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DevOps Enterprise Summit London: Make DevOps a competitive weapon

Anders Wallgren CTO, Electric Cloud
Gene Kim at DOES London 2018

DevOps enthusiast Gene Kim unveiled several new themes at the DevOps Enterprise Summit London, which drew 1,000 people from the global DevOps community this week.

In addition to discussing how "the horses" are pioneering new practices, the DOES host put a magnifying glass on key areas affecting everyone and their organizations—regardless of size, industry segment, or regulatory environment. Those areas include the next generation of IT operations and infrastructure, and how companies are spanning the technology/business divide. 

The conference showcased the year-over-year transformation experiences reports of IT leaders of large, complex organizations, as well as several domain experts. But the top takeaways centered on a common theme I heard time and again at the conference: To win in business today, you must outcompete your competition.

[ Special Coverage: DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 London ]

So how does a company do that? By:

  • Sharing ownership and responsibility of the software delivery pipeline ("Treat it like a product".)
  • Collecting metrics around your delivery performance, capturing signals, and focusing on the value and quality of what you deliver.
  • Continuously scrutinizing your value streams to incrementally improve over time.
  • Building a culture and mindset across the entire organization with one key idea: Disrupt your organization before someone else does.

Here are more key takeaways from DevOps Enterprise Summit in London.

Next-gen ops and infrastructure: Move ops toward dev

In many cases, the difference between high-performing organizations and everyone else resides in the problems surrounding “the last mile” and promoting new code and technology into the hands of IT operations management. The next generation of IT Ops will be born out of building reliability into the business, and as RunDeck co-founder Damon Edwards put it, “moving ops toward dev.”

IT operations teams need to operate within an environment and a culture that embraces new technology and ideas, even to the point of challenging conventional wisdom. DevOps Institue CEO Jayne Groll urged teams to stop being loyal to only one framework and to create a system of systems that brings the value stream together, makes it visible, and makes change easier to achieve.

To create an environment that supports this, IT leaders must understand how the constant need to experiment and change is at odds with and undermines the work traditionally being done by IT operations teams. Priority one, therefore, needs to be finding a way to allow these changes to propagate into production in a way that aligns with the needs of the operations teams. By eliminating the anxiety surrounding software changes and release, the organization can “unclog their innovation pipeline” and make software innovation an evolutionary, not a revolutionary, affair.

Once they achieve this, operations teams can shift other value-added activity and decision making further left in the delivery process. With the repeatability of a consistent and anxiety-free release process, these teams can help create nicely paved roads for others to use, and reuse, further along on the journey to delivery. And, if you can measure the value delivered in each release as well as the time and risk involved, you can optimize delivery and continuously improve and avoid problem areas downstream.

Measuring and modeling past performance based on risk factors and metrics such as mean time to repair (MTTR) becomes more difficult as system complexity increases. That's why it's imperative to focus your teams—from those responsible for ideation all the way to those responsible for delivery—on building a system that you can trust to give you the right answer, said Cornelia Davis, director of platform engineering for Cloud Foundry at Pivotal Software.

Beyond dev vs. ops: Spanning the business/tech divide

Technology leaders face challenges that fall outside of the technology value stream. It’s not just about dev vs. ops anymore. Businesses must investigate how the technology value stream affects everything from investments and information security to product management project timelines.

IT leaders from Capital One and Nike discussed how to do this successfully with tactics that align cross-functional teams and responsibilities with shared objectives, language, and more. Whether that means bringing tech stakeholders into business meetings or using DevOps Dojo practices for implementing change in an organization, you have to find ways to bring people together who have diverse skills and backgrounds.

In the big picture, things such as automation are important, but just moving the bits around faster won't drive business success. What matters more is how your organization is structured, what incentives you have in place, your understanding of the individual viewpoints on value and workflow, and, ultimately, the interactions your people have with the systems around them. The point of DevOps is that you will never solve the problems of an emotional journey without showing people safety in technology.

Furthermore, top-down transformational efforts for spanning the business and tech divide have little to no effect unless everyone across teams and functions works together as a unified team. This takes time and dedication and requires everyone in every role to participate. Leaders across all units of the business must understand how teams think and act in order to best support them. Leaders, therefore, need to learn and change, as well—perhaps even more than their teams do. That can create an environment in which your teams will celebrate you just as much as you celebrate them.

Said and heard: Best quotations from DOES London

In addition to these overall takeaways and themes above, some of the best quotations I overheard this year included:

“Kubernetes will become the next Linux.”
John Willis, vice president of DevOps and digital practices, SJ Technologies

“We don't let computers reach 100% usage, so why do we let it happen with people?”
Dominica DeGrandis, director of digital transformation, Tasktop

“You build things differently when you expect them to fail.”
Dr. Richard Cook, research scientist, Ohio State University

“Break dependencies, don’t manage them.”
Jon Smart, head of Working Ways, Barclays

“Make the right way the easy way.”
Jason Cox, director of systems engineering, Walt Disney

“High performers do better at speed and stability—they’re not making tradeoffs.”
Dr. Nicole Forsgren, CEO and chief scientist, DevOps Research and Assessment

Creating transformation

If we are to continue striving for transformational success within our companies, we need to set crazy goals for ourselves and our teams. If you set them, they can be achieved. But beware of creating “innovation teams” for the sake of innovation. Often, this creates entitled groups of people who are totally disconnected from the rest of your organization, and those people may be quite limited in their ability to create organizational value. Those who are most willing and able to adapt to change create the transformation for others to follow.

“If the rate at which you are shipping code and learning is slower than the rate the world is changing, it’s only a matter of time before you are swept over the waterfall.” 
Aimee Bechtle, senior manager, next-generation infrastructure business strategy, Capital One

Did you miss DOES London? Videos of the conference sessions for DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 London, including the ones mentioned above, are available on YouTube. You can also find the presentations on GitHub. And don't forget: DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas is coming up in October. See you there.

[ Special Coverage: DevOps Enterprise Summit 2018 London ]

Image source: IT Revolution

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