Nowadays, a truly successful product calls for purposeful investment in the people that will ultimately use it in their specific environments.
We all know technological development is hyperactive and unpredictable. Ultimately, we want to be able to create cutting-edge tech, deploy it wherever it’s needed and have it operated by skilled staff that understand all the nuances. We need to be able to move fast, adapt on the fly and do so with security mechanisms that fire on all cylinders–irrespective of environment.
The best way ahead is to actively engender a more informed user base that can apply experience and context. There are big benefits to be had by doing this. With the right investment and infrastructure, the aim is for informed and confident end users to form symbiotic relationships with the vendor, helping to guide product and solution development on an ongoing basis. Operational challenges are not static, so the technology in place to meet them certainly shouldn’t be.
Vendors need to embrace the mindset that a product’s lifecycle needn’t be clunky, disrupted by diversions or constrained by boundaries. It is all about continually engaging and listening to every contributor to a product’s existence: customers, partners, engineers, support staff–the whole ecosystem. Collaborate, innovate, feedback, improve and repeat. The future is a dynamic continuum of constant innovation and improvement.
As part of F5’s transformation to a multi-cloud application services company, we had to train hundreds of engineers around the world with a new set of foundational skills in cloud, automation, orchestration and DevOps methodologies. Essentially, the process entails developing training content to test with a selection of key users. Areas of improvement are identified, and these are then built into the product. The cycle is repeated.
It may sound simple but you’re not going to get the substantive, actionable feedback you need without instilling the right culture. For this, you need a lot of training and documentation. You need to guide the way with strategic credibility and maintain confidence. Above all, you need to be patient and listen.
At F5, we’re constantly building out the mechanisms for how we train in conjunction with our development efforts. A big part of that is integrating adequate feedback loops—both on the training and products front. If a customer hits a wall, what did we learn? How can we contribute via open source? How do we leverage what we learned to make our products and people better?
We’re not just building automation and orchestration solutions. We’re aligning to the methodology around DevOps and the software process. We’re designing as if it were a giant distributed software project that happens to run on and integrate with the F5 platform. All of this gives us the means to start a new conversation with customers, one that is entirely based on how to achieve successful outcomes. Sometimes we may assent to, for example, the introduction of a new feature. Sometimes, we’ll push back. We will always be agile, adaptable and collaborative. It is never anything less than an eye-opening journey. It needs to be. We have no interest in directionless wheel-spinning, nor do our customers.
Another major benefit of our approach is it explicitly and effectively helps NetOps become a true partner of DevOps. This means projects are no longer bounced around in silos, bottlenecks are eliminated and the results speak for themselves. Going through this process and making these shifts have fundamentally changed F5’s ethos and identity. We had to change in order to fully engage with the bleeding edge, with the way container ecosystems are built, the way microservices are built or the way software is developed in the modern age.