For some executives, it’s about technology. For others, digital is a new way of engaging with customers.

It’s tempting to look for simple definitions, but to be meaningful and sustainable, I believe that digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things. To help make this definition more concrete, I have broken it down into three attributes:

  • creating value at the new frontiers of the business world,
  • creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences,
  • and building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure.

The trio - architecture, culture & process

The main focus of this blog post is the third part of the definition - “building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure”. This foundation is made up of three elements:

Architecture - Microservices

The microservice architectural style is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API (RESTful). These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery. There is a bare minimum of centralized management of these services, which may be written in different programming languages and use different data storage technologies.

When organizations make the choice to put a digital platform in place, a discussion on Microservices is never far behind. By putting a Microservices layer in place, an organization creates the springboard to launch into the digital future, whether that involves apps, rich Web clients, or IoT devices such as in-store beacons. Individual Microservices, or orchestrated groups of Microservices, serve as the foundation for this innovation. The data being passed to and from Microservices also serves as the basis for behavioral analytics and Big Data, allowing organizations to tailor their digital services based on their users.

A Microservices architecture style brings a lot of operations overhead. Where a monolithic application might have been deployed to a small application server cluster, you now have tens of separate services to build, test, deploy and run, potentially in polyglot languages and environments.


If you look at the concerns typically expressed about microservices, you will find that they are exactly the challenges that a PaaS (Platform As A Service) is intended to address.

PaaS offerings like Cloud Foundry have raised the level of abstraction to a focus on an ecosystem of applications and services. Cloud Foundry is open source and it can be deployed on private or public (IaaS) infrastructure.

Linux container technology, such as Docker, can be used to streamline the development, testing and deployment experience. The Docker platform empowers you to build a CaaS (Containers as a service) that fits your business requirements.

Cloud native

A cloud-native application is an application that has been designed and implemented to run on a PaaS or CaaS installation, and to embrace horizontal elastic scaling.

Culture - collaboration, automation, learning, measuring, and sharing

Westrum’s research emphasizes the importance of creating a culture where new ideas are welcomed, people from across the organization collaborate in the pursuit of common goals, where we train people to bring bad news so we can act on it, and where failures and accidents are treated as opportunities to learn how to improve rather than witch-hunts.

The DevOps movement has always emphasized the primary importance of culture, with a particular focus on effective collaboration between development teams and IT operations teams.

With the uptake of microservices and containers new challenges are rising: “How can we manage aspects such as API contracts?” and “How can we apply changes across several repositories at once?”. Those challenges highlight the need for greater collaboration between, and within, teams and this is a challenge that Atomist is addressing. Atomist is setting out to tackle with a set of tools that integrate seamlessly with the teams’ practices. With the rise of microservices, project creation is more and more important to individuals and organizations, as is maintaining consistency between a potentially large number of services.

Indeed the highest-performing companies don’t wait for bad things to happen in order to learn how to improve, they create (controlled) accidents on a regular basis so as to learn more quickly than the competition.

Process - Continuous Delivery

The idea of automated deployment is important. Indeed, if you take automating the deployment process to its logical conclusion, you could push every build that passes the necessary automated tests into production. The practice of automatically deploying every successful build directly into production is generally known as Continuous Deployment.

However, a pure Continuous Deployment approach is not always appropriate for everyone. For example, many users would not appreciate new versions falling into their laps several times a week, and prefer a more predictable (and transparent) release cycle. Commercial and marketing considerations might also play a role in when a new release should actually be deployed. The notion of Continuous Delivery is a slight variation on the idea of Continuous Deployment that takes into account these considerations.

Spinnaker is an open source, multi-cloud continuous delivery platform for releasing software changes with high velocity and confidence.

Jenkins 2 pipelines are pretty neat to. I don’t think Spinnaker will every fully replace Jenkins and the million things it does. Spinnaker goal is to just make the ‘deploy to cloud’ step simpler and more extensible.

CircleCI’s continuous integration and delivery platform helps software teams rapidly release code with confidence by automating the build, test, and deploy process. CircleCI offers a modern software development platform that lets teams ramp quickly, scale easily, and build confidently every day. CircleCI offers a total of four free linux containers ($2400 annual value) for open-source projects.

Travis CI - Test and Deploy with Confidence. Testing your open source project is 10000% free with Travis CI.

The lab

I have constucted a lab. It is hosted on Github.

The intention of this lab is to build information system of fictitious company.

You will learn how we:

  • made decisions to use one pattern against the other,
  • changed architecture, organization (culture) and process over time to respond to new requirements,
  • made a foundation for successful digitalization.

The ultimate goal is to deliver better software faster. Feel free to join. Let’s learn together!