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Customer story

Dutch Railway Operator Strives for More with DevOps Way of Working

DSO creates continuous value with team coaching, embracing DevOps culture and practices; feature delivery sped up to every two weeks

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Trade, Travel and Logistics


The Dutch railway operator, NS was founded in 1938 and operates over 4,000 trains daily in tandem with ProRail, a government agency in charge of managing railway infrastructure. DSO or “Donna” as the application is affectionately called by employees, is a joint initiative of ProRail and NS. It is the collective glue of the railway system, managing all aspects of traffic, schedules, personnel, planning, and maintenance, including 30 transport providers. Donna itself is managed by over 80 developers across 11 teams.

Have the ability to adopt more features and functionality quickly
Increase speed and predictability in accordance with growing demands
Implementing DevOps to reframe work habits

Engineering Progress

Rail travel is dependent on time, punctuality, and predictability. To support these demands, an attendant IT infrastructure with high-velocity output is ideal. While the creation of “Donna” allowed more automation, making management tasks easier, more improvement was needed. Moreover, meeting the needs of passengers, employees, and the rail network itself required faster feature rollout and increased functionality. More agility in product output and performance would allow DOS to reach efficiency and predictability targets. DOS knew it had a lot to learn and that Xebia, the company that had previously worked with NS on cloud migration, could get the job done quickly without sacrificing quality. Xebia’s coaching would give DOS the right skills and practices needed to grow and scale.

A Different Way of Doing Things

Broadening the scope of productivity to include a more DevOps way of working would ultimately be the key for turning DOS into a well-oiled machine. Logistically, DOS struggled with working cohesively. Many different parts worked with different methods resulting in a slower pace and lack of product responsibility. There was little common ground in handling rollouts and company culture was a work in progress. Creating a framework through workshops, training sessions, and gamification via the “Phoenix Game Project,” would allow teams to come together and work more effectively.

“Coaching management towards a new way of leading was very valuable. We gained not only more understanding of the new way of working, but we also were pro-actively improving ourselves and our leadership style in a continuous way, getting more comfortable and more mature.”
Sander Berg Manager Donna Service Organisatie

Training Teamwork, Training Success

Creating more predictability, visibility and faster deployment involved training teams on a one-on-one basis. At the same time, the product manager was trained in working with testers and analysts, while more stories were prepped in advance and team stand-ups became common practice. Furthermore, much was done to foster teamwork: continuous coaching of teams in DoD (Definition of Done) in tandem with addressing and solving challenges among colleagues. Finally, more refined sprints led by Xebia all created a seamless environment. Improving team expectations with every iteration resulted in higher productivity, better communication, and more innovation. A shared understanding of goals lessened rework and built trust. In the end, more autonomy was gained by teams.

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