, but you guys have made so much progress.

Siddharth Pareek: Yes. If I say, honestly, we just started actually doing these things. The real value will come out when people will talk, not really talk about the things that we have mentioned about, but we’ll take actions against them. So for example, what do you want to do is technologically, what we want to do is we want to build a great knowledge source which is a bit of missing in the DevOps space. What is missing is let’s say if I come across and say, “I want to do a release practice for XYZ domain.” Do I have any patents which I can replicate from other business ideas? I think we are sort of lacking in it. We need to be more mature in it. The second thing that we’re doing in the technological spaces, we want to bring a small, smart reserves to be replicated on a more localized to a more global versions but yes, we’re doing something in the mainframe space. We’re doing something let’s say in our finance space, we’re doing something in the XYZ space, but those small changes are happening locally, but they are pretty far fetch from taken to the global of macros group. So that is one team that we have for this year. And lastly, but not least we want to start a lot of practices, engineering, roles like, sorry, there have been talking about. We want to start curriculums this year in these areas as well. So what we’re doing is as a starting point, we are doing a kiosk event in the middle of this year. So we are in touch with the key stakeholders of NatWest group who have that kiosk event. I know we can get to our benefit, but yes, we are doing it.

Mandi Walls: Wow. Sounds fascinating. It sounds so busy, but at the same time, the amount of improvement and improvement for your customers and internal and external will doubtlessly be huge over the years as we wrap up, is there any final piece of advice you’d offer to anyone who might be thinking about this kind of a journey in their own organization?

Siddharth Pareek: What I’ve learned at hard ways is when you are in doubt of to do or not to do. Do rather than not doing it.

Mandi Walls: Excellent. That’s an excellent piece of advice. 100%. All right. Well that wraps us up for this episode. So thank you Siddharth for joining us. This has been absolutely fascinating. Everyone wants to know what financial institutions are up to with technology these days. So that’s been great.

Siddharth Pareek: Pleasure is mine. You being as a great host as not knowing it. I always saw as you as a great speaker, but knowing the other side of you.

Mandi Walls: Yeah. Thank you so much. All right. Well, thanks everybody for joining us. My name is Mandi Walls and I am wishing you all an uneventful day. That does it for another installment of Page to the Limit. We’d like to thank our sponsor PagerDuty for making this podcast possible. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, if you like what you’ve heard, you can find our show notes at pagetothelimit.com. And tweet us on Twitter at Page it to the Limit, using the number 2. Let us know what you think of the show. Thank you so much for joining us and remember uneventful days are beautiful days.

Show Notes

Additional Resources


Siddharth Pareek

Siddharth Pareek (he/him)

Siddharth is currently vice president of consulting leading a DevOps Center of Excellence practice for a European bank. He is a digital evangelist known for DevOps and cloud transformation primarily for the banking and finance industries. He’s an enterprise agile and lean coach focused on improving functional and financial results through the adoption of cultural mindset change.

He is also on the board of experts panel for the Cloud Credential Council (CCC) and the world’s first individual to be certified across the complete portfolio of CCC. He has co-authored a whitepaper on global digital skills and writes on multiple topics but in particular about DevOps, Agile, Lean, and ITSM. He’s a regular industry speaker at global and regional events and conferences.

He is also the Global Ambassador for DevOps Institute, Influencer for DevOps & Agile Skill association, Community Manager for Ortelius Open Source Project and Better Value Sooner Safer Happier Asia Pacific respectively, and Community Leader for Atlassian.


Mandi Walls

Mandi Walls (she/her)

Mandi Walls is a DevOps Advocate at PagerDuty. For PagerDuty, she helps organizations along their IT Modernization journey. Prior to PagerDuty, she worked at Chef Software and AOL. She is an international speaker on DevOps topics and the author of the whitepaper “Building A DevOps Culture”, published by O’Reilly.