Lisa Lang is a teacher, a fashion designer, and a developer.
Whatever the industry or state of the economy, no business is immune to change. Businesses that weather change well do so by adapting and adjusting their strategies with data-driven insights, often getting help from outside experts like Boston Consulting Group’s data science consulting business, called BCG GAMMA. For 40 years, BCG has built a reputation for helping businesses around the world meet new challenges and realize their full potential. As a data science unit, BCG GAMMA works at the intersection of technology and people to bring meaningful change to life. And now, their own digital transformation—focused on open collaboration, code reuse, and faster deliveries—positions the organization to serve their clients with fresh speed and innovation.
“We primarily specialize helping CEOs, CIOs, and the C-level team with the most complex and meaty topics in the world—and today most of these topics have to do with the digital revolution we are all experiencing. This also involves NGOs, social impact, and not-for-profit organizations. The most important thing is making an impact in some big way,” said Andrea Gallego, Chief Technical Officer of BCG GAMMA. “It’s an exciting place to be.”
The group’s main deliverable for clients is strategy, but up until a few years ago they still used PowerPoint as their primary way to package information and insights. Their developers were siloed in different control systems, which was a significant obstacle to scaling up and shifting toward offering strategy solutions at scale and away from basic decks through PowerPoint. Starting to unify developers with GitHub seemed like an obvious first step toward BCG GAMMA’s digital transformation when Gallego arrived at the company—but some developers still had reservations about posting on a public server and working in new ways.
Once GitHub Enterprise was implemented, however, the positive results were instant. By syncing their processes to GitHub, developers had the flexibility to write code and send it to production from anywhere, Gallego said. Even non-developer teams like project managers and consultants found it easy to use. “The minute we launched the server, we had something like 400 people writing code for all kinds of contexts overnight.”
The community aspect of GitHub was also key to the decision, Gallego said, because they wanted their developers to use tools that would connect them to more clients. “It’s the biggest developer community in the world,” she explained. “We knew if we wanted to give our developers tooling that could cross over into other industries and companies our clients would also recognize, it would have to be a product everybody really knew and loved.”
BCG GAMMA prides itself on delivering fast results to its clients—in fact, they strive to deliver in six months what other consultants can deliver in 12. Having multiple teams around the world working efficiently within GitHub is critical to helping them make these tight deadlines. GitHub has also helped their developers start reusing code and instituting proper code and IP privacy and reuse policies, which is especially important since their work involves private company information.
“At any point in time, we’ll have one team with multiple people all over the world, so it’s really important to use tools like GitHub,” Gallego said. “Innersourcing is happening everywhere—saving time and rallying people around new ideas.” GAMMA Developers are also connecting over Slack to share solutions via GitHub links and see if anyone has code to speed up projects by days, or even weeks.”
Embracing open source and open collaboration are two of of BCG GAMMA’s biggest priorities with GitHub Enterprise, both to encourage engineers to work together and to share their projects. Together, they’re also showing the world that we have so much more to offer than slide decks. “This is why I personally love GitHub, and it has nothing to do with technical ability. It brought everyone together using one language,” Gallego said. “Suddenly, GitHub is ubiquitous—and now everyone communicates in one place. Every month we have to shore up licenses.”
Not only has GitHub increased developer efficiency; it’s also behind a central client offering. Source AI, BCG GAMMA’s machine learning product, brings clients actionable data faster. “The product takes in data, builds a model, then scales it to release a web application in as little as five minutes,” explained Gallego. “It’s useful for everyone from data scientists to coffee shop owners managing inventories with an iPad app.”
GitHub has the biggest developer community in the world. We knew if we wanted to give our developers tooling that could cross over into other industries and companies our clients would also recognize, it would have to be a product everybody really knew and loved.
She also feels that integration with GitHub is a natural fit for BCG GAMMA’s clients using Source AI. “Most of our users have experience with GitHub or GitHub Enterprise,” she said. “We’ve rarely met a company that prefers an esoteric repository manager to it.” For her team, GitHub integration adds the flexibility to build Source on planes and trains, at home or in hotel rooms. For clients, it means one centralized development platform for data and engineering.
Source AI connects clients’ research and development efforts by using GitHub to bridge the gap between data scientists and engineers. Data scientists working in Jupyter notebooks can commit code right to GitHub and collaborate with engineers and other stakeholders. And, when changes need to happen, there’s no need for time consuming back-and-forth coordination between the two groups, she explained. “Both can go to GitHub, understand everything happening, and deploy a fix.”
Beyond the technical benefits of distributed version control, Gallego sees working with GitHub as a plus for developer communication. Offering the chance to be trained in GitHub is an exciting perk for their new developers, Gallego said, and the platform also serves as a starting point for communication and collaboration across teams they might not always talk with—like any other social network. “We like it for the technical aspect, but community has been the more impactful piece,” she said. Experimentation and discovery have led BCG GAMMA engineers to new skills, ideas, and solutions.“People can dabble in GitHub when they’re off their case work. They can just create a handle, a username and password, and explore other people’s work.”
BCG GAMMA has also integrated with third-party tools through GitHub to help with automation, project management and more, including HashiCorp Vault to store password and username keys, Pachyderm for storing data, and Okta for single sign on. The team also uses Trello and Jira for project management, but GitHub Pages are much more popular, Gallego said, because they can accomplish the same tasks without having to learn to use multiple tools.
“Team management is so much easier when you have to give a person access to one thing, rather than multiple things,” she explained. “And when you’re working on five cases, or if you’re on the go, you can’t look for code across dozens of files. With GitHub, it’s easy to check on a pull request or even look at an email, and see, for example, whether it ran through CI/CD. Everything is connected, and everyone knows how it works.”
By evolving their development ecosystem with GitHub, BCG GAMMA increased DevOps transparency and helped managers review code much faster while leaving less room for error. Gallego said that next year, they hope to make GitHub even more central, with thousands of people using it. “We find that for a lot of people, GitHub provides everything they need—from insights to collaboration tools. It’s all in one centralized location.”
Lisa Lang is a teacher, a fashion designer, and a developer.
Katrina Owen created Exercism, a platform to gain fluency in programming languages, to solve her own needs. Today, Exercism supports more than 50 programming languages, written and used by developers in over 200 countries.
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