Every day, more people are hopping on the DevOps magic bus, drinking the spiked punch and singing “Kumbaya.” I imagined everyone I interviewed would offer tales of instilling this undefeatable, undeniable, brand-spanking-new rapid development culture.
It was refreshing to discover that I was mistaken. Apparently, DevOps is just another methodology for accelerating business success—one for software development.
In part one of our latest Q&A, we chat with Wes Higbee, software developer, business consultant and president of Full City Tech Co. Higbee ably defends his stance on how special DevOps and instilling a DevOps culture is or isn’t in the grand scheme of things.
DevOps.com: So you say that DevOps is nothing new; that you have books collecting dust from the mid- to late-20th century describing similar organizational and management philosophies. What are some examples from those books you have collecting dust?
Higbee: DevOps is the latest reincarnation of a lot of management philosophies that have been around for a long time. There are a couple of examples to reference. Alan Weiss, author of the book, “Best Laid Plans: Turning Strategy Into Action Throughout Your Organization,” wrote about functional organization at an insurance company that employed him. They had a functional department of typists and a functional department of people that would check the typist’s work.
Underwriters sent requests to the typists to type up contracts. Typists would type up those contracts and then someone collected those for a separate group of checkers. The checkers would then check them and there was a lot of back and forth correcting errors. This led to a lot of inefficiencies.
The solution was to take the checkers and pair them up with teams of typists. So a checker could review the work of several typists. That group of people worked together, and it turned out to be much more efficient, productive and effective.
This is the heart of a cross-functional team, which is a fancy word for teamwork. This is one of the many ideas in the DevOps space, specifically taking developers and ops and putting these two groups of people together instead of having them as completely separate functional units inside the organization.
Another reference is to pretty much everything Peter Drucker wrote. Specifically with regards to the people who are talking about focusing on the big picture. This is one thing that some people in the DevOps space are getting right. They’re talking about the big picture and not making optimizations to small parts of the picture that then jeopardized the whole, so optimize the whole. This comes from the work of Peter Drucker, “Managing for Results: Economic Tasks and Risk-Taking Decisions.”
DevOps.com: You say the danger is in the term DevOps itself; that as with agile, people slap a new name on what they’re already doing and think everything is better. If it’s not the terminology that needs to change to ensure a DevOps cultural transformation, then what is it?
Higbee: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered DevOps where devs and ops were still siloed. If you want to be successful—and this applies to any methodology—you have to start with real problems and real opportunities, because somebody else’s best practice is your own worst practice. If your customers are happy and your company is successful, you are seeing great profit margins and great growth, why would you change anything?
Automated tests are something that people extol a lot in the DevOps space. You should have automation of your entire test suite and it should be part of your release process that’s also automated. But if you have no bugs in production, there’s no reason to go adding a bunch of tests to your release process.
However, if your users routinely experience bugs in their production environment, then it would make sense to start talking about some testing and maybe even some automated testing during your release process. But don’t start with blindly writing tests of everything in the system. Start with the specific parts that are buggy, and you might be surprised how fast you can get those parts covered with some good tests. And then once you’ve done that, stop there.