We haven’t had a DevOpsDays event in London since 2013. The audience size was about the same at this year’s event, held April 19-20, as I remember from last time, but about 85 percent of the audience were attending a DevOpsDays event for the first time. It was great to see so many new faces, and I guess the high proportion of first-time visitors could be a sign of the maturing and proliferation of DevOps thinking.
I’m delivering a webcast April 26 titled, “DevOps for Architects,” so on the way to the event I read this book in preparation. At Ranger4 we ask people a lot: “Are you having a good day?” or, “How do you know you are having a good day?” Something has always discomfited me slightly about this, in the same way that “What does good look like?” and, “Just good enough,” trouble me. Can’t we aim higher? What does “great” look like? In the book, the authors talk about “happy days,” and this makes me happy. And this was the theme I took away from the first day at DevOpsDays London 2016—DevOps makes happy.
Here are a few reasons how:
First up on the stage was Bridget Kromhout, a DevOpsDays organizer I last saw speak at the DevOpsDays five-year anniversary in Ghent in 2014. Her talk was titled, “Cloudy with a Chance of DevOps”—a succinct introduction to DevOps as it looks today with some key takeways:
- “Automation is not everything.” Most people get this now, but we meet a lot of people who started with automation and realized they’d skipped to the end. Start with culture.
- “DevOps is practiced, not purchased.” You might be surprised to find us supporting this, since we make a living out of selling DevOps. But we don’t. We believe that the best way to help organizations transform using DevOps principles is to partner with them—to coach, motivate, guide, challenge and help them move through their journey. This is what we do.
- “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” This is a quote from the “Godfather of Lean,” Deming.
Key messages from Joanne’s talk were her assertion that technology is no longer the bottleneck, particularly now that conventional business models are under attack. Joanne also cited quantum computing as the key disruptor she sees coming through in the near future. It was particularly interesting to think about what she said about Tesla disrupting not because the company has designed a better, more affordable electric car, but because it is changing the game in terms of how individuals will access the power grid.
Following on from Bridget’s recognition that not all companies are any where near delivering on the velocity promise of DevOps and the subsequent happiness, key barriers Joanne identified include slow decision-making processes and conflicting goals embedded into many enterprises that have been around for a significant amount of time. She described “process madness” and how most enterprises “plan, do” and forget the “check, act” part of the PDCA cycle. She explained how many organizations have created walls of “no’s”—effectively, “Culture says no”; a sentiment shared by many individuals we spoke with after her session.
A popular quote that was tweeted multiple times from Joanne was: “You only fail when you fail to learn.”
Speaking with organizations that are moving to agile and DevOps, many of them talk about their difficulties moving from project-centric thinking to product-centric thinking, a point reiterated by Joanne. She recommended the three horizons framework as a useful tool to plan and enact change while managing the current state. She also had some very useful advice for organizations trying to tackle regulatory requirements: “Understand the intent.” Organizations have a habit of misconceiving and conflating what the regulations say.
“The best code is that which you don’t write”—a bit like the advice to writers: “kill your darlings.” This is about being lean, planning properly and removing extraneous effort.
Close to our own hearts, Joanne also emphasized the importance of measuring the things that matter. Similarly, she pointed out that organizations that have a classic “command and control” structure have no hope of being able to do DevOps. When organizations perform cultural change, they must amplify their feedback loops at all levels. By using principles like holacracy, organizations can understand who the sensors are in their business and learn to hear ideas, how to make the process madness sane and let ideas germinate and blossom.
I frequently quote John Willis:
“DevOps finally proves how IT can be a strategic advantage that allows a business to beat the pants off the competition. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”
For far too long IT has been seen as the guys in the dungeon, (ever seen the IT Crowd?) but as John said, these are exciting times for us in IT. As Joanne put it, we used to say IT supports the business, then we said IT is aligned to the business, now we say IT is integrated to the business or, even better IT is the business. This should make us all happy.
Kris Saxton followed Joanne with a talk we were anticipating highly: “Bi-Modal IT and other snake oil.” We’ve been challenging this term recently, too, so I was happy to find more support that this is an oversimplification of the situation organizations are in and is counterproductive, undermining the type of culture we are trying to create by creating more silos, more “them and us-es.” Put succinctly, Kris said: “Bi-modal IT is poison.”
“Gartner’s model rests on a false assumption that is still pervasive in our industry: that we must trade off responsiveness against reliability… This assumption is wrong.”
Kris said there is a “happy place” where we can have both responsiveness and reliability, velocity and quality, speed and stability. DevOps helps us do this by shifting left, having multi-disciplinary teams, a people-focused culture working to small, scalable scope—and more.
The rest of day one was filled with slots from the many sponsors of the event, a demo from Pivotal, Ignites and Open Spaces. The last three thoughts I’ll leave you with though were:
- Sponsor ServerDensity used its pitch to highlight health and well-being in IT; #hugops. The company is setting up a MeetUp group in London for HumanOps, emphasizing that DevOps is not just automation and it’s here to make humans happy
- Microsoft’s Thiago Almeida shared stats on how DevOps initiatives at Microsoft have positively influenced employees’ work/life scores
- John Clapham spoke on how he set fire to his car and what this taught him about the currency of empathy and how this can be used to improve life at work
Check back for coverage of Day 2 of DevOps London.