DevOps is here to stay

Reactions to the 2017 CoDe and DevOps conference in CPH

This year’s Continuous Delivery & DevOps conference in Copenhagen showed that these practices are here to stay. Now we need the DevOps mindset to take root in the whole organization.

A meet-up was arranged on the night before the conference to welcome some of the great guest speakers we had in town. The meet-up was held at Mærsk, so the topic of “containers” kept popping up.

This year’s conference focused on culture, people and organizations, and learning and transformation. It is becoming clear that Continuous Delivery and DevOps is now broadly accepted as a great idea. The challenge for organizations is to find ways to fully incorporate the DevOps mindset into their businesses.

Culture matters

A recurring theme during the conference was that workplace culture really matters. People need to buy into the new ways of working. Changing your processes is difficult and takes time, but it’s also a fundamental requirement.

Some inspiring quotes from Nicole Forsgren on the importance of workplace culture:

  • “Continuous Delivery makes us feel better.”
  • “Continuous Delivery also makes work feel better.”
  • “The one thing that did matter (for team performance) was psychological safety.”
  • “Create a safe innovative environment - Getting new ideas to market quickly makes people (employees) happy.”

Nicole Forsgren

Learning matters

Another aspect very much related to culture is the need for companies to focus on learning. Employee development is a huge part of moving the culture towards DevOps.

As Henk Kolk said: “The hard problem is re-engineering the enterprise while addressing the lack of skills.”

When we start practicing automation, we gradually learn to trust it and gain organizational confidence. However, this process needs to be embraced by everyone in the business if it is to be really effective. In particular, project leaders and managers have to buy into the DevOps mindset and drive the new culture. Someone tweeted: “We need more managers to hear the talks from #CoDeCPH.” This would certainly be a good start.

Measuring matters

The keynote by Nicole Forsgren provided evidence that DevOps matters: High performing teams have 46x more frequent code deployments and 440x faster lead time from commit to deploy. As she said: “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.”

Later, Steve Smith presented techniques to measure throughput and stability in a Continuous Delivery pipeline. He had used it to assess the maturity of teams and figure out who to help first.

Quality matters

As Nicole Forsgren put it: “Can you imagine being down for 2 days during Christmas?” I’m sure we can all imagine that particular horror, and maybe some of us have even experienced it first hand. But, downtime like this is avoidable if we build in quality and resiliency.

Nicole gave us the example of how Netflix managed to stay up when Amazon crashed back in 2015. Why? Netflix had good DevOps and resiliency testing. It had been using Chaos Monkey to test how systems would respond to a range of failures. As Nicole put it, “You don’t choose Chaos Monkey, Chaos Monkey chooses you.”

On a slightly different note, Sally Goble reminded us that the notion of “perfect software” is outdated. It came from the days when software was delivered on physical media and you couldn’t just make changes to users’ installations. When we can deliver more frequently, it may actually make sense to perform some of the testing in production. Sally had adopted a principle of “not wrong long.”

Mingle

Feedback from the attendees

So what did the audience think about these messages? Some quotes:

  • “It energized me.”
  • “Very strong team of presenters. A lot of good inspiration.”
  • “Almost too much good stuff.”

Some attendees would have liked more technical, hands-on introductions on how to start the journey towards Continuous Delivery. This mirrors what we see with our customers - there is a very wide range in the maturity level of software delivery.

Offering a different perspective, one attendee noted that it would have been nice to have had someone challenging DevOps and providing an alternative way of doing things. In the true spirit of continuous improvement, you shouldn’t stop just because you have already mastered the DevOps mindset!

Applause

Summary

There was a high quality of speakers delivering a clear message: at the present time DevOps is the only show in town. Every company can do it, but there are organizational challenges when it comes to implementation. We learned a lot about how others have dealt with this challenge, and heard some concrete ideas to take back to our own projects.


Interested? See all the photos, slides and speakers of the conference