DevOps at its Core

Magnus Hedemark

On July 15, Triangle DevOps organized a talk by Ann Marie Fred about her experience leading DevOps transformation at IBM. She had recently delivered a similar talk at UNC but changed the second half up a bit for the Triangle DevOps audience. She spoke in Bronto’s Thunderdome to a very engaged audience who asked great questions and sincerely wanted to dig deeper into her experiences.

Ann Marie spent the early part of her slides introducing herself and the different stakeholders in the DevOps equation. In large part, the same things typically make engineers from both Development and Operations happy and engaged. And a business and its customers tend to share some common motivators as well. From this information, Ann Marie derives a set of core values that are meant to be common across all stakeholders

She spent some time on areas that are uncomfortable for most technologists to discuss: the warm fuzzies. What makes people happy in their work? How do the warm fuzzies figure into hiring and, importantly, retention of top talent? Are leaders in the business being assessed by their core competencies in the warm fuzzies?

The talk continued to dig deeper into communications in a DevOps organization. Specifically, what tools are commonly used? And what behavior patterns should be encouraged?

Ann Marie and the audience also participated in what was sometimes an ad-hoc dialogue about continuing education, agile methodologies, code reviews, and the nexus between DevOps and Open Source.

We continued going down the path of Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and finally tying up all the loose ends to demonstrate how this provides business agility as a strategic competitive advantage.

As we continued, one of the pieces of advice that resonated particularly well with me, as I’ve been trying to figure out how to do better with this at Bronto, is measuring delivery of business value as a key organizational performance indicator. Ann Marie specifically advised to measure the success of teams on how effectively they are delivering value to the business (and, by extension, its customers). “Monitor for business value” just as we do for other health indicators.

And that was just part 1 of her talk.

Part 2 dug deeply into team structure and what she learned from visiting other shops like Spotify and Etsy. What are the key roles on an engineering team? What exactly does a first line manager do in a DevOps organization? What she offered was nothing short of a custom Agile methodology that incorporates everything that works for IBM, borrowing heavily from Spotify’s squad model.

What we were left with was a set of real talking points to take back “home” and kick off our own organization’s DevOps transformation. One might go to another DevOps talk and hear about how some unicorn company is deploying code 300 times a day to production, but how is that going to help you? Ann Marie’s talk was DevOps for everybody else. How do we take what we have now and get better at what we do using DevOps? She gave listeners the tools to know where to begin and a good idea of what’s realistically achievable if you’re really invested in the change.

It was a neat talk for me, personally. Like Ann Marie, I’ve been really involved in the blood & guts of DevOps transformations at other companies.

I picked up some good ideas from this talk about things I’d like to try introducing at Bronto. What did you learn from her talk? And what are you going to do about it next?