Computing Summit DevOps 2015

I attended Computing’s DevOps 2015 summit yesterday (Wednesday 8th July at Hilton Tower Bridge). Let me start by saying if you have a chance to attend one of Computing’s conferences do so. It was incredibly well organised, the material they presented to kick-start the day was really interesting and all the presenters and panelists had insightful and useful experiences to share. There were a few threads that that seemed to run throughout the day and some of them took me by surprise. I’m going to highlight a few of the things that struck me from yesterday while they’re still fresh in my mind but I also encourage you to search twitter for #ctgsummit to see the stuff we were tweeting about during the day. mCapture

“attendees from small businesses to banks, from insurance companies to retailers have accepted DevOps as essential”

I was on a panel discussing the business case for DevOps. What impressed me the most was that we didn’t really discuss the case for DevOps at all. It was clear the attendees all understand that DevOps is essential. We spent most of our time talking about how DevOps can work in heavily regulated environments, how to make a compelling case for DevOps to non-technical executives and how to rapidly show the value of taking a DevOps approach. It’s been obvious to me and many others, for sometime, that DevOps is the next step in Technology’s evolution. Last year was frustrating because of all the talk about DevOps just being for unicorns and the distraction of enterprise DevOps and bi-modal IT. While I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of all that attendees from small businesses to banks, from insurance companies to retailers seem to have accepted DevOps as essential for their future. Now we can have much more interesting discussions about how we  approach DevOps transformations.

“Some of the most successful modern businesses started their DevOps initiatives ten years ago.”

That leads me to something that irked me yesterday. I wasn’t really in a place to object as the comment was raised during a later panel event. There’s still the impression that the best way to approach a DevOps project is to start with a small initiative. I’m sure that’s the easiest way to do it and I’m sure it requires the least investment and hence convincing of executives but I don’t think it’s the best approach anymore. Some of the most successful modern businesses started their DevOps initiatives ten years ago now. Think Netflix, Etsy, and Amazon Web Services, these companies are now giants. They also talked extensively about the methods they were using at the time and continue to do so. The next generation of successful companies learned from those lessons and now the Fin-Tech industry is poised to do to Wall St. and The City what Netflix did to the cable companies. If you start with a small DevOps initiative now and it takes you 2-3 years to complete your transformation you might well be surprised by who your competition is when you complete your journey. You might find yourself a decade behind companies you’ve never heard of who are eating your market share.

“the biggest barrier or advantage to DevOps is senior management buy-in.”

Another consistent thread that ran through yesterday’s event, from Computing’s own Primary research presented at the start of the day through every panel and presentation was that the biggest barrier or advantage to DevOps is senior management buy-in. I know from my own experiences that without senior management buy-in a DevOps approach is limited in what it can achieve. Lack of senior management buy-in held us back from our ultimate potential at Playfish and it’s one of the reasons Hive has been so successful. If your business is considering tackling a small DevOps project because you’re struggling to get senior management buy-in I suggest an alternative approach: There is an absolute wealth of documentation out there that states very clearly that responsive technology departments make their organisations more successful. There is another wealth of documentation demonstrating that DevOps makes IT departments more responsive. Puppet and Thoughtworks produce the State of DevOps Report that makes those points very clearly. Harvard Business School and Oracle have a report that makes a similar point. Computing’s Primary Research certainly suggests it judging by the data I saw yesterday.

“the product-centric approach to DevOps was another popular theme.”

I was my very pleasantly surprised, yesterday, to see the product-centric approach to DevOps was another popular theme. This is particularly gratifying to me because I wrote a whole book about why that’s a great approach and how to implement it in technology organisations. It’s been a hot topic with various DevOps luminaries in recent months but it’s clear that many organisations are making it work. Boyan Dimitrov told an amazing story about Hailo’s product-centric DevOps transformation. What I find most remarkable about Hailo’s story is that they understand that a product isn’t just something that directly generates revenue. Their back-end services are also products in their own right. There was a lot more than this short summary but I wanted to highlight the particular themes that really stood out for me. If you’re considering a DevOps transformation and don’t know how to get started feel free to get in touch.

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