Before the recent IBM InterConnect conference I had a chance to sit down and chat with Sanjeev Sharma, CTO of DevOps Adoption at IBM. I have spoken to Sanjeev many times and he is a contributor to DevOps.com, as well as the author of “DevOps for Dummies.” Sanjeev has a new book out called “The DevOps Adoption Playbook.”
With no disrespect toward the “DevOps for Dummies” book, the playbook is on a whole different level. This book represents the culmination of years of learning by not only Sanjeev, but by IBM in general, as well as some of the leading names in DevOps that he learned from during this time.
“The DevOps Adoption Playbook” lays out a clear “how to” for DevOps including topics such as value-stream mapping, how to lead the transformation of culture and scaling DevOps to the enterprise. As Sanjeev himself says, the book started from a power point of best practices that he had started that tried to take in everything he had learned.
Sanjeev also stays true to the “playbook” paradigm. He makes references to cricket, soccer and other sports throughout. It is a good read and well-organized. As I told Sanjeev, in a field full of “what is,” “The DevOps Adoption Playbook” is a “how to.” I highly recommend it.
As usual, the streaming audio of our conversation is below, with the transcript of our conversation below it.
Alan Shimel: Hi, everyone. Alan Shimel, DevOps.com, here for another DevOps Chat. Today’s guest on DevOps Chat is Sanjeev Sharma, a DevOps author and IBM CTO DevOps. Sanjeev, welcome.
Sharma: Thanks, Alan. Good to talk to you again and I’m glad to be on this DevOps Chat
Shimel: Absolutely. Sanjeev, you are of course CTO DevOps Solutions at IBM, correct?
Sharma: The exact title, not that it matters as much—it’s just nomenclature—is CTO DevOps Adoption. I am client-facing and work with customers around the world, helping them adopt DevOps, primarily focused of course on IBM solutions.
Shimel: In addition to that, Sanjeev, of course you are the author of both editions of the “DevOps for Dummies” books, which were very successful in introducing DevOps concepts to the world at a time when DevOps wasn’t quite as well-known as it is now. Correct?
Sharma: Right, yes. It’s hard to believe that that book has been around for multiple years now. We’ve had tremendous success. Bernie Coyne coauthored the second edition with me. We updated it and it’s been very successful. The book came out at a time when people were mostly asking the question, “What is DevOps and what does it mean to me?” That’s what that book is targeted towards. It’s a very short book. You can read it in an hour, an hour and a half. It’s like a dummified version, so pretty short and to the point.
Shimel: Yes. But really, Sanjeev, I wanted to talk to you about the new book that you just came out with through Wiley and IBM Press and its called “The DevOps Adoption Playbook: A Guide to Adopting DevOps in a Multi-Speed IT Enterprise.” Sanjeev, I’ve read the book and to me this sort of represents the culmination of all of the lessons and the knowledge that you have accumulated over these last few years, in helping organizations around the world with their DevOps. Is that fair to say?
Sharma: Absolutely, but I would go one step further and say it’s just not my knowledge and my experiences, which are fairly extensive. I’m sure I worked with dozens of customers around the world. I haven’t counted, but some of them very intimately through their multi-year DevOps adoption journey.
But as you will see in the acknowledgement section of the book, it was also knowledge I gained talking to my colleagues here at IBM, talking to people like you and other business partners, our followers and colleagues in the DevOps industry, and also of course from our customers, because I wasn’t with them 24/7 carrying the tools of the trade and implementing DevOps and fighting the technology and the political and the business battles. They were doing it, and I was learning by observing them succeed or, in some cases, stumble and then figuring out with them how to go around the hurdles they were facing. So I owe a lot to all the people I worked with over these years, including our customers, in putting together what has come in this book.
Shimel: Absolutely. Sanjeev, you’re being humble. You have worked with dozens of DevOps people. But in that role, as you say, you’ve interacted with many of the thought leaders, if we can call them that, within the DevOps movement.
More than that though, when you look at the book, what I’ve said about the book and I’m writing a review of it, is that in a world full of books that are “what is” your book is a “how-to.” I think that’s an important reminder. We read too many books around DevOps that are trying to define what DevOps is, trying to put your finger on that slippery fish of, “This is DevOps,” where you spend some time on that right in Chapter 1. We give a little review of DevOps, but you spend a lot more time on good practical how-to DevOps advice.
Was that your idea with this book? What drove you to write this book?
Sharma: Absolutely, Alan. If you read this as a “how-to” book and not a “what” book, then I have succeeded in getting my message across. Quite frankly, it’s how this book came together. As I was working with our clients maybe two years, 18 months ago, the questions started changing. People no longer were asking us, “What is DevOps?” They were asking us, “How do I adopt DevOps? What are you seeing other people do? What can I learn from your experiences when you go with that bank over there or that health care company or that telco, that retailer? What are you observing when you’re out there in the trenches?”
I started actually putting together a PowerPoint deck. This is where this book started, as a PowerPoint deck of best practices as part of the success. In fact, last year at InterConnect, myself and my colleague, Lee Reid, who is actually the technical editor of the book, we did that presentation and we called it “The DevOps Adoption Playbook,” and that’s what I intended this to be, this book to be a playbook which somebody reading it can have or they can learn all about it and then, based on the situation they are facing, pick a play, just like a coach or a captain does or a quarterback does in American football. He can do a read and get an idea of, “Okay. We need to run this play because that’s what’s needed here.”
So it’s definitely a how-to book. There are certain, of course, strategic areas in the book on how to convince the business that the DevOps is in order to make a business case. Like its name suggests, it’s a playbook on how to go and get in the trenches and adopt DevOps in a large organization.
Shimel: Sanjeev, first of all, the book is available on Amazon and other sort of traditional bookseller sites. Correct?
Sharma: Absolutely. This is my first retail book. The first book that you mentioned, “DevOps for Dummies,” was a free book we were giving away, sponsored by IBM. So to me as an author, when the book came out and I knew it would be available, the first thing I did was drive to the nearest Barnes & Noble, which actually is 15 miles from my house, just to go see the book on the shelf. So yes, it is available at all major booksellers, both as a physical book and as an e-book.
Shimel: Let me ask, and I think I probably know the answer. Did you take a picture, a selfie of yourself with the book on the shelf behind you?
Sharma: I wanted to do that, but the book was placed at a very awkward angle, so I couldn’t get myself into it. So I just took a picture of the book sitting there with the other books. And, you know, it’s not a selfie if you give the camera to somebody else. This was in the middle of the day. They were letting nobody in the bookstore. It was pretty hilarious. I wish I had videoed the whole thing.
Shimel: Very cool. Sanjeev, people can get the book. They can see you for themselves. Also, I will mention that it’s the kind of book where if there’s something specific you’re looking to hone in on, a particular issue, problem, topic you’d like to delve into, the table of contents and the way it’s laid out makes it very easy to do so. So you could use it to kind of pinpoint in the kind of thing you’re looking for, or you can take it as an overview around the whole book. Either way it’s pretty good.
Sharma: Thank you.
Shimel: But, Sanjeev, there are a couple of terms in the book that I’d like to – one of the things is you talk about this concept of fast waterfall. It was mentioned in there a few times and I’ve seen others mention it.
Sharma: Sorry. [Audio breaks up]
Shimel: Did I break up there? I apologize.
Sharma: Could you repeat that?
Sharma: I’m sorry.
Shimel: Sanjeev, you talk about this concept of fast waterfall. Did you hear that?
Sharma: Yes, I did. Thank you for repeating that. We were seeing a very broad spectrum of maturity levels and a spectrum of business needs, and we go with clients and see how they adopt DevOps. So when I go into an organization, no organization is monolithic. No organization is homogenous. You see one part of the organization where nothing is broken, things are going fine, but they’re using a very old-school waterfall approach to delivering systems.
So the question that arises is: What do you do there? Do you disrupt something that is working during maintenance, more to try to introduce agile principles or try to introduce continuous delivery? Or do you just make what they are delivering more efficient?
My thesis in the book is that you focus on optimization. You look at the delivery pipeline. You do what we call a value-stream mapping, and look at where the waste is, where the bottlenecks are, and look towards eliminating or mitigating those, without necessarily needing an end-to-end sea change to say, “No, you have to stop what’s working for you. Your business doesn’t need you to go any faster. Your business doesn’t need you to be more innovative because this is an application in
– but you have to disrupt it.”
That all or nothing approach does not work. It is also very expensive. So how do we make it more efficient? I don’t like the term “fast waterfall.” I would like to call it “optimized waterfall”. You focus on optimization. Yes, eventually your goal should be to move to full Agile. You goal should be to move to continuous delivery, but you cannot do that day one. You cannot do it across every project, every system and every application at the same time, but you can do some things to start everybody on that optimization journey.
That is to me what I am referring to in the book. Get started. Get started where you are. Understand your end goal. But you don’t have to get there at light speed. You don’t have to get there yesterday and you don’t have to get there all together. You have to make that business decision of how much change to introduce, how much change you can consume, and how much change you can afford at this time. Maybe not today, maybe you can only do it next year. So that’s summarizing some of the thinking behind what you’re really getting ready to do.
Shimel: Understood. Sanjeev, you mentioned value-stream mapping. That’s a workshop that I’ve seen you perform over the years and it’s great. If anyone ever gets a chance to sit in on one of your value-stream workshops they absolutely should. Can you give us just a little bit of an idea of what’s involved with that?
Sharma: Sure. Value-stream mapping, I would add, as an exercise is nothing new. It’s been in there in the Lean movement since the last century, probably since the 1950s. It’s a technique by which you look at processes and you try to figure out where there might be some waste, and then do a root cause analysis to determine why the waste is there and make a plan to mitigate it.
So in DevOps, if you look at your delivery pipeline as a value stream, that requirements are coming in at one end and code running and production being used by a user, getting business value at the other end, we do a value-stream mapping to look at where the waste is. So we look at artifacts going through that delivery pipeline.
What are those artifacts? Who are the stakeholders who touch those artifacts and perform actions on them, who do processes on them? How does the transition happen from one stakeholder to the other? How does the artifact get transformed as it goes from one stakeholder to the next? What environment or tool or repository does the artifact live in and is it consumable?
There’s a concept in Lean called percent complete and usable, which tells me: when I get an artifact, can I use it as _____ to consume it? Are the requirements coming from the business usable by developers? Is the code coming from developers usable by the testers or whatever? Are there manual tasks which are causing waste? Are there tasks people are doing which add no value to the product? They don’t add any business value, like status reports. They have some value, but are the status reports really being used to progress the product or are they really being used because some needs a view, and they have to spend time creating those reports rather than having a real-time dashboard somebody can just look at?
So a value-stream mapping exercise and what you’ve seen is a half-day version of a workshop we do with clients, where we go in and take one project of theirs and do a value-stream mapping to get an idea of where the waste is. Many times, actually more often than not, we do it at a division or a program or a line of business level and look at for that line of business: What does the value stream look like and where are the bottlenecks? Where is the waste?
Then we spend some time doing root cause analysis on each bottleneck we identify. Then we go away and come back with a recommended adoption plan of what DevOps practices and capabilities and tooling, and organization change also, would we recommend to help mitigate those bottlenecks. So it’s a very powerful exercise we do.
I have an entire section dedicated to it in my book. And on YouTube, if you Google, search for DevOps Whiteboard, you will find me doing a mock value-stream mapping also. There’s a 30-minute video of me doing it with one of my colleagues. So it’s something we’ve had a lot of success with and I think it’s something every organization should do.
Shimel: I agree with you and I have seen the video. Sanjeev, we’re almost out of time. I wanted to just pivot from the book for a moment and talk a little bit about InterConnect. IBM’s InterConnect this year is coming up in about two weeks. I know you’ll be appearing there and I would imagine the book is involved in what you’re talking about. Yes?
Sharma: Absolutely. IBM Press was the publisher of the book along with Wiley. On Wednesday afternoon we will do a book signing. They’ll set one up. So if you have a book, if one of your listeners has the book, they can bring it there. I’ll be more than happy to sign it and have a chat with them. They will also be selling the books there at the IBM Press store.
And I am told—I don’t know if I’m even supposed to tell this, but if you come to a DevOps session, a track in the DevOps session, in some of the sessions we’ll be doing some surprise giveaways of books also. But don’t tell anybody that.
Shimel: No, of course I wouldn’t.
Sharma: It’s one big secret. No, no, no. Personally, I am doing three sessions, one of which is a panel with customers, and there are two other sessions related. Both of them are topics I picked out of the books, individual chapters from the books. One is on building a business case for DevOps, and the other one is a risk-based model to adopting DevOps.
Then the third is a panel, and the fourth is a workshop I’m doing on driving innovation. So it’s kind of broader than DevOps. That’s going to be an hour-and-a-half workshop. So it’s going to be a fun few days and I look forward to meeting your listeners there.
Shimel: Absolutely. You know what? We’ll try to get some links to these in the transcript and notes on this podcast.
But for now, I think we’ll call it a wrap on this DevOps Chat. Sanjeev, congratulations on a great book here. I mean “DevOps for Dummies” was certainly a great read, but this is a book. Kudos to you and the team. You put together a really nice how-to here. I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing you at InterConnect. Of course we run into each other quite a bit during the year and I’m sure we’ll continue to do so.
Sanjeev Sharma –
Sharma: Absolutely, Alan. Thanks a lot for having me and I looking forward to chatting again soon.
Shimel: Absolutely. Sanjeev Sharma, “The DevOps Adoption Playbook,” a new book out, definitely pick it up, by Wiley Press and IBM Press. Sanjeev, thanks for being on DevOps Chat today and we’ll speak to you soon.
Sharma: Thank you for having me, Alan. I’ll speak to you soon.
Shimel: Okay. This is Alan Shimel for DevOps.com and we’ll see you soon on the next DevOps Chat.