Culture / Development / DevOps / Sponsored / Contributed

Why Service Ownership Is a Catalyst for Growth

8 Oct 2021 9:00am, by

Inga Weizman
Inga is a product marketer focused on driving go-to-market and partner activities at PagerDuty. She has 15 years of experience in the high-tech and software industry across the SMB and enterprise space, and has launched multiple products. Prior to PagerDuty, she was a marketing consultant working with startups and has also worked at Loggly, Fastly, and TrueAccord.

Every business today is becoming a digital business. In this new digital age, customers are increasingly craving great experiences. As a result, organizations need to provide an always-on experience and innovate quickly, something that can only be delivered through digital operations management.

A key piece of this is service ownership, which empowers developers to take responsibility for the code they deliver at every stage of the software/service life cycle. This in turn is helping to drive faster incident response and reduce customer impact and downtime, to provide always-on digital experiences. The value of service ownership doesn’t end there, though.

Service ownership enables developers to get closer to their customers, but also means they are experts on their particular service, giving them the ability to implement change quickly. Because they own the service end to end, development teams are more invested and deliver better code. This means they’ll spend less time firefighting and more time innovating. As we shift to digital and consumers embrace more digital services, organizations that embrace this model will be in an enviable position.

Taking Ownership

Service ownership is gaining traction precisely because digital operations have become so fundamental to business success during the pandemic. As the pressure has grown on the complex ecosystem of cloud and microservices that power modern applications, incidents are inevitable. Our research found that 80% of organizations experienced a significant increase in pressure on digital services since the start of the pandemic. Respondents also reported a 47% increase in the number of daily incidents in a six-month period.

In this context, service ownership makes a lot of sense. It encourages development teams and engineers to take full accountability for their code — from design and development, to production operation and eventual sunsetting. That means three things. First, developers are more invested in their projects, and therefore more likely to produce high-quality code less prone to failure. Second, they’ll be able to offer the quickest, most effective route to resolving any issues. Finally, they are closer to the next thing and with tighter feedback loops, they can innovate faster.

At the same time, service ownership can deliver a more fundamental benefit to the business than helping teams deliver better code and decrease customer impact and downtime. It all comes down to innovation.

Why Innovation Matters

Many organizations are sitting at a critical juncture. As economies slowly but unevenly begin to open up following lockdowns, there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. However, there is also caution. The pandemic fundamentally changed consumer demands and where businesses need to meet their customers. There is no going back to the way things were because consumer behavior and demands have changed.

This makes innovation far more important than ever. Yet for many business leaders, stability, cost-cutting and business continuity are still more important. According to McKinsey, most are playing it safe until the way forward is clearer, a decision that could come back to bite them.

Ignoring innovation projects now is a mistake. It’s key to staying competitive, keeping customers and acquiring new ones. If organizations can’t move fast enough, then they won’t be able to grasp newly emerging opportunities driven by rapidly changing customer behaviors. Just look at healthcare: The way we manage our health has become increasingly digitized. We have applications on wearables, virtual doctor checkups and virtual workout services like Peloton. Healthcare is moving to meet customers in the digital world, but to do this, teams need to be able to innovate to meet customer demand.

History tells us that innovating through crises is the right thing to do. McKinsey’s analysis of the past 14 years clearly shows that “through-crisis innovators” outperform the market by around 10%, and in the years following they do so by over 30%.

How Service Ownership Can Help

Digital success ultimately boils down to innovating faster than the competition to deliver always-on digital experiences. How does service ownership support organizations? It ensures teams spend less time reacting to problems with the software they’ve delivered. Moreover, it means teams are closer to their customers, the business and the value being delivered. Developers have a better understanding of customer demands, so can see the gaps where it’s not being met and move quickly to fill them.

This is a world away from traditional top-down approaches to development. It’s about trusting teams with greater autonomy to do right by their customers and the business. It’s about unleashing creativity and a desire to deliver amazing services and products, something that all developers share. It’s also about providing just enough general direction to make the whole thing work, while stepping back so that teams have the space they need to continually evolve and improve things as they see fit.

Getting Started

This kind of transition won’t happen overnight. It will require process and cultural change to become a reality. Few people actively embrace change, so you’ll need to win them over by showing the potential value in service ownership as early on as possible. Do this by starting small, with services already in the cloud and teams that are naturally more innovative. This will help to showcase successes to key stakeholders and demonstrate that trust and autonomy can reap some amazing results.

This must be accompanied by nurturing a blame-free culture where mistakes are not dwelled upon, but viewed as a learning opportunity. That’s the way to give your teams the confidence they need to take risks. Innovation doesn’t happen in a risk-averse culture – just look at the gains made in recent years by fintech startups versus financial sector incumbents.

The Mother of Innovation

If necessity is the mother of invention, it is also the forebear of innovation. With COVID-19, there’s never been a greater need or opportunity to capitalize on a once-in-a-generation shift in the market with new digital products and services.

Innovation must be the growth engine of this new post-pandemic era, and the cloud must be the platform on which new services are built. Service ownership plays a key role by nurturing the passion developers have for building better products. To get to this innovation nirvana, organizations must enable teams to make decisions and allow them to take ownership of services. Trusting them is for the greater good, and will ultimately enable organizations to innovate at pace and ensure a great experience for customers.

Featured image via Pixabay

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