In the summer of 2014, I became convinced that NCR needed a more agile and consistent delivery process to safely enable our customers to grow their businesses beyond the four walls of the restaurant and into the new opportunities presented by mobile first consumers. While I was no stranger to continuous integration and a testable pipeline for releases (what I was pleased to learn people call DevOps), I realized that our customers were not going to feel the full power of our investment into their success until we created a safe, repeatable, rapidly executable pipeline to transfer that value to them.
I remember meeting with multiple people inside and outside of NCR who counseled me to get closer to our revenue and away from the “cost” focused operations space. I couldn’t let go of my intuition; if our customers weren’t realizing the true value of our development, then those investments are by definition worthless! So I had to dive into this opportunity and work to change the game for our customers and NCR’s future.
That future became the present just a few short weeks ago on a Sunday evening. A key customer wanted to go all-in with an online ordering promotion for the Super Bowl this Sunday. They demanded capacity from us that went beyond our ability to provide by just adding a few more machines. We decided to best serve this customer and all of our customers that we were going to build another production environment from the ground up on one of our most complicated but strategically important SaaS products.
When I started this journey, this would have been an unthinkable level of risk. But since our forward thinking leadership invested in our partnership with Chef, the new environment was provisioned in a fraction of the time that we expected, and with full safety and consistency that we needed to be confident that we could meet our targets. When our customer did stress tests, the product team was able to quickly react to any issues and we had the confidence that we were going to increase stability through rapid change.
At one point on Sunday evening, we ran into a snag with our deployment. We had a problem with Chef that would have blocked us from moving forward. I got on slack and asked a member of my customer success team, Thomas Cate, for help. He directed me to customer support. Within ten minutes of filing the issue, Zach Zondlo, on a Sunday evening at 8PM Central Time, responded and got on our conference bridge to help us out. The problem was resolved in ten minutes. That experience alone was a mic drop moment for our partnership with Chef. The people at Chef know how important operations is and culturally assign the priority and dedication that high severity situations warrant.
As we approach the big day on Sunday with a customer who will grow their revenue in a way they couldn’t have imagined just a few short years ago, I’m reminded of how my our partnership with Chef has meant to NCR and to me personally.
I’m reminded of the early days when Matt Stratton believed that we could do this, even when I wondered how we were going to get everyone on board with such an ambitious and forward thinking plan.
I’m reminded of the patient and understanding ear Justin Redd gave me as he walked me through the difficult and frustrating early days where I had to get so much operational alignment from so many people in order to make Chef a reality in production. Justin never came to me with a formula. He and his team listened, and helped us down a path that was good for us first. They knew if we succeeded they would succeed.
I’m reminded of my newfound respect for sales and my long strategic conversations with Brittany Shaeffer. Brittany has helped me realize that value needs connection to be realized. So many times those of us with an engineering background think that technical outcomes will just stand on their own merits to the business. The sales organization at Chef does a phenomenal job at helping me make that value a reality for all stakeholders, so the business can provide the fuel necessary achieve a high velocity delivery model.
And I’m reminded of my friend Nathen Harvey who welcomed this BigCorp Texan into a world in which I felt more than a little out of place. I was only months into my Chef journey and for some reason submitted a talk to ChefConf that was accepted. By the time I got there I was completely convinced that I didn’t belong there. Nathen personally welcomed me into the Chef Community and showed me that I belonged there. I found this spirit of acceptance and inclusion so compelling that I felt safe enough to introduce my wife Annie into it. And the community has shown a tremendous amount of respect and support to Annie which has already had a profound affect on our future.
I’m so happy to have gotten to this milestone in our partnership with Chef. I’m so happy to have leadership that believed in the vision and gave me the freedom and resources to execute that vision. I’m fortunate to know so many people within NCR that were able to take a chance and believe in what we were trying to accomplish. It truly takes a village to get anything done in a large organization, and I’m fortunate to be a part of a great one.
Our partnership with Chef is only beginning. As we scale our solution to use Chef Automate, secure our expansion with Compliance, and add even more of our product suites to Chef, we’re confident that the best is yet to come!