When DevOps talks, you’d better do what it says

The idea a business’ development and operations are best together continues to gain traction and fans. It’s all about business growth (especially the digital kind), provides an accelerated feedback loop and offers end-to-end flexibility, we’re told.

Ahead of the second ever DevOps Talks Conference (devops = development + operations - see?), bluenotes took the opportunity to quiz Atlassian’s Vincent Kok as well as Janna Brummel and Robin van Zijll from ING. Below is an edited version of those discussions.  

We started by asking them to filter the audience so we could excuse businesses who won’t benefit from DevOps

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VK: I actually don’t think there are any. Granted removing the barriers from the devs and ops will be different for any organisation – different barriers due to things like culture, technical capabilities or regulations.

JB: Exactly. And DevOps has been proven to work time and again: from railway companies to social media platforms to banks like ING, you can do DevOps anywhere. 


“I don’t think there are any [businesses who wouldn’t benefit from DevOps].” - Vincent Kok

RvZ: True, but a big consideration is whether your work environment is ready. This is a big change, and you improve your cycle time and release more often if business processes hinder you. For example stage gates that do not match sprint/development rhythms.

JB:  A monthly change control board will not work!

VK: The bottom line is to think about the problems you’re needing to solve, but it’s hard to imagine a business where a DevOps approach wouldn’t provide benefits.

Well that didn’t really work. Maybe our experts can lift the lid on this idea of ‘continuous delivery’?

JB: You want to know how often is too often to release code into production?

RvZ: It’s more about the speed of your delivery pipeline than the number of releases you deploy. However, if you release often, you can learn from failure much quicker and correct it accordingly.

VK: I think Martin Fowler put it nicely. "If it hurts, do it often".

I think any organisation should deploy at least a few times a day. Especially since this imposes real discipline. It requires the organisation to optimise every single step in the process. No room for manual intervention or artificial gates.

It also dramatically reduces risk because the changeset for any given release will be very small.

It’s important to keep the impact for users in mind, since not all users like change. Decouple code deploys from feature deploys via tools feature flags and you can go fast while still having full control of when and what users see.

Right, everyone got that? Several times per day!

I know it’s a stretch, but pretend I’m the CIO at a bank … what key advice would you give me about DevOps?

VK: Have a clear understanding what the definition of DevOps will be for your organisation. And why the shift is important. Have an incremental plan for how you’ll get there.

The challenges are cultural as well as technical. And there will be more than just one or two … so a clear goal (plus some early wins where you can get them) encourages everyone to keep pushing for it. And provides early feedback on whether you’re on the right track.

JB: Agree! No half measures. Do DevOps all the way.

RvZ: Lead from the front and create a culture of curiosity. It’s okay to make mistakes…as long as you keep learning.

JB: Oh and join the call schedule for your engineers so you truly know what problems to solve for them.

Matt Nicol is a bluenotes contributor

Vincent Kok is an Engineer Manager at Atlassian, Janna Brummel is IT Chapter Lead of SRE at ING and Robin van Zijll is a Site Reliability Engineer at ING.

The DevOps Talks Conference will be in Melbourne on March 22 and 23 featuring presentations from global leaders in DevOps thinking and implementation. 

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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