When I was in my twenties, I met an undertaker called Mrs D’ath. Then a few months later, a policeman known as PC Sergeant. Sometimes it seems that people follow careers based on their names and develop a great talent later. Did the name or the talent come first, Usain Bolt?
You could believe in synchronicity, or you could believe that the name was an important aspect of how people see themselves. Ask a marketer how important the name is, and they’ll tell you how the Rolls Royce Silver Mist never sold in Germany because mist in German means something unsavoury that you normally flush down the toilet.
After all, “Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what THEY say it is,” says Marty Newmeier, of The Brand Gap, and the discerning Germans couldn’t see past the name to the quality of the car.
So it is with DevOps. The name is so screamingly technical and bland that any head-screwed-on non-tech person will fail to register it as a thing at all. As far as creativity goes, the childish concatenation of two technical terms strikes me as the first thing that somebody thought of while they were absent mindedly picking fluff from their belly button.
Yet apart from the sheer obviousness, there are three reasons the name DevOps is terrible if you are using it to drive change in your organisation.
The name may neutralize or even negate the good work great engineers do because, “It’s just about nerds!”
The name fails to generate any natural interest and forces you to spend more time and effort educating your audience. “I’ve not got time to talk about that propeller stuff, can we do it later?”
You’ll face all the same challenges every time you try to introduce a new department or leader to the concept. You’ll run out of energy before any changes have happened. “What did you say again?”
Yet it can’t be denied that finding a great brand name for DevOps is a tough challenge. Google have their own version known as Site Reliability Engineering (Yawn!) and a straw poll of my work colleagues generated not a single serious contender, (though one cynical suggestion was, “Fat Raise for the CIO”).
But I suggest that a committed investment is made by the DevOps community to come up with a better name. Think about it. You want product managers, business executives, stakeholders, financial gurus and strategists to endorse a fundamental change to how they engage with technology, but you’re telling them it’s totally boring and they shouldn’t bother listening.
Better to promise excitement and status and at least have a chance of achieving magic, even if your promises are overblown. Put a grey tarnish on an old brass lamp and most business people won’t pick it off the floor to find the genie.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Lynn Rainard https://www.flickr.com/photos/39204109@N04/28195632003