Bluemix Garage Method: Act Like a Startup, Deliver at Enterprise Scale

5 min read

Bluemix Garage Method: Act Like a Startup, Deliver at Enterprise Scale

“If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won’t have the time. For there’s always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing…”

—The Terrible Trivium in the novel The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

In May 2014, Ginni Rometty challenged us to ‘restlessly reinvent‘ IBM, moving with speed and purpose. The challenge included a call to ensure the future of the company by becoming a cloud-based provider of innovative solutions that provide clear value to our clients. At IBM, this has meant taking advantage of opportunities to learn from a wide mix of users, open technology communities, and even our competitors.


Along the way, we figured out how to apply key principles and practices from IBM’s own design thinking, Lean Startup and Agile development practices, along with the methods being taught at our IBM Bluemix Garage, and the best practices learned over the many years that IBM has been partnering with open communities: setting up methods (e.g. remote pairing) and tools chains (e.g. OpenStack Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery) that have been tested by thousands of open source developers worldwide. All of this experience was fused with a dynamic cloud environment to craft our way of working to deliver, efficiently, what our customers actually want.

So, we had all of this knowledge to work from, but the starting point for any journey is really to understand where you want to go and why. What is the objective of your epic quest? The reason we started on the DevOps journey: To harness the power and speed of the cloud to deliver innovative, high quality software.

Sign up for IBM Bluemix and start building

Origins of the Bluemix Garage Method

Most enterprises have large development organizations that were hired and have optimized their skills for other types of work. In order for the company to continue to be successful, that workforce requires training, tools, support and the ability to embrace a new way of working. At IBM, we understood that we had an army of talented people that we needed to help make the leap for IBM to become a Cloud company.

As David Lindquist, IBM Fellow, VP of Development, Mobile and Cloud DevOps, puts it, “It was changing the way we operate by driving the core decision making deeper into the organization”, that became important. With this we recognized the need to adopt DevOps shifting our focus from Agile. We embarked on our DevOps journey to transform our way of working.

Transforming at IBM

In order to help our software organizations and scale the transformation across the entire Cloud unit, we developed a Leadership program to enable each team to learn and apply Continuous Improvement techniques. The program is designed to:

  • Explain, socialize and create buy-in momentum from the leadership team. Everyone needs to understand the business objectives and the direction.

  • Assist the leadership team in understanding the current condition. How are they delivering today? Who is on their staff?

  • Use workshop methods to determine the first target condition and steps to get there.

  • Launch the leadership to continue the journey

Fundamentals to success

At IBM we have found that some practices are fundamental to success. Each team is self-directed and approaches the “how” differently, but we all strive to

  • Focus on user outcome – what is the problem to solve and who is the customer? (link to IBM Design Thinking on the garage website)

  • Continuous Improvement – iteratively learn, try, experiment, fix. Weekly reflections keep the team focused on improving their way of working.

  • Continuous Delivery – building the infrastructure and unattended automation is the underpinning to many of the modern best practices in software delivery such as small batches, hypothesis-driven development and failing fast.

A program takes shape

Beyond supporting the practices above, even self-directed teams can use some help. A jumpstart, if you will. There are a lot of method, practice and tool choices out there. We have taken industry best practices and created a framework for understanding what works best for most teams at IBM.

The framework describes the IBM approach to expanding the Lean “Idea-Build-Learn” loop to an enterprise scale. There are complementary methods and practices that rely upon and feed into each other to enable continuous learning. We continuously improve “all of the above,” i.e. the framework and process for transformation; each team and their way of working; each product and its ability to meet the needs of customers.

Our developers attend a weeklong training session to learn the practices and tools and apply them directly to their own project during that week. The training includes opportunities to learn and apply practices from the open source community like pair programming, pull requests and using the open source tools “the cool kids use.” Squads attend together, so they can practice Continuous Improvement and identify gaps in their ability to do Continuous Delivery. They leave camp armed to experiment and learn how to apply the methods and practices in the framework.

Bluemix Garage program for our customers

While developing and continuously improving our transformation program within IBM, it was clear that many of our enterprise customers are also on this journey. To bring our way of working to our customers, we have developed the Bluemix Garage program. Take a quick peek at what we’re doing in the garage. Check out Rachel Reinitz’s blog on a day in the life of the Bluemix Garage.

This journey is a long-term adventure. It is not a hike with a trailhead and a destination with a view. At each step of the way, we continue to listen and learn from our customers, our business objectives and continuously, or should I say “restlessly”, improve.

This is only the beginning. Visit our IBM Bluemix Garage Method site to learn more about the transformation:

Be the first to hear about news, product updates, and innovation from IBM Cloud