Productivity

How DevOps teams use Slack to simplify workflows and stay productive

Engineering and operations leads from Vodafone, Solarisbank and Veepee share insights for developing a DevOps culture

Author: Jess Dawson18th November 2020

As business moves faster and tech stacks become more complex, companies are sprinting to keep up. Engineering and operations teams face intense pressure to push out better code on shorter timelines. That’s why DevOps teams worldwide have turned to Slack for everything from code reviews to cross-functional communication that leads to stronger features and faster releases – and a competitive advantage.

In a recent webinar, How Engineering does DevOps using Slack, engineering and operations leaders from Vodafone, Solarisbank and Veepee shared how their teams use Slack to unlock productivity, streamline release cycles and solve incidents in record time. We’ve captured some of their top insights and practices for you here.

Solarisbank speeds up incident response and meets regulatory standards

For the Berlin-based fintech outfit that describes itself as ‘a tech company with a banking licence’, churning out innovative financial products and services is imperative. ‘Slack is, for us, the most efficient way to connect people, teams and machines with each other’, says Dennis Winter, Solarisbank’s vice president of TechOps.

Dennis Winter, vice president, TechOps, Solarisbank

‘Slack is, for us, the most efficient way to connect people, teams and machines with each other.’

Dennis WinterVice president, TechOps, Solarisbank


To grease the gears for incident management, Winter’s team have developed a custom app for Slack called Perry. When an incident occurs, the on-call responder uses the app to automatically create a ticket and an incident-specific channel to loop others in. After clearing the ticket, the team exports the channel’s contents and attaches them to the official incident documentation. ‘Slack helps us a lot in efficiently dealing with incidents’, Winter says. ‘Our teams know to look in the corresponding incident channel when we have a problem.’ 

As a business with a full German banking licence, Solarisbank has to comply with different sets of regulations. With Slack’s data residency feature, Winter can tick the box on data storage requirements. ‘We can say that our data resides in Germany, and that is what German regulators are looking for’, Winter says. The company also leverages Slack’s customisable retention settings. ‘We have the option to create retention rules, which basically means that we are deleting Slack messages, and all the information that was shared, after a year’, he says. ‘This is a crucial functionality for us.’ 

Slack also makes day-to-day communications more efficient, particularly when many people are working from home. The platform brings the team and its tools together in one place, says Winter: ‘The openness of Slack – where we have the APIs, where we can integrate certain tooling, where we can create transparency – is a great support if you’re developing a variety of products.’ 

Online retailer Veepee builds a strong tech community in channels

When Julien Mangeard joined French online retailer Veepee as CTO, he introduced Slack as part of a bigger plan to position the company as a technology leader in e-commerce. ‘The first step of the plan’, says Antoine Millet, Veepee’s head of IT operations, ‘was to change the communication culture at Veepee with a multi-platform, simple-to-use, accessible and flexible tool – so, Slack.’

Pivoting from email to Slack offered the ability to create a strong, cohesive tech community inside the company. Beginning with a trial run of 300 engineers, Veepee eventually scaled the deployment to all 6,000 employees, and gave each tech stack its own Slack channels to enable people to ask questions and get help from other engineers.

Antoine Millet, head of IT operations, Veepee

‘The first step of the plan was to change the communication culture at Veepee with a multi-platform, simple-to-use, accessible and flexible tool – so, Slack.’

Antoine MilletHead of IT operations, Veepee


After making it de rigueur for teams to communicate in public channels rather than private emails, the company’s tech leaders have turned their focus to Slack’s potential for centralising incident response. Millet’s team have developed a detailed incident database that includes everything from minor typos to major website issues. Rather than having to manually enter details for each incident, critical information is piped in from the corresponding incident channel. In fact, 80% of the database’s incident management fields are filled in automatically via Slack.

For Veepee, it’s not just about tools and processes. Slack facilitates a culture of communication and transparency that underpins the company’s DevOps success. ‘We’ve created a whole, complete ecosystem for many teams’, Millet says. ‘Nowadays, we’ve started raising more widely the idea of democratising DevOps.’

Vodafone reduces time to resolution with automated workflows

The tech leaders at global telecom provider Vodafone originally turned to Slack as a foundation for implementing modern engineering practices. From code rules to pairing to releasing, all the company’s worldwide brands now rely on Slack workspaces for collaboration, according to Robert Greville, Vodafone’s head of web engineering.  

With Slack, Greville saw an opportunity to simplify complex processes, such as release requests. ‘Last month we did 120 direct releases to production’, he says. ‘With that amount of releases, it became quite difficult for the release team to keep on top of all the requests that were coming in to them.’ 

To manage the influx, the release team used Workflow Builder, a simple tool for automating routine tasks, to get a handle on developers’ release requests and preferred deployment dates. Today, developers simply fill in a form with the release name, details and its associated Azure DevOps ticket. The details are posted in a public channel, giving both the release and development teams an up-to-date view of what’s happening and when. 


PagerDuty has proved to be another key integration. With one quick slash command in Slack, the incident response team can determine who’s on call, who’s responding to an incident and who owns the service. By surfacing the correct contact in seconds, Vodafone has cut its mean time to resolution from 15 to 20 minutes down to five.

‘Slack provides a lot of opportunity for us to be able to raise incidents directly, through an instant communications channel that has not only our digital teams in it, but also our stakeholders from ops and brand’, Greville says. ‘Right from the start, you have everyone you need because it’s pulling in the right people – from who’s on call from the development team to who’s on operations during that time of the day.’

Robert Greville, head of web engineering, Vodafone

‘Right from the start, you have everyone you need because it’s pulling in the right people – from who’s on call from the development team to who’s on operations during that time of the day.’

Robert GrevilleHead of web engineering, Vodafone

 

Whether teams are looking to improve cross-functional collaboration, respond to incidents faster or simplify complex processes, Slack provides the platform to support their needs. While DevOps is never easy, automated workflows and channel-based communication can make it more pleasant, efficient and productive.  

 

 

 

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