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DevOps is first and foremost a mindset – any DevOps initiative must begin with a cultural change

DevOps is first and foremost a mindset – any DevOps initiative must begin with a cultural change. Last Tuesday, I participated in an online panel on the subject of Implementing a DevOps Culture, as part of Continuous Discussions (#c9d9), a series of community panels about Agile, Continuous Delivery and DevOps. Watch a recording of the panel:

Continuous Discussions is a community initiative by Electric Cloud, which powers Continuous Delivery at businesses like SpaceX, Cisco, GE and E*TRADE by automating their build, test and deployment processes.

Below are a few insights from my contribution to the panel:

What’s so great about implementing a DevOps culture?

“A big driver for me is the speed at which business is moving. Business is moving faster and we have to deliver faster. Infrastructure is not just a big funky thing, you can provision faster which creates an opportunity. We’re now cranking out apps faster, but we can lose control if everyone doesn’t have their eye on the ball. How can we get features out faster? How can we compete against company X who has a great culture? It’s all about the speed of change.”

Silo busting and system level thinking

“One of the challenges I see is that everyone says they will be a DevOps but they don’t change. I come from the apps side. In one company we had our top ten list and the infrastructure team had their top ten list, and they didn’t match. If I needed a server and it wasn’t on their top ten, that’s a problem. How can we create a common set of incentives, things that are higher-level, customer satisfaction, story points etc. – in the end of the day we’re all in the business to get more customers and make more money. Where do we want to be when we grow up, how do we measure that. And we rearrange things as well, we can’t just expect behavior to change if we’re paying someone to do something else.”

Freedom to experiment

“You can’t fear to experiment. In a lot of companies we talk about failure and there’s punishment for failure. We’re all a team, we want to get to a place where people can take a shot at something and if it doesn’t work they can take another shot at it. To get to a place where you can experiment cheaply and effectively, you have to get to small deliverables, breaking it down into small pieces. If you’re in a big monolith you can’t experiment because the house of cards will come down. You have to foster a culture that experimentation is good and when someone experiments and it works, you reward and encourage that.

“Even if your experiment failed you probably learned something from that. A lot of the technology we have today is the result of failed experiments.”

The joys of rapid feedback

As we know, the faster you get feedback the cheaper your system is. Whether it’s code scanning, security scanning, performance tests – you don’t want to find out this stuff in production. There’s also feedback to product management and to the business people who have the metrics. you can experiment with features as well – we can take a small set of features, release it to a small number of users and get feedback really quick, X% think this feature was better, keep it or not. Feedback is not limited to development, it goes all the way from requirements to operations.


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More Stories By Mike Kavis

Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He has served in numerous technical roles such as CTO, Chief Architect, and VP positions with over 25 years of experience in software development and architecture. A pioneer in cloud computing, Mike led a team that built the world’s first high speed transaction network in Amazon’s public cloud and won the 2010 AWS Global Startup Challenge.

An expert in cloud security, he is the author of “Architecting the Cloud: Design Decisions for Cloud Computing Service Models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS)” from Wiley Publishing.

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