Devops: Buzzword or the catalyst to fight conformity?

I have been meaning to write about this for quite some time now, because this is the kind of stuff that should be chewing on every techie’s ear, let me summarize the concept of DevOps from the orthodox point of view of a typical manager (it’s funnier this way):

“ANARCHY! Developers jumping out of their cubicles and bashing into the server room bringing chaos and instauring pandemonium within the company”.

Now, here’s what it really means:

 “To bring Development and Operations together to build and deliver software more effectively and efficiently”.

This is cool but I want to take this post beyond the main aspects of DevOps, a good Release & Deployment process is definitely a  subject for an extensive discussion but the essence of it, the restlessness, that’s the point I want to touch today.

We love technology, we love to experiments with the “new toys”, either hardware or software (in my case, specifically, it’s definitely software due to budget issues), but I sincerely believe that the majority doesn’t want to assimilate any of these latest libraries/middlewares/APIs/Frameworks/methodologies/egregores frivolously, there’s value behind these tools, otherwise we wouldn’t have the hype around them and all the companies (or independent entities) behind such technologies wouldn’t be succeeding as they are. Now here comes the challenge: how do you introduce these changes to your project? It helps if you are the Senior Developer, it’s even more helpful if you are the Team Lead, but what about mere mortals, developers that are fighting on the trenches on a daily basis, or even enthusiasts that are labelled as “Systems Engineer” or “Support Analyst” (Yeah, I’m including myself in this category) that just don’t have a voice to break paradigms, some of them will give up and comply, another group will leave the company and there are those that will turn the apparently irreversible mess into something better.

I will present the archetypes that I’ve defined for each one of these developers (or IT Professionals in general):

The first group that gives up can be classified as “Furniture that writes code” – They are the guys that come to work everyday to do what they’re told, never bring anything new to the table, wait until 5 PM so they can go home and wait for Death to pay them a visit.

WinstonChair2

There’s the second group that I call “The Prodigious Tourists” – These guys (and girls) are geniuses, they carry a bias against mainstream stuff like Java or .NET, always leaning towards trending stuff, most of them would write a “Hello World” and start spreading the word about the new “silver bullet” that is out on the market, everything that you use is legacy technology for them, their skills are just as good as their ability to keep whining about all the company problems without presenting any tangible idea to solve them. They will, in most cases, leave the company to work for some cool startup where the receptionist is dressed as a Pokemon, then, as its product/service catalogue evolves, this company hires a consultant, things start getting too bureaucratic and they will pack their bag and move on to the next one.

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And then we have “The Mavericks” –  Office pariahs, people in the coffee room laugh at them because of their crazy ideas, they want to improve things, naive day dreamers that should not be near a server, they will struggle with their limited network access & awareness of office politics to enhance processes leaving a trace of rejected Proofs of Concept along the way.

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Maybe my interpretation of the latter is a little bit hyperbolic, but this one brings us closer to the profile of someone that needs to be involved in your company’s DevOps initiative, or any other cultural- change initiative for that matter. The restlessness should go beyond DevOps, the term was coined and gained notoriety to tackle a specific (and critical) problem: deliver software; So did “Agile” and “Extreme Programming” that came before it, but what about other inefficient processes that you have identified within the company? Why do you need 5 tickets to copy a file to that Websphere node? Why does your security request takes 3 weeks to be processed? Why Developers are not committing their Stored Procedures into version-control? Every company has similar issues and it’s easy to ignore them despite the pain and over-bureaucracy that they bring to your project, you can say that the problem lies in another department and, therefore, it’s out of your scope or that you don’t have a voice, no political power whatsoever, to raise a flag about these problems so you can’t do anything about it, these are all valid points as long as you wait for the right moment to strike and don’t let this inconformity flame be squelched, the worst excuse that I can imagine is the classic “That’s the way things are done around here”:

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I heard about Hudson (proprietary father of Jenkins) before the “Continuous Integration” revolution, the little DTSTTCPW programs that were being used for Unit Testing arose way before the “Agile Manifesto”, but the methodology only becomes evangelizable when these cool buzzwords start flying around, which is definitely beneficial because the manager likes whatever he reads on trending magazines.

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That’s why DevOps is so cool, it gives you an opportunity to play with the new toys and, most important, to fix processes, the road to build and deliver software has so many aspects that present many opportunities to enhance and/or eliminate many things. Now you can finally share your opinions and ideas, you can externalize all your frustration.

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That’s it, if your team has a lot of messy processes and you are worried about how you should approach DevOps, there’s a brilliant talk by John Esser entitled “Creating a Culture for Continuous Delivery” that gives you 8 lessons to start breaking the paradigms with your company, I believe it’s an amazing place to start. You can read about the tools, install Jenkins on your machine, code a bunch of automation scripts but in the end, the company culture will present itself as the most challenging obstacle. Good luck!

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One thought on “Devops: Buzzword or the catalyst to fight conformity?

  1. Nice piece marcello i think the truth lays somewhere inbetween, its probably 50% technology 50%culture. I think devops can be great for a company if implemented properly but not if you try to force into existing existing process it needs to be a new process/culture

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