DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019: what went down
For many, the word DOES means nothing more than the third person singular present of do. No further thought is required. No light bulb moments. No slight gleam of excitement in the eye. Nothing. Does is does.
Unless, of course, you’re one of the few skirting around the outside rings or smack bang in the middle of the DevOps world.
For those within this world, DOES is the much-anticipated DevOps Enterprise Summit – a unique glance into the inner workings of DevOps. Everything from the latest tools and technology to product demos, data science and keynote speeches that left tech enthusiast’s hearts rekindled and fired up for the rest of the year. Although to be fair, the sock swag might have had something to do with that …
Whilst we could spend the rest of the blog talking about the free mini chocolate macaroons, copious amounts of free stickers and CloudBees rather epic prize giveaway (every tech fan’s wet dream), let’s instead dig into the ten key messages that ECS Digital took away from DOES 2019:
Eisen what now?! No, this isn’t another legendary word plucked from the creative geniuses over at Disney. Eisenbahnscheinbewegung is in fact a German creation (no surprise there!), pulling together “Eisenbahn” – a railway, and “scheinbewegung” – a fake movement into an impossibly accurate description of an influential constraint in digital transformations. Essentially, it is the fake sense of movement you get when you’re sitting on a train, watching another train moving next to you, and you gain the illusion that you are moving too.
In the context of DevOps, Eisenbahnscheinbewegung is a dangerous assumption during any transformation striving for a high-performance, collaborative organisation. The essence of DevOps is that you create a guiding coalition with shared responsibility at the core, enabling continuous learning and a behaviour change – not the easiest of tasks. But what if you didn’t need to change your behaviour, wouldn’t change be so easy then! By watching other teams begin to show new behaviours, people can gain the impression that they themselves are moving too and initiate the start of their own fake movement. Avoid the inertia this can cause by calling out Eisenbahnscheinbewegung and nipping it in the bud before the movement gains momentum.
(Eisenbahnscheinbewegung is also a fun word to try and get your colleagues to repeat really fast, multiple times…)
2. DevOps confessions
Holly Cummins‘ talk on the “Tales from the DevOps Transformation Trenches” did exactly what it said on the tin. It drew on the stories from attempted DevOps and CI/CD implementations, looking at common mistakes and the dangers of remaining too headstrong on what we believe to be the only way. Learn to take controlled risks, leveraging the benefits of a/b testing and continuous improvement to limit impact, learn and deliver incremental value.
You don’t have one chance to get it right – unless you’re the Ariadne/Cluster 5 spacecraft, in which case once chance is really all you have… There is also argument to suggested that customers don’t necessarily have the appetite for continuous releases. Instead, ensure you are building a roadmap and bringing your customers on your journey – focusing on value-add and product improvement. If in doubt about when to release, remember the wise words of Reid Hoffman:
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”
3. Employee engagement should be your competitive advantage
According to Richard James, your key business enablers are your culture, organisational agility and people. Employee engagement bolsters all of these, but championing employee engagement is about more than getting some bubbly in the office for ‘Fizz at Four’. It is about creating a culture and environment that fosters a mutual respect across all teams, strengthening your offering and providing something that your competitors will struggle to compete with you on. In the words of Joe Aho from Compuware:
“take care of your employee engagement and the cash flow will take care of itself”.
4. Culture and calling out success
During DOES19, attention was drawn to Nike’s own transformational success, looking specifically at the impact of advocating a “thank you” culture and how this drove positive results in their distributed squads.
In the words of Chris McGinnis:
“culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
DevOps is a movement rather than a methodology which means that people matter more than technology. Recognise and celebrate the success of your teams / individuals and you’ll see a culture of collaboration ensue, because at the end of the day, “you have a far better chance of winning in life as team than as individuals” – Mehnaaz Abidi.
5. Data based thinking, because assumptions still make an ass out of you
Ultimately, data-based thinking gives you the information you need to make more informed, impact-controlled decisions. In the words of Gene Kim, “you do not want to be an organisation where information is hidden”.
Make your organisation transparent to encourage a culture where information is actively sought, messengers are trained – not shot – and teams can begin to learn from previous mistakes.
As well as transparency, make sure you have the tools in place to deliver the data you need to successful drive transformation. In the constantly shifting landscape of technology, continuous testing and a/b testing is a must. If you’re manually testing, you’ll only be able to pull data from the last time a test was made – and with the complexity of technology stacks and organisations as a whole, this could be months old. You also want to be giving yourself more data through experimentation. Not only will this help you know which pilot projects to scale, if an experiment shows your hypothesis is wrong early on, you have succeeded at reducing risk.
Last but not least, monitor your own transformation so you can begin to work smarter, not harder. You want to be continual measuring so you can support decision-making, enable better outcomes and remove blackholes created by unforeseen or futile tasks. In the words of Dominica DeGrandis:
“if you don’t track unplanned work, it’s invisible. It would be the perfect crime”
6. New kids on the block
“At the current rate of disruption, 50% of the Fortune 500 are going to be replaced in the next 50 years” Mik Kersten. Whilst this predication can feel a little open ended – realistically, anything could happen in 50 years – the sentiment was mirrored in a statistic that came up at the Women of Silicon Roundabout:
“1 in 6 businesses will fail in next five years because they can’t keep pace with change”.
…an unsettling risk for those not willing to invest in an agile / DevOps way of working. With the pace of change in the technology sector, even those who have survived and profited from legacy technology stacks, a time will come – and has arrived for most – where this technology is no longer fit for purpose. Whilst some are on the front foot, many don’t realise quite how far behind their technology is until they see their competitors unsubtly eat into their market share. If these stats are trying to tell us anything, it’s that now is the time to change, because a few of you will be left behind.
7. Burnout – you work with canaries, not robots
Dr. Christina Maslach led what was perhaps the most relatable but least spoken about part of the technology sector: burnout. Given its high costs to employees and organisations, burnout has become an increasingly high topic in the workplace. While some believe burnout is self-imposed, empirical findings show that it is largely a function of the social environment in which people work – and is a warning sign that businesses should take very seriously. In the words of Dr. Maslach “our approach is to try to create more resilient canaries, instead of trying to figure out what is wrong in the coal mine.” Rather than setting unrealistic expectations on your team, address the toxicity of the environment and save multiple birds with one stone.
If you’re interested in this topic, our very own Ali Hill recent published a blog on his experience with burnout which you can read here.
8. IT might be Merlin, but there’s always a king Arthur
Whilst IT is the enabler, the digital wizard, the innovator, it rarely operates in isolation of the business. For IT to be successful in an agile transformation initiative, it needs the full buy-in and support of the business. Not only to enable cultural change, but to empower different teams to change at pace and scale successful products.
But there’s one hurdle. You won’t get this support until you can frame your ideas in terms that your business leaders can understand. Involve key stakeholders from the very beginning of the transformation to open up communication channels, then focus on outcome and value so they have something tangible they can buy-in to.
9. Better Value Sooner Safer Happier
Jonathan Smart’s talk did one of two things. It delivered a clear explanation for the metrics we should be measuring the success of DevOps on. It also asked attendees to rethink their approach to DevOps. Rather than focus on scaling agile, Smart suggests descaling your work. Want to do an agile transformation? Don’t. Focus on outcome and value.
Essentially, Smart was talking about looking beyond the transformation, to the point that your language should change to adopt a more outcome-focused initiative. By changing milestone to outcome, project to product, plan to roadmap, you can begin to change the mindset of your organisation as well as the physical changes to your technology.
10. Unicorn Project
We couldn’t do a summary of DOES19 without talking about one of the key influencers behind the event: Gene Kim. Not only is Kim a multi award-winning CTO, researcher and DevOps enthusiast, he has authored books with instrumental impact to the DevOps community including The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win and The Visible Ops Handbook.
And now he’s thrown another book into the mix: The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order. Focused on introducing the ‘five ideals’, Kim takes you on a journey, following Maxine – a senior lead developer and architect – as she faces rebel developers, dangerous enemies and a ragtag bunch of misfits in a race against time to innovate, survive and thrive. With many of our engineers still reminiscing aboutThe Phoenix Project, we can’t wait to get stuck in…
Those who attended DOES19 were given exclusive access to an early edition of the book – as well as a matching pair of the #UnicornProject socks. If you missed the DevOps Enterprise Summit, save those unicorn tears. You can pre-order your version of the Unicorn Project on amazon.
Feeling fired up by the DevOps Enterprise Summit to start driving your own successful DevOps transformation? Harness that energy, consider your roadmap, but be mindful of jumping in with both feet.
If you swung by ECS Digital’s stand during the conference, you will have noticed something rather unusual. This year at DOES19, we decided to focus on you. In particular, how we can successfully help you journey through The Great DevOps Rabbit Hole.
Designed to be challenging, agile and sometimes delves into spaces that nobody has ventured into before, The Great DevOps Rabbit Hole is not for the faint hearted, yet it is a journey any business can take. Our latest feature showcases the typical DevOps journey, flagging common areas where businesses stumble, struggle or succeed. It also gives businesses the confidence they need to make the leap into a new transformative future.
Wherever you are on your journey,and whether you’re a heavily regulated enterprise, or an agile start-up looking to scale, your digital transformation will benefit from a partner who’s been on the journey before…
Download your copy of The Great DevOps Rabbit Hole and learn the secrets of mastering your DevOps journey.