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Engineering Intelligent Software

Dave Anderson (LiT) and Aislinn McBride (Kainos) write below about BelTech and the engineering track they curate.

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Who’s the engineering track targeted at?

This track is focused on at core engineering challenges, targeting developers, ops, testers, security and data folks; all of whom can get great takeaways from the line-up of speakers on stage.

BelTech’s software engineering track is digging deeper this year and we’re really excited with the range of speakers and topics on show.  There are brilliant stories right here in NI as well as a few from further afield that we’ll pull on throughout the day. This year sees the introduction of a separate business track, hence we’ve refined the focus of the engineering track to refine it’s focus to core engineering challenges.  BelTech is gaining popularity; as a result we had the luxury of a choice of talks to select from across a range of speakers from NI. We searched for speakers and filtered so that every single session either gives key stories and lessons which are relatable to engineers today, but also pulled a few talks in which challenge us most to re-think and engineer in new more creative ways.

Tell us more about the theme this year?

We as engineers need to keep challenging our delivery to build smarter, better, faster; to have a real impact on business.  There’s a great State of DevOps report from Dora and the Accelerate book which drills into the metrics (thank you Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim), which shows that high performing technology teams are twice as likely to achieve or exceed both their commercial and non-commercial goals.  We’ve pulled a lot of inspiration from this work this year.

Contrary to popular opinion, the reality is that technology matters; it’s more than just a cost center; it’s a core to business success.  Unfortunately here is no magic bullet. It isn’t teams or superstars or superhero environments which are succeeding today. Success trends towards teams of people focused on working together is a positive culture, implementing continuous improvement and investing in achieving high performance.

High performance for business is generally easy to measure, e.g. revenue, market share, #customers…  For software delivery, performance measures have been a little more elusive. We often hear of productivity and performance being measured in story points/ velocity or by the number of smiley faces on the retro board.  These are all useful metrics, but they’re only a guide; we now have some tangible metrics that are proven indicators of high performing teams:

— Deployment frequency

— Lead time for changes

— Mean time to recover

— Change fail rate

It’s tracking against these and targeting positive performance across all four of these metrics that shows technology driving business performance.

What will the talks be about?

There are three topics on the agenda for the day:

Delivery Pipelines

Most teams have a software pipeline to production; whether it takes 20 minutes or 6 months to go from codecommit to go live there is usually more to learn.  We’ve a host of talks on this topic from security, automating infrastructure testing, applying practices which focus on promotion of durability and quick recovery rather than perfection to scaling pipelines.  We’re delighted to have Martin Woodward (Microsoft) introducing this topic, Martin is the Group Principal Program Manager for Azure DevOps helping provide the tooling for engineering teams.  Martin will be leading a panel discussing the state of play across a number of local organisations.

These topics are all designed to bring learns to engineers that you can apply in your day to day working today.  These topics are right at the heart of the high performance.

SRE (Site Reliability Engineering)

SRE is a discipline which brings software engineering practices into the infrastructure and operations space; it’s goal is to create ultra-scalable and high reliability software systems.  We believe adoption of this will be a key trend in the coming years. Niall Murphy (Microsoft) will be giving a keynote on this topic;  Niall literally wrote the book on SRE and is now rolling this out in Microsoft.

These sessions will challenge your approach to operations and suggest a mind shift in approach to software maintenance.  It’s not an approach that can be implemented overnight, but is absolutely one to understand and test within your environment.


While cloud adoption is mainstream, serverless is coming quickly behind it, it’s still very much a changing space; but key in moving up the value chain.  We can see across NI this is adopted in pockets, rather than large scale. We’re pulling in a number of local stories on this topic to challenge our thinking on when it’s right to adopt this technology and in particular, how to do it effectively.  We’ll end the day on a bang with Steven Bryen (AWS) giving the closing keynote of the day.  Steven is a Senior Technical Evangelist, he’ll be sharing more on the current trends of modern app development, referring to services like AWS Amplify and MBaaS.

Serverless is beyond a future trend; it’s on the doorstep of mainstream; time to start getting your hands dirty.

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