Digital.ai has transformed options for IT processes for trucking and logistics company Schneider. Now teams can use services without needing extensive onboarding, additional access or time-consuming approvals.
Schneider is one of the largest trucking and logistics companies in North America with nearly US$5 billion in annual operating revenue.
Like many modern enterprises, Schneider increasingly relies on digitizing its business; the applications it develops, deploys and manages are critical assets that keep its business running.
However, despite adopting agile development practices, Schneider continued to face delays and bottlenecks in software delivery processes.
Pat Krah, Vice President of Infrastructure, Schneider, said: “Speed to market is essential when delivering innovative capabilities to the business. Our old processes and tools did not allow us to deliver these capabilities in a timely, high quality and consistent manner.”
The Digital.ai Value Stream Platform’s Release Orchestration and Deployment Automation features have enabled Schneider to standardize and automate application releases to all of its environments, both on-premises and in the cloud.
With Digital.ai, Schneider has eliminated hand-offs between teams, automated common developer workflows and gained visibility into processes so it can measure performance and identify areas for improvement. Thanks to Digital.ai, agile teams at Schneider can deliver software faster with fewer hurdles, providing better value to the business.
Background: Scaling up after an agile transformation
Several years ago, the tech team at Schneider was facing challenges that IT teams at many large, innovative enterprises face: an increasing demand for features and functionality from the business, combined with pressure to develop and release software faster using the tools and resources it already had.
“We needed to deliver more with the tech team we had at the time, without adding staff or outsourcing work,” said Amanda Heintz, Release Manager at Schneider.
To address this business need, Schneider started adopting agile development practices that would help it push incremental improvements to users more frequently. However, even after improving their development strategy, teams still faced bottlenecks in the process required to release applications to their environments.
Schneider performed a root cause analysis on the software delivery process and discovered a large number of hand-offs between individuals and across teams.
“We diagrammed what was needed to build one application and deploy it to just one environment and we immediately saw that there were a lot of hand-offs that caused delays. Multiplying those delays across all of our environments meant huge amounts of wasted time. That was really a tipping point for us. We knew we needed a Release Orchestration tool that would help us address that waste,” said Heintz.
The root cause analysis also uncovered the fact that development teams often relied on informal, undocumented information about how to build and release applications.
“We have people who have been in the tech department for 30-plus years, so they have a lot of tribal knowledge. When they need something, they know who to talk to. That makes it hard to onboard new team members because they first have to learn the ‘go-to people’ who can help them get things done,” said Heintz.
From tribal knowledge to executable documentation
To address process bottlenecks, Schneider defined two main goals: eliminate time-wasting hand-offs and make it easier to onboard new developers.
“We needed to better enable our developers to safely deliver value to the business faster, more frequently, at higher quality and with confidence,” said Krah. To achieve these goals, Schneider needed a solution that could automate a variety of release tasks and that would be easy for everyone to learn and use.
Schneider chose the Digital.ai Value Stream Platform for its powerful Release Orchestration and Deployment Automation capabilities, along with its out-of-the-box support for many different types of environments.
Using Digital.ai, Schneider can automate release work that required manual hand-offs in the past. Schneider now uses Digital.ai to deploy applications to a variety of target technologies, including a large on-premise Oracle installation, an on-premise cloud running on OpenShift and public cloud environments on AWS and Microsoft Azure.
The Digital.ai Value Stream Platform has also helped Schneider turn tribal knowledge into workflows that are not just documented- they’re executable. Schneider now defines commonly used workflows as standardized, reusable templates in Digital.ai Release.
“Capturing our release procedures in templates means developers can onboard themselves to our standard way of doing things. Digital.ai Release is so intuitive and easy to use that they know it’s their one-stop shop for almost everything that they need,” said Heintz.
In addition to release and deployment work, Schneider has used the Digital.ai Value Stream Platform to automate tasks such as configuring infrastructure, patching middleware, upgrading databases, setting up Git repositories and creating change requests. Agile teams can run these processes themselves, so they’re no longer stuck searching for the right person to help them.
“The flexibility of the Digital.ai Value Stream Platform has been key for our success,” said Heintz.
“The platform gives us endless options for automating IT processes so teams can use services without needing extensive onboarding, additional access or time-consuming approvals. No other tool can do that without custom scripting.”
A single source of truth for software delivery
The Digital.ai Value Stream Platform is now Schneider’s single source of truth for standardized procedures, real-time information about the status of active tasks and historical information that can be used for continuous improvement.
Digital.ai provides all stakeholders with visibility into workflows in one centralized place. Agile teams can easily see where they are in a running process and what tasks are coming up in the flow, while the IT team can see which environments are in use at any given time, so they can plan maintenance work more effectively.
In addition, one-click dashboards make it easy for Schneider to see how many release tasks have been automated so far and measure whether the level of automation in its processes is increasing over time.
“Because we have Digital.ai as a single source of truth for our processes, we can measure key performance indicators such as lead time from commit to production,” Heintz said.
“The data Digital.ai captures has also helped us start working on other areas that need attention, such as environment reservations and maintenance scheduling.”
Continuing to grow
The Digital.ai Value Stream Platform provides a solid foundation for the automated processes that help Schneider’s agile teams deliver applications faster with higher quality. Schneider now relies on Digital.ai for a new initiative in its business: a mobile application that will support the thousands of freight carriers it works with every day.
Justin Sachs, Director of Operational Excellence, said: “While building a brand-new, consumer-grade mobile app, we used Digital.ai Release and Digitial.ai Deploy as key components to automate our Microsoft Azure infrastructure.
“As we develop and test a digital marketplace that will be used by over 35,000 carriers, our ability to continuously deliver software is key for our success.”
While Schneider has come a long way in its agile and DevOps practices, there’s always room to grow. Schneider plans to continue identifying and implementing impactful changes that save time and streamline processes. It also conducts regular information sharing sessions to promote DevOps culture throughout the company.
“We’re excited to keep working with Digital.ai to innovate and find ways to make ourselves more efficient, so we can continue to deliver real value to the business,” said Heintz.
Intelligent CIO asked Shaleen Devgun, CIO at Schneider, further questions about the implementation.
What do you consider to be the most valuable features of Digital.ai’s Release and Deploy solutions?
Digital Transformation is a key driver of Schneider’s strategy and ability to remain competitive. Transformation is occurring in all areas across the enterprise, and tech has moved into a very strategic position to drive transformation through automation.
Orchestrating our release process has made a huge impact on the work we do and Digital.ai’s Release and Deploy solutions have played a key role in unlocking accelerated software delivery as part of our DevOps transformation.
Can you explain how XL Release has helped you plan, automate and analyze your software delivery pipelines?
Plan – Ability to identify all tasks and hand-offs within release process.
Analyze – By capturing all manual tasks, we gained visibility every step in the process to release software.
Automate – By gaining visibility to these tasks, we were able to automate tasks to gain efficiencies. Continuously analyzing our pipelines and tasks has continued to a quicker development lifecycle.
How far has XL Release provided insight into your software delivery processes?
XL Release has forced us to identify all tasks, hand-off, tools, etc. If we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have been able to develop orchestrated pipelines. Another insight was through uncovering tasks and hand-offs that were not visible previously.
How have XL Release’s metrics facilitated you to understand and optimize your processes?
Manual verses automated tasks.
Slowest running tasks and releases.
Continuously improve based on XL Release metrics.
How has Digital.ai’s Deploy Solution facilitated you to realize the benefits of agile, DevOps and continuous delivery?
Agile – Pipeline gives agile planning a predetermined path to production that simplifies agile team planning.
DevOps – Provides automated, reliable and repeatable process to deliver code.
Continuous Delivery – Build once, deploy same artifact many times that inspires confidence. Provides insight to code drift.
How has XL Deploy helped you to deploy a growing number of applications to an increasing number of target systems?
XLD is flexible in that you define your application, environments and infrastructure. At time of deployment those variables are injected into a compiled package. For example, we could take the same spring boot service and deploy it to three different cloud providers with little to no extra effort.
Why have the products become your developers’ go-to-solutions?
Consistent, repeatable and reliable processes defined by technology.
User friendly and intuitive to use.
Easy to onboard new developers.
Self-service processes with built in governance instead of waiting for teams to complete requests.
Agnostic, technology-based approach to pipelines creates standardized processes and eliminates reliance of specialized/tribal knowledge.
How have the solutions enhanced your agility?
Eliminate custom scripting for automated deployments (three months to onboard automated deployments for a new application to onboarding to an existing technology-based pipeline in less than a day).
Technology approach to pipelines verses custom scripted process by application
build governance into process – automated change creation, for example.