You are here

How to put ChatOps to work for your DevOps team

public://pictures/Mike-Perrow-Chief-Editor-TechBeacon.png
Mike Perrow, Former Managing Editor, TechBeacon

The idea behind ChatOps is fairly simple: deploy bots (chatbots) to issue automated alerts when technical issues arise, then use integrated communications among your team members to resolve those issues.

But despite its name, ChatOps is not just for operations teams. "The DevOps movement has given rise to a need to maintain visibility across the development pipeline for all team members," writes Brena Monteiro, a software engineer with HapBoo.

The new ChatOps track on TechBeacon Learn is designed to help you and your team get started with your own ChatOps implementation. And even if ChatOps is not something you're thinking about doing right now, this learning track will help you understand why the new practice has become so popular. 

[ Digital transformation can be a costly failure without proper controls. Find out how IT4IT value streams can help in this upcoming Webinar. ]

ChatOps benefits

Teams that are engaged with each other via ChatOps report new efficiencies in problem solving, and even new levels of job satisfaction. The benefits of adopting a ChatOps practice include technical improvements, such as faster incident resolution, and the ability to avoid API calls (think webhooks), as well as human-factor benefits such as community sharing and the fostering of organizational culture.

But, depending on your situation, the greatest benefit of ChatOps is often results. "When ChatOps commands are paired to underlying infrastructure, time-to-response is decreased drastically," writes Bill Doerrfeld, an expert who created the opening units in this new learning track. GitHub ops engineer Mark Imbriaco said GitHub implemented ChatOps as "the primary mechanism that we use to operate software better, together."

The new water cooler

As a place for remote and co-located techies to hang out and chat—whether the subject is the latest Game of Thrones episode or a technical issue that's brewing—a ChatOps environment fosters a culture of open communication. It reminds every team member, "Hey, your opinion matters. Your expertise needs to be shared." And in dire situations, "We're counting on you to help resolve this issue."

For operations teams, ChatOps replaces the old war-room scenario, where teams are assembled over a course of hours—or days—to resolve critical issues through face-to-face interactions with their peers. ChatOps allows these same team members to communicate more efficiently and to isolate issues quickly, all within the infrastructure where a current problem resides.

  • Critical workers can communicate from their own workstations.
  • Chatbots can invite them to message threads about the problem.
  • Best of all, when the deployment pipeline and production systems are  properly monitored, issues that arise can be detected in near real time, trigger an alert to the team, and ideally result in problems being resolved before customers even notice.

In other words, your team's culture doesn't have to change to adopt ChatOps. The team just gets a more powerful method for realizing its long-held goals.

[ Looking to bring innovation into your enterprise? Learn from others' Enterprise Service Management (ESM) implementations—and get recommendations for deployment. ]

Getting started with open-source software

Open-source frameworks are available to get you started with creating a ChatOps capability for your team. You'll want to integrate with whatever tools you have in place for DevOps, you'll need to decide on the chatbot you want to use, and you'll need to agree on the chat client (Slack, for example) that will serve as the messenger for your bots and chats.

There's a heck of a lot of choices out there. That's because so many tools are being conceived and written to support this new paradigm. ChatOps truly isreally is a paradigm shift in how teams communicate and get things done.

So long, war rooms and sticky notes

You can still find bloggers and other web writers who publish ideas about how to run an efficient war room, where experts gather to solve some emergent, critical issue affecting their organization. They recommend bringing great snacks, loose clothing, sticky buns, and sticky notes.

Really? ChatOps puts an end to those deadly, often all-day meetings. When you have a failure on six nodes and your service desk is lighting up like a Halloween pumpkin festival, the old-style war room is not the best approach for a quick resolution. Plus, ChatOps works equally well for both distributed and co-located teams.

Check out the first few units of this new ChatOps track on TechBeacon Learn.

[ Get Report: The Top 20 Continuous Application Performance Management Companies ]