What lesson does Lance Armstrong teach the DevOps Community? Cheat to win…

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Photo Credit: GreggMP via Compfight cc

In cloud service provisioning and management, we’ve all been shown a shiny vision of the future from the likes of Netflix, Twitter and Facebook, where services are provisioned in an instant then continuously tested, upgraded and healed. Sometimes it’s like watching the unstoppable US Postal Team (the “Blue Train”) in the early 2000’s. We strive to emulate them, and struggle to keep up. How do they do it? Well, it turns out they cheat.

Cheat is perhaps a bit strong, but they certainly side-step a lot of problems that the rest of us have to deal with, and by ‘us’ I mean those that have been running IT operations in enterprises older than 10 years.  Yes, I’m talking legacy here, legacy and other mill stones like regulation, auditing and compliance. Try winning the tour on a Raleigh Chopper where you are stopped every 10k and someone checks that your bike is still legal. EPO anyone?

Well with the exception of coffee, most of the drugs I enjoy are performance hindering, so if blood doping is out of the question, what you can you do?  Fortunately all is not lost, and there are several actions you can take to stay with the peleton.

1. Tools: Change your bike

Sorry Lance, but it IS about the bike, at least partially.

You can’t implement this new, faster, more agile style of delivery with antiquated tooling. I often stress that there is too much focus on tools at the expense of process and culture, and whilst I still believe that, tooling can’t be ignored completely. Tools change what is possible in terms of process and can reinforce both good and bad culture, so if your tools aren’t empowering you to effect the change you want, swap them out. Note I’m talking about your service provisioning and management tools here, not the underlying technology of the service themselves (dealing with that kind of legacy is something for another post).

2. Getting Started: Pick your race.

Your first race shouldn’t be Le Tour, you’ll blow up on the Alp D’huez. Leverage a key principle of DevOps for smaller and more frequent releases to gradually build your team’s capability. Even within an agile methodolgy, keep your first few sprints short and not too ambitious, after all, you’ll be getting used to your new bike. Set a sprint goal for something that’s not too technically challenging, yet delivers clear value, is measurable and demonstrable back to the business. Building your team’s confidence with early successes is crucial, you’ll soon find your cadence naturally increases.

3. Data Driven: Adopt a scientific method.

Gone are the days of cigarettes and cognac for lunch, every cycle team now measures everything going on with both bike and rider with a view to making the team go faster and so should you. It’s often a bit of chore to begin with but collecting data on your agile delivery process is an essential discipline which will quickly delivery rewards. You’ll be able to spot blockages and measure the effects of trying something different, all will help increase your delivery speed. If it isn’t measured, it doesn’t get better.

4. Accelerate: Get a coach.

The best athletes get there by learning from and working with the best coaches. Those that have been there and done it, often many times over, and whose only goal now is to pass on their hard earned knowledge from their years on the professional circuit.

Here at Automation Logic we have unparalleled experience in applying this emerging field within very large enterprises. Even if you know where you want to go, we can get you there faster and straighter. We know the racing line, and we know where the potholes are!  We’ll help you build a team, train them and keep your tools at optimum performance.  Perhaps most importantly, we’ll help you adapt agile principles so they work for you and your specific situation (legacy, regulation etc.).  Often the most important decision you’ll make is where to allow exceptions to agile principles so they work in large organisations.

Good luck, cheat to win!