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Prompted and supported DevOps transformation. Delivery capability enhanced.

Ministry of Justice: Decisive evidence of the case for DevOps

We helped the MOJ's development teams optimise their ways of working for an Agile and DevOps approach – but it was the compelling evidence we provided of the power of automation that proved the turning point in establishing a DevOps culture.

COMPANY BACKGROUND

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is a UK government department which aims to deliver a world-class justice system.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is a UK government department which aims to deliver a world-class justice system. To this end, MOJ embarked on the Common Platform Programme (CPP), designed to speed up and simplify the work of courts and tribunals.

The CPP is creating a digital platform to replace existing case management systems, providing a single repository from which all relevant agencies can access case materials. IndigoBlue has been supporting its development since 2015.

The challenge

The first service to be created was the Automated Track Case Management (ATCM) system. ATCM is designed to fast-track the preparation and resolution of certain case types by enabling cases to be submitted electronically by the prosecutor, and pleas and fine payments to be made electronically on the spot without requiring Magistrates’ Court time.

On arrival, our principal consultant – a Senior DevOps Engineer – encountered a traditionally structured IT organisation, with Ops Services separate from Development, and each vested in their separate ways of working.

Ops comprised contractors who provisioned environments manually and had limited understanding of continuous integration, continuous delivery and the products being developed. They were struggling with demand from the Agile development teams, and it was clear they were resistant to change.

The approach

The challenge posed by Ops would take time to address and required careful management, so the first priority was to ensure the ATCM project was set up well. Ops had provided two virtual test environments but nothing for each developer, so our consultant introduced the use of Vagrant images which automate the configuration of virtual environments on the developer’s PC. At the time, this was an innovation at the MOJ; it is now the standard setup for MOJ development teams.

Once ATCM was up and running, he started working closely with the rest of the embedded DevOps team. He helped them refactor Ansible code and introduced a range of build and deployment process improvements in readiness for a DevOps approach. As a direct result of this, the team elected him to lead it.

Satisfied that the team’s processes and ways of working were optimised, our consultant turned his attention to Ops. A big communications barrier existed between Ops and embedded DevOps, with minimal face-to-face communication. He reached out to Ops directly, seeking to understand what they required of the embedded DevOps team so that the ATCM team could provide it. Over time, his efforts improved the relationship to the point where he was trusted by Ops to introduce some enhancements. Moving them away from manually building environments using outdated versions of Jenkins, Sonar and Artifactory, our consultant introduced Jenkins Job Builder to automate the creation of Jenkins jobs.

This innovation proved to be the turning point. The massive and immediate improvements in deployment speed, code quality and ease of bug resolution were noticed by all, including MOJ senior management.

Through demonstrating the impact of automation, he had helped to provide the compelling evidence the management team needed in order to commit to a DevOps approach. They decided to combine the Development and Operations disciplines, place them under one Senior Management Team representative, and move towards a single operating model.

The outcomes

Through our consultant’s upskilling of the Development teams and gradual introduction of a DevOps approach, the first CPP products (ATCM and C2I (Case 2 Interchange)) were successfully released. Both products received excellent feedback from Magistrates’ Court users and private prosecutors, and are incrementally taking on new case types over time, in parallel with the development of further CPP products.

When Ops Services contracts came to an end, internal DevOps-trained staff were ready to replace contractors in roles suited to a DevOps culture.

Over the engagement to date, we have led a cultural change at MOJ. The DevOps practices we introduced are being embedded in a new operating model – practices which our consultant will build on following his promotion to Practice Lead: setting agreed standards and behaviours; outlining the strategy for DevOps best practice; optimising DevOps and Architecture engagement; and ensuring adherence to Ops Services and programme governance processes – further consolidating the MOJ’s DevOps capability and continually improving its delivery capability.

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