A Story of DevOps >> Episode 5. Shield (Tools of the Trade)

Let’s recap;

We have a clear vision, objectives and actionable metrics and we know how to pivot or persevere with our strategy. Our teams have alignment and empowerment.

We have Level 5 leaders with transcendent beliefs, personal humility and ferocious will. They lead from the front, care personally and challenge directly. They inspire disciplined people, stimulate disciplined thought and promote disciplined action.

We have selected our ‘Products’ and organised teams around them with the focus on value, flow and quality over scope, time and cost. Our teams both build and support the product and are self-organising, multi-functional and have pride in their products.

Our teams are diverse, united, trusted and happy. The right people are our greatest asset – they are knowledge workers and we have given them the perfect environment to flourish to be the best they can be. We have changed from ways that get the best out of manual workers and have understood how to get the best out of knowledge workers. Our leaders care personally and challenge directly. Our teams have adopted principles and practices that help them to achieve outstanding results.

All is great.


So, what else do we need? Well, all great artists have their tools – Thor has a hammer; Captain America, a shield; Lara Croft, a bow; David Hasselhoff, Kit; Iron Man, a multi-functional suit; Michelangelo, a chisel; Yehudi Menuhin, a violin; Picasso, a paint brush; Ronaldo, a football; etc. These tools generally amplify the character of the user. They become an extension of the individual and as a result, the wielder can do significantly more than without them, a good quality tool is worth it’s weight in gold.

However, don’t start with the tools, start with the people and the objective. All too often, change starts with technology. Technology is an accelerator of momentum not a creator of momentum. Avoid technology fads and bandwagons, apply carefully selected technology wisely. (Technology Accelerators, Good to Great, Collins)

So, what are the tools of your knowledge workers? A computing device, with an operating system, a phone, keyboard, applications, monitor (or multiple monitors), programming languages, whiteboards, post-it notes, automation tools, connectivity, collaboration platforms, social media, the internet, break out areas, ERP Systems, HR Systems, workflow systems, Google? Are these the best possible tools that your knowledge worker could want? Are you providing your artists with the best possible instruments for their craft?


Tools are there to help magnify the characteristics of the user – whether you are Indiana, Luke or Lara, these tools enhance who you are. We need the same; Excel, PowerPoint, ServiceNow, SuccessFactors, SAP, Jira, Puppet, Chef, Docker, Slack, Hipchat, Snapchat, Instagram, Google, LinkedIn, etc. are the tools of the knowledge worker. Referring to Spotify’s engineering culture, squads have a level of autonomy with regards to how they work and what tools they use.

Gear Up

We have used the basics of Whiteboards and Post-its to ServiceNow StartNow to manage work with tools like Selenium for automation. Your teams should chose their tools that help them be the best they can be (within reason) and empower them to make choices, let them learn and fail but allow them to become one with their tool – then watch sparks fly!

"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredible slow, inaccurate and brilliant: together they are powerful beyond imagination" Albert Einstein

Watch your teams, are they as productive as they can be? Ask them, what help do they need? Let them try and, if needed, fail, and then try again.

More in this series:

  • A Story of DevOps
  • Episode 1 >> Origins (Traversing the Change Curve)
  • Episode 2 >> One Ring (Alignment and Empowerment)
  • Episode 3 >> Freedom (Leadership)
  • Episode 4 >> Assemble (Productive and Teams)
  • Episode 5 >> Shield (Tools of the Trade)
  • Episode 6 >> Kryptonian (Value, Flow, Quality in a Complex World)
  • Episode 7 >> Jedi (Mastery)
  • Episode 8 >> Balrog (Confront the Brutal Facts)
  • Episode 9 >> Kryptonite (Anti-Patterns of DevOps)
  • Episode 10 >> The Suit (Digital Transformation)
  • Episode 11 >> Infinity (Automation and Orchestration)

#AStoryofDevOps #DevOps

Raj Fowler

I am a natural, enthusiastic and authentic leader who understands the impact of IT as a differentiator for business performance and how organisational culture directly influences IT and business performance. With a strong appreciation of the changing technology environment, I have spearheaded a transformation of organisational ‘ways of working’ through adoption of the philosophies and principles that underpin DevOps, Agile and Lean. As a result, I have a track record of delivering operational excellence whilst improving IT agility, security and responsiveness enabled through close business relationships, technology-led thinking and inspirational leadership. 3 years ago we delivered about 50 to 100 changes per annum across about 80 business systems, all of which we managed using our standard plan, build and operate practices. Change was difficult and the transition from project to service was painful. I lived the opening chapters of the Phoenix Project on a regular basis. I now manage over 100 business systems and we categorised 7 of these as Products which include ServiceNow, Salesforce, Cognos, SuccessFactors, SharePoint. SAP and Bespoke Applications where we have established Product Teams. These are teams that build and support Product using DevOps philosophies. As a result, we delivered over 2500 changes last year whilst at the same time improving the service by 30%, improving customer satisfaction and employee morale. Using the "you build it, you support it" (Amazon) mentality, change is no longer a big event but a normal everyday occurrence and the usual spikes of incidents are no longer there, in fact with each change we deploy, the incident volumes reduce! Teams are not only delivering new features but are cleaning up their code and removing technical debt with every release. As a result, we have made a significant impact to the efficiency of our internal functions which in turn helps the competitiveness and profitability of the enterprise.

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