Day 2 of DevOpsDays London 2016 kicked off with a presentation from the legendary Gene Kim. The theme that dominated today’s proceedings was the “human factor,” (fitting, as we finished Day 1 with #humanops) nicely started by Gene’s quote from Nathan Shimek: “We need DevOps to make our work humane.”
The second day delved beyond what makes people happy, posing questions regarding what it is to be human, and why automation is not everything when it comes to DevOps. As Gene said, “DevOps transcends the technology stack we are working with.”
DevOps aims to supplant pain with joy and help people find autonomy, mastery, purpose and deep satisfaction in their working lives in technology. Werner Vogel, CTO at Amazon, is often quoted as saying: “You build it, you run it.” But Gene took this further as he explained how a developer had described his most satisfying working experience as coding something and deploying it and monitoring it and fixing it, too. He also touched on the power of shifting left, using Test Driven Development—and its demand that we write the test script in before we even start to code—as an example. That’s building quality in. That’s cross-skilling and cooperation.
It resonated with the audience when Gene said there was one single question that, when answered, tells us everything we want to know about an organization’s DevOps maturity: “To what degree do you fear deployments?”
We came back to this question later in Jeromy Carriere‘s talk about his experiences of scaling at Google. Going the gym for the first time is painful—we have to build muscle memory, he said. We need to practice these processes until they are like breathing.
Gene made a book recommendation: “The High Velocity Edge,” by Steven J Spear. When we do DevOps we are aiming to transform into a dynamic learning organization. We should not expect but be required to talk about problems. No fear, no blame. Everyone in an organization should be trained to run a blameless post-mortem—or a healthy retrospective, if you prefer. As Claire Agutter put it: “Improving daily work is more important than doing daily work.”
Gene then outlined the DevOps Enterprise Summit London event coming up at the end of June and the extraordinary stories of experiences people share about their DevOps journeys during DOES events. He said: “Often the transformation leader was putting themselves in personal jeopardy.”
I can testify to that. It takes courage, optimism, conviction and tremendous amounts of energy to be a change agent.
The human theme continued into the panel discussion as the COO of Technology at Barclays explained how its command and control structure, waterfall-ruled development and volume of changes resulted in total gridlock. He said that the big challenge is trying to re-engineer the organization to behave differently: “Changing HOW we do our work is the hardest thing.”
Changing human behavior is very challenging indeed; as Joanne said, measurements have to change and we have to focus on customer value. Gareth Rushgrove also majored on the human angle in his talk on DevOps and microservices. He said: “Microservices are as much about people as technology,” and, “Which comes first: the software or the team?”
Essentially, DevOps and microservices help us to make lots of small bets—spreadbetting, if you like—spreading risk and accelerating feedback. And we need small teams to be able to do microservices and move away from monolithic applications.
One particular Ignite talk stood out from the rest, and won the hearts and minds of the audience: @coldclimate from Server Density. Through a personal story of a back injury brought on by prioritizing work over looking after himself, the #humanops message: “You are not immutable, you are not highly available!” struck home hard.
So there we have it. My key takeaway from DevOpsDays London 2016? DevOps is less about technology and automation and more about happy, healthy humans.