This is a guest post from Alida Miranda-Wolff, the Director of Platform at Hyde Park Angels.
Dan Murray is the Swiss Army Knife of software startups, heading up everything from engineering to operations and sales as a founder of three successful companies, two of which went public. Most recently, Dan built Workiva, a cloud platform for reporting, compliance, and data management that serves 70% of Fortune 500 companies.
Dan’s experiences with the cloud from its very beginnings, including introducing JP Morgan’s first-ever cloud solution, taught him the importance of building robust, scalable, and nimble engineering organizations. In a recent episode of the HPA People First podcast, Dan shared the core components of a successful engineering team at any software startup, including why DevOps is an essential leadership role, with Managing Director Pete Wilkins.
“I build collaborative B2B software. I look for a real business challenge, something that has a high degree of pain where people are spending hours, days, weeks, doing something manually that they can automate with software to facilitate collaboration and communication,” said Dan.
To do this effectively, the software must be high quality, scalable, and adaptable, which means so does the engineering team. However, even the best engineering teams develop silos that get in the way of producing top-performing solutions. That is why Dan recommends building Development Operations (DevOps) into your entire organization.
While DevOps experts and leaders wear many hats, they tend to have a few universal functions. They “typically sit in the middle of the dev team… [and] take the results of a build and deploy it in the cloud,” said Dan. They are also responsible for scaling infrastructure and often take ownership of the revision control system and the continuous integration platform.
DevOps leaders become especially important in a continuous release process. In this model, the release process is a “moving train” as opposed to a “big bang software release.” Instead of building everything at once and releasing it together, continuous release allows for the new elements to “get on the train while the ones that are not ready wait for the next car,” said Dan. This allows engineers to focus on quality and speed first, which customers expect, especially in a business that relies heavily on cloud.
In this scenario, DevOps is involved in many aspects of development, allowing them to catch new features and ensure they are deployed at the right time in the right way. On many engineering teams, DevOps exists as one isolated team responsible for solving and managing this multi-faceted process. The ideal situation, however, is to incorporate DevOps leaders into the whole of the engineering team to ensure more gets caught, evaluated, and properly deployed.