The DevOps Playbook

At BAE Systems, I implemented DevOps philosophies, principles and practices in a large enterprise where we established Product Teams for systems such as SAP, SuccessFactors, ServiceNow, Cognos, Salesforce, SharePoint and Bespoke Applications. As a result, we saw a 30% improvement in service, 300% improvement in throughput whilst improving customer satisfaction and team morale; the teams became trusted partners to business functions such as HR, Finance, Sales, IT Service Management, etc.

Since leaving BAE Systems in July 2018, I have joined DevOpsGroup as a Principal DevOps Consultant and had the pleasure of meeting lots of people from various companies and industries, I have attended (and spoken at) world leading DevOps events and read more books and articles on high performance teams (such as Legacy by Kerr and Team of Teams by McChrystal). I have also learnt so much from my new colleagues at DevOpsGroup including DevOps patterns and practices, Cloud Migrations and Operations and the art of Workforce Modernisation.

Although there has been a lot of new learning, much of what I have experienced has re-enforced the beliefs, principles and practices that I applied at BAE Systems. There is, however, a gap between establishing full-lifecycle product teams, new ways of working and automation, and scaling this to transform an enterprise. I will be covering that in future articles. This article is designed to consolidate previous learning.

I have categorised this article into three parts:

  • Pre-requisites: Before you get started, build a foundation of understanding
  • 12 Dimensions: The transformation to dynamically learning product teams will take time and a lot more than automation. Consider all of these when undertaking the journey.
  • Capability Improvement: DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) have completed extensive studies around the globe, in all industries and across start-ups and enterprises. The have proven that Business Performance is predicated by IT Performance and IT Performance is predicated by culture.

Pre-Requisites

Before you start, gain a good understanding of what is behind the high performance organisations that employ DevOps philosophies, principles and practices. Facebook, Google, Etsy, Amazon, etc. have a fabric woven with purposeful, yet humble leadership, that stimulate a generative culture where world-class engineering is practiced.

#DevOps = #Leadership + #Culture + #Technology

  • Read: To start the creation of a learning organisation, start learning. pick up a book. Start with the Phoenix Project, then the Goal and go read beyond the Phoenix Project and Beyond the Goal… Then plow your way through the rest of the list.
  • Experience: Learn from others. The movement has impacted more that then Facebooks, Googles and Amazons, there are lots of stories of organisations making the change such as BAE SystemsASOSNationwideCapital One, Disney, Compuware. There are a whole load of case studies on the IT Revolution Youtube Channel.
  • Follow: LinkedIn is a great platform and there are a lot of people sharing views and insights that inspire and challenge the way we think. This in turn challenges us to feel and act… creating positive change.

12 Dimensions of Digital Transformation

Dimension 1 – The change curve; give time.

Change takes time, particularly if it involves people. Recognise the journey you are about to go on and that you will personally go through the change curve, and you will need to lead, guide and mentor others as well.

Greatness is at the other side of pain. Understand, have patience, persevere.

Episode 1 >> Origins (Traversing the Change Curve)

Dimension 2 – Alignment and empowerment; delegate authority.

Creating an adaptive and responsive organisations requires leadership to take an “eyes on, hands off” approach (Team of Teams, McChrystal). Critical to success is a workforces that are aligned to the companies goals and empowered to deliver outcomes.

The only way you know if you can trust people is to trust them.

Episode 2 >> One Ring (Alignment and Empowerment)

Dimension 3 – Leadership; humility and purpose

After extensive studies and influencing people like Jeff Bezos and the All Blacks, Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, recognised the impact of leadership in the creation of great companies.

It’s not just the ability to galvanise an organisation behind a vision, but the paradoxical combination of humility and professional will underpins great organisations.

Episode 3 >> Freedom (Leadership)

Dimension 4 – Product Teams; assemble the knowledge workers.

Taylorism resulted in the development of silos and concepts such as Project Management and Service Management were birthed. As knowledge work is becoming more commonplace in environments such as IT, cross-functional, multi-skilled Product Teams are breaking down silos, creating stable teams where trust and relationships are established and are out-performing traditional project and service teams.

Don’t bring the people to the work, bring the work to the people.

Episode 4 >> Assemble (Productive and Teams)

Dimension 5 – Tools; amplify your team’s productivity.

Organisations can tend to buy enterprise licences for tools and business processes can be built into tooling to establish standards, ensure compliance, etc. But do we understand the impact this may have on the productivity of our knowledge workers, our engineers?

Thor has a hammer, Captain America has a Shield, Ronaldo, a football. Tools amplify the characteristics of the user and within reason, enable teams to select the best tools for the job.

Episode 5 >> Shield (Tools of the Trade)

Dimension 6 – Value, flow and quality; the new paradigms.

Conditioned by the Iron Triangle which demonstrates the relationship between Scope, Time and Cost with Quality in the centre and Project Management being the art which creates the balance between the four, we often find that Projects deliver a fraction of the scope, late, over-budget and to a sub-standard quality. There is another way. Value, Flow and Quality. Create an indefinite flow of the most of important value at the highest possible quality.

If you always do, what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got – change the paradigm,

Episode 6 >> Kryptonian (Value, Flow, Quality in a Complex World)

Dimension 7 – Practices and mastery; recondition the subconscious.

Mastery takes practice. As humans we are engineered this way. Give your stable product teams time to master their craft, their business. It’s one thing to have people train in their specialism for most of their lift, its another to have them work together effectively in a team.

The practices of work take time to master.

Episode 7 >> Jedi (Mastery)

Dimension 8 – Confront the brutal facts; an environment of truth.

Knowing and then facing up to the truth of what is really going on takes courage, particularly as a leader. We have been conditioned to avoid bad news. If Blockbuster, or countless bookstores faced the brutal facts that Netflix of Amazon were coming, they may still be around. Having just watched the film “The Darkest Hour”, the moments where the King came to Churchill and Churchill went to speak to the people are deeply touching. The went is search of the truth.

Create an environment of Radical Candor where people care personally but challenge directly.

Episode 8 >> Balrog (Confront the Brutal Facts)

Dimension 9 – Anti-patterns; what to avoid.

Avoid the anti-patterns, the words and behaviours that result in Agile and DevOps failing in your organisation. This is borne out of a lack of understanding and can have a very negative impact on your transformation experience.

There is no shortcut to greatness, greatness comes through understanding, failing many times but then getting back up, learning and improving.

Episode 9 >> Kryptonite (Anti-Patterns of DevOps)

Dimension 10 – Customer obsession; the key to digital transformation.

All this technical capability, but for what purpose? So much of what is created is waste or difficult to use. The end user, the consumer is often forgotten. It becomes more about the technology, or the deadline, or the budget.

Become customer-obsessed, put the user at the centre of the team, of the product.

Episode 10 >> The Suit (Digital Transformation)

Dimension 11 – Automation; momentum accelerator

DevOps is often considered to be about tools and technology; cloud, automation, pipelines, orchestration… so I have put this dimension near the end. DevOps is about Leadership, Culture and Technology – its the combination that makes businesses great. And there is no DevOps without the technology.

Accelerate your market competitiveness with automation and orchestration,

Episode 11 >> Flux Capacitor (Automation and Orchestration)

Dimension 12 – Legacy; leave a dent in the universe.

Whatever level you are at in the organisation, this is all about you. What legacy are you going to leave. Ultimately, through this DevOps journey you are changing, you have changed – just as Bill did in the Phoenix project. Recognise this and celebrate.

Leave your dent in the universe.

Episode 12 >> Resurrection

Capability Improvement

Stability and Throughput

There is no longer a need to balance the throughput projects expect and the stability services expect. You can have both high throughput and high stability in your software products. Many organisations are deploying thousands of times a day whilst preserving world class stability, security and reliability.

You can have your cake and eat it.

#Insanity Ep1: Insanity Max 30 (DevOps: Stability AND Throughput)

Benchmarking Performance

Benchmarking is important to understand where you are in relation to industry peers. DevOps Research and Assessment (DORA) has compiled an assessment framework which will enable organisations to understand if they are Elite, High, Medium or Low performers and where the areas of weakness are against 21 different capabilities.

What’s more, capabilities are mapped against business impact and strength, allowing teams to focus on low strength, high impact capabilities first. Prioritisation.

#Insanity Ep2: Max Out Cardio (DevOps Performance Benchmarking)

Capability Areas: Process and Measurement

Visibility of feedback, small batches, change approval processes and measurement capabilities around monitoring and Work In Progress limits influence the performance of your software delivery and operations teams and therefore business performance.

#Insanity Ep3: Max Out Power (DevOps Processes and Measurement)

Capability Areas: Technical

IT performance is also predicated by technical capabilities such as version control, continuous integration and trunk based development.

#Insanity Ep4: Max Out Sweat (DevOps Technical Capabilities)

Capabilities Areas: Culture

Westrum, as part of his research into psychological safety, identified the patterns that lead to pathological, bureaucratic and generative culture. Westrum’s culture together with a climate for learning and job satisfaction predicate IT performance.

#Insanity Ep5: Max Out Strength (DevOps Culture)

Scale and Continuous Improvement

This is not a one off exercise, improve the bottlenecks, then repeat – repeat within the same team and also across other teams.

Plan, do, check, act.

#Insanity Ep6: Friday Night Fight (Scale)

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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