Digital Transformation the Lean and easy way

by AJ James


If you are involved in delivering technology products in any capacity, such as consulting, management, or technical, then this book is for you. I will give you a structured approach to increasing efficiency in technology delivery within your organization. It will help you understand what DevOps is, why you should embrace it within your organization, and how to integrate it with your broader business frameworks.

Digital Transformation is the restructuring of organizations to deliver digital products more efficiently while decreasing the cost and increasing the pace of product development, delivery, and innovation. DevOps is a crucial ingredient of Digital Transformation as it brings a cultural and technological approach to embedding these ideologies in our processes.

designed4devops is a product-centric, holistic approach to the digital transformation of organizations engaged in digital product delivery. It explains how we can learn from decades of learning in optimizing production lines for physical product delivery and apply it to the pipelines of digital product delivery. The section below outlines the main chapters and parts of the book.

We will focus on the four phases of the life cycle of a typical digital product: Design, Development, Use, and Disposal. By optimizing the pipeline for the whole life of the product from the outset, we can optimize the overall lead times for delivering changes to it.

Gartner claimed that the Digital Transformation market was at USD 284.38 billion in 2019 and expect it to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.5% from 2020 to 2027. Gartner also predicts DevOps to reach USD 12.85 billion by 2025, an 18.60% CAGR during the forecast period.

It is a fair generalization to say that most organizations are IT organizations today. Very few organizations could survive without technology. Many organizations choose to customize or buy bespoke software to service their core business. Many others are in the business of selling digital products from apps and games through to enterprise systems.

The speed at which we can deliver change to our core products can mean the difference between leading a market segment or being left behind in it.

What I aim to do with designed4devops, and the framework it provides is to give you a structure in which you can use DevOps to design and deliver Digital Transformation within your organization.

About the Author

I have worked in IT for over a quarter of a century, delivering large-scale change and transformation. I have transformed business cultures and technologies and led teams and transversal centers of excellence. My work has involved delivering multiple digital products and working on digital transformation in DevOps and cloud technologies. I successfully transitioned an operations function to an agile and DevOps practice, winning the ‘DevOps Leader of the Year’ award at the Computing Digital Technology Leaders Awards 2019. I have worked in various industries, including finance, financial services, regulated energy, transport, media, and gaming. My experience covers the product life cycle, bringing products to market with start-ups, large enterprises, multi-national systems integrators, and service-oriented organizations.

Why I Wrote This Book

Digital Transformation is an in-vogue topic. Many people extol the virtues of becoming a digital-speed organization. But amongst all this opinion, finding a sense of what we are transforming to is difficult to find. We need to understand the target state and how we get there. Most of us know or at least feel that we need to transform, but it is sometimes difficult to see what we need to turn into and how we achieve that transformation.

DevOps is the application of physical manufacturing efficiencies applied to digital production. In its current form, this analogy only takes us so far. In physical production, the aim is to deliver an optimized flow of homogenous products. Digital products, once produced, have an unlimited distribution with digital downloads. The main difference in digital product delivery is that we are not delivering products in our pipeline but delivering changes to our products. Change is key to growth as, without it, we stagnate and fall behind our competitors. Digital marketplaces move quickly, so we need to introduce change efficiently into our products. By making product delivery the center of our organizations digital transformation, we can optimize our efficiencies to grow.

There is a wealth of information on DevOps out there and some excellent books about aspects of it. However, I found it challenging to pull all the elements together into a structured approach. And none that put change at the heart of what we are trying to achieve with digital transformation. As a technical architect and engineer, this is how I prefer to see challenges, with a methodological and structured approach that can be repeated and tested for its results.

In this book, I have created a structured framework for identifying and prioritizing those areas of your organization that are holding you back and, as such, are in most need of change. You will learn first how to identify and measure your value streams and understand how they interact and, most importantly, why this is important. You will learn how to redesign these value streams to optimize the flow of change through them. You will also learn how to integrate these value streams into your broader business frameworks such as procurement, approval, security, and service management. Along the way, you will see the positive patterns throughout the product life cycle that enhance these flows and how to replicate them in your organization.

About this book

This book is for anyone working in or considering the digital transformation of organizations that create digital products. It uses DevOps and the optimization of delivering change as its core. Still, it shows you how to approach it structurally and repeatedly. It also shows you how to design your product delivery and integrate it into the broader business frameworks such as security and service management.

The book is in four parts. I am an engineer at heart; my instinct is to break tasks down into manageable parts. In digital transformation, I have applied engineering principles to break down digital product delivery problems. An organization is a complex system like any other. By taking a systematic approach and addressing issues in easier-to-handle components, we can bring about meaningful change. Part I is the WHY of the issue. Within Part I, we are introduced to meaningful definitions of the issues that lie before us and the tools we will use to resolve them. In Part II, we get into the details of the WHO, HOW, and WHEN. It is about breaking the problem down and understanding the flow of change occurring within our products and where we are introducing waste. Part III is the WHAT. It is a model product pipeline with all the technical detail for introducing best-practice to improve flow and reduce waste. Part IV contains some real-world case-studies to help understand how it works in practice.

Part I - WHY - Lean in a Digital World

Every company is a technology company, yet somehow, we dont seem to have the same efficiencies in delivering digital products as we do with physical ones. Manufacturing has seen massive gains in productivity over the last century. We need to take lessons from the physical industries and apply them to the digital world.

The buzzword for this drive towards technology delivery efficiency is Digital Transformation. But what is it? What does a digitally transformed organization look like, and what is the problem with our current state?

There are some standard approaches to increasing efficiency in physical production which come under the umbrella of lean. Its counterpoint in digital production is called DevOps.

There is a fundamental difference between physical and digital production, which I elaborate on here. I introduce change as the unit of delivery in the digital production line.

What is Lean?

I present a brief history of lean and what it seeks to achieve in physical production lines. I draw out the high-level principles of lean and show how they help to increase efficiency and productivity. I introduce the concept of waste as defined by lean and plant the seed of why we need to remove it systematically.

What is DevOps?

This section is an overview of DevOps, its origins, and how it relates to lean. I talk about how some common misconceptions about what it is. I start here with a very high-level definition of what it is and why it is essential.

The Digital Production Line

Here, I introduce to the concept of the production line for digital products, known as the pipeline. I discuss the principle difference between physical production and digital production, namely, that the individual units we process are conceptual changes rather than physical products.


The essence of what we want to improve is the rate at which we make changes to our products. Flow is essential to tracking, measuring, and improving the rate of change. Flow represents the steps taken by individuals and groups to progress a change from inception to release.


Some cultures facilitate change, and others hinder it. We need to shift from top-down, enforced micromanagement of tasks to a high-trust, self-organizing, pull-based approach to our workloads. A self-organizing culture is essential for improving flow and the health and well-being of the people within it.

Part II - WHO HOW and WHEN - Getting Started

To start the digital transformation, we need to set up our kaizen effort. We need to know whom to engage with, understand what people to put in place, and decide which products we will begin to improve. We will use the extended Deming cycle to guide our actions; Observe, Plan, Do, Check, and Adjust.


It is imperative to stand back and understand any complex system before you start to change it. An organization is a complex system like any other. My approach is a reductionist engineering one; decompose the system into less complicated and more understandable components that are less daunting and risky to alter. These are the critical areas of focus to understand when researching your current organization.

This section also introduces us to two critical tools that we will use to analyze and plan changes to our pipelines, the Product Lifecycle and Value Stream Mapping. We will look at identifying stakeholders and how to engage them. Together, we will use the four phases of a product lifecycle with designed4devops unique hierarchical value stream mapping approach to understand flow within our organization. We will learn the definitions of waste and how to identify waste within our pipelines.


We will first look at how to identify our first product pipeline for transformation and select a value stream map to improve. We will look at the product and value stream dependencies, how they interrupt the flow, and how we can improve it. We will learn how to scale our kaizen effort up to portfolios of products and prioritize them.


Firstly, we need to put the product manager in place. We look at the skills required and the role they will take on. We will look at building teams around the product and establishing a positive culture that communicates effectively and openly. I introduce Agile to manage the flow of work to increase the flow of changes through our pipeline.


Actions have consequences, both positive and negative. We must use feedback to change our actions and learn from our mistakes.


We must continually re-align our kaizen effort with our stated goals using the feedback we receive.

Part III - WHAT - A Model Value Stream

This section is about learning the positive patterns we have to increase flow in a value stream. We will become familiar with all the techniques, approaches, technologies, and tools that increase digital product delivery flow.

Design Phase

Much of the inefficiency in a pipeline occurs before developers writing any code. We will look at a model approach to streamline the prioritization of changes. We will examine the positive patterns employed to increase flow throughout design, approval, procurement, and logistics.

Development Phase

In development, we will look at the power of delegation and self-service using tools such as automation, orchestration, and abstraction. It increases flow through development, staging, testing, and release.

Use Phase

Feedback is critical to improvement. We will look at all the metrics we should try to capture in both product and pipeline to use kaizen to bring about positive change effectively.

Disposal Phase

To minimize disruption to other value streams and products, we must plan for disposal at the outset.