Interview: Zaizi, DevOps Excellence Awards winner

clock • 4 min read

Growing its public sector client base made 2020 Zaizi's "best year yet", and there's more to come

DevOps is a journey - and not just for the IT team. To make the most of it, it's best to adopt the necessary agile mindset and working practices across the business, rather than limiting the transformation to a single department.

Of course, some organisations struggle to push DevOps outside of the launch department, or even the proof of concept. That is where partners, like digital service delivery agency Zaizi, come into play.

Previously a winner at the Security Excellence Awards 2019, Zaizi specialises in working with public sector organisations, including Border Force, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. In 2020, it entered the DevOps Excellence Awards' Best DevOps Transformation category with its partner The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), and submitted the NCSC by itself for Most Successful Cultural Transformation - which it won.

The win "was another source of validation and recognition that we're doing the right things [after the 2019 win]," says CEO and founder Aingaran Pillai.

"We've helped [NCSC] in their transformation so we were really pleased to see them win the Most Successful Cultural Transformation award. The NCSC has shown real leadership and is constantly striving to do the very best for the users of its products.

"Our Agile and DevOps approach has always allowed us to put value in front of our public sector clients. It's helped them automate, communicate better, iterate and be agile, measure progress and generally work better as a team by breaking down silos."

Pillai points to Zaizi's user-centric approach as the reason it stands out from the crowd, especially with its many public sector clients - who have mentioned the firm's ability to understand "real user needs".

"Our software engineers take a user-centred approach to digital services. They attend user research sessions and empathise with the users in order to really understand the problems that need solving…

"We've built on our strong technical heritage and added product managers, service designers, user researchers and UX/UI designers. Our multidisciplinary teams are fully empowered to understand, define, design and build the best solutions for our customers."

Perhaps for this reason, when the pandemic hit Pillai's immediate concern wasn't for Zaizi's clients - which have increased over the last 10 months - but for the team.

"The team is our strength, and so their mental and physical wellbeing is important. Although we were used to working from home, we weren't used to dealing with a pandemic and the disruption and emotional baggage that came with it.

"We undertook a  ‘retro' with the whole company a few weeks into the lockdown and found out how we could support our staff better. Off the back of that we introduced more measures like support for parents, more social events, access to training, providing office equipment, etc."

Partly thanks to this team focus, as well as the new work it gained throughout 2020, Zaizi increased its total headcount by more than 40 per cent last year, and Pillai says it has been one of the company's "best years yet".

So, what does 2021 have in store? Pillai says that at this time, it's important that the company's public sector customers "have the right tools to achieve what they want to achieve", and so Zaizi has launched a new product management function.

"We realised many of these organisations had product owners and subject matter experts who knew lots about their area of interest, but they didn't have people who understood the whole landscape and cut across silos. We realised having product managers that take into equal consideration all the important areas - the user, the business, the technical capabilities - would help our clients achieve better outcomes."

The company will be pushing its new feature this year, supplying not only the product management function, but the training and support to become "effective product managers".

Pillai concludes, "2021 promises to be another year of disruption for the UK due to the ongoing pandemic and the situation around post-Brexit. As an organisation, we remain positive and look to progress - we've just been selected for a new project with a new government organisation. And we're laser-focused on supporting our existing and future government clients to adapt to these challenges."

The DevOps Excellence Awards are back for 2021 - enter here.

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