Attendees at DevOps Enterprise Summit San Francisco 2017 last week left with one clear message: DevOps adoption in the enterprise is helping to elevate the state of work. Some 8 million developers and another 8 million IT operations professionals across the world are benefiting as the appetite for DevOps learning permeates deeper into the enterprise—and beyond IT.
The event has grown steadily since its founding by Electric Cloud and Gene Kim and IT Revolution in 2014. Attendees are no longer the lone wolf in their organization, sent on a reconnaissance mission to the conference in an effort to gather intel and report back. This year many enterprises sent team leads to jump-start organizational learning and collaboration. There was a greater diversity in job titles and job functions than ever before, with people joining the DevOps conversation from human resources, finance, and information security.
So what were the key takeaways from the presenters and these IT leaders? In addition to the five broad themes and takeaways summarized below, there was one key, recurring principle that came up over and over again in different sessions and conversations during the conference. The best way to sum it up is with this quotation, which is possibly misattributed to Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
In other words, for your organization to survive in today’s world, it needs to learn and adapt to a changing landscape—and allow safe experimentation to help speed innovation.
Complexity is inevitable, so your focus must be on how to adapt to complexity. To paraphrase something that Scott Nasello, platform engineering manager for Columbia Sportswear Company, said at the conference: The best transformational leaders create and lead systems of learning, and the byproduct of that is often high-performing teams.
Christopher Fuller of Griot’s Eye developed the Deep Dive into DevOps infographic during the conference.
Also, check out the cool time-lapse video of how he created these illustrations:
Here are the other major themes emerging at DOES17:
1. Teach Your Organization to Fix Itself
Rob England, the IT Skeptic, shared this nugget of knowledge: Resiliency is the child of adaptability. If your organization is serious about its investment in a DevOps transformation, it must build resiliency into everything, from the way it architects its systems to how it refines its processes.
More often than not, technology breaks because of the human element in IT. So the focus should always remain on people and reliability. When problems arise and your organization must adapt on the fly, the postmortems should always review the human choices that led to the need to fix the things that went wrong.
Furthermore, there are ways to build resiliency into your pipelines, as evidenced by Cornelia Davis‘ talk on cloud-native and loosely coupled architectures. Davis, senior director of technology at Pivotal and author of the book Cloud Native, offered guidance on creating team autonomy. She also shared advanced practices such as canary or blue/green deployments to help avoid the possibility of having a problem in the first place.
2. Automation First and Always
In the words of consultant Chris Kernaghan, “automation allows humans to spend their time on high-value tasks.” The fact is that humans are bad at repeatable tasks, which don’t require any level of creativity that might help them stay engaged. So automation is key to that driving software delivery performance and success. But engineers shouldn’t just implement automation; they should design automation in such a way that others can reap the benefits too.
The true power of automation comes when people are empowered to solve problems in real-time. After all, said Stephanie Gillespie, senior vice president and business technology executive for Digital Channels at KeyBank, “what is DevOps without automation?”
3. Continuously Scrutinize Your Value Streams
Carmen DeArdo, DevOps technology leader at Nationwide Insurance, and Tasktop CEO Mik Kersten shared some killer data points and views on value stream mapping. Software delivery itself is a value stream network that you must continuously review and evolve. Why? As Suzette Johnson, agile center of excellence lead at Northrup Grumman, pointed out, as soon as you improve part of the value stream another part becomes the bottleneck.
The DevOps workshops, led by Dominica DeGrandis, director of digital transformation at Tasktop, overflowed with discussions about value stream mapping. It is key to continuous improvement and ought to deliver value to business units across the organization. Therefore, leaders must align the business to the value stream itself to be successful.
4. Measurement Is Critical
I heard from many people that metrics are both the barometer of progress and the baseline for improvement. But what I heard from speakers and attendees alike is that you should focus on measuring impact and outcomes, not just activity.
Time to deployment, code delivery cycle times, and quality measurements are key metrics that resonated with attendees. By tracking these metrics, teams gain valuable insight into how an idea transforms into business value and how you can get there each step of the way. It’s also useful to compare those metrics over time to things like customer satisfaction to measure effectiveness.
Erica Morrison, director of software development at CSG International, added a human factor measurement: “A great metric for me is the amount of sleep I get on the day of deployment.”
Infographic on measuring the impact of DevOps, produced during the conference by Christopher Fuller of Griot’s Eye.
5. You Don’t Do DevOps
If you asked 50 people at DevOps Enterprise Summit to define DevOps, you’d likely get 73 different answers. Attendees and presenters didn’t have a universally agreed upon definition, but maybe that’s the whole idea.
DevOps has reached “escape velocity,” and over 50% of organizations are already implementing DevOps today. — Rob Stroud, analyst, Forrester Research
As these organizations begin to realize the true returns of a DevOps mindset, the focus is turning to BizDevOps, where the broader business is beginning to apply the same practices to facilitate learning, autonomy and various other instances of collaboration across the organization.
As DevOps Enterprise Summit host and co-founder Gene Kim said, there is no one way to solve a problem. Each organization is different, each has its own legacy debt—and assets—to carry around, and each has diverse groups of people at the core of how they deliver business value.
Did you miss the conference and want to know more? Video of the conference sessions for DevOps Enterprise Summit 2017 San Franciso, including the ones mentioned above, are now available on YouTube. You can also find the presentations on GitHub.