DevOps Enterprise Summit 2014: Debrief

Hot on the heels of attending User Focus 2014, I attended the DevOps Enterprise Summit last week to learn about how the “horses” were applying DevOps practices. The conference was the brainchild of Gene Kim and it brought together a fantastic community of practitioners at all levels in a variety of roles. The premise behind the conference was to showcase how organizations of all shapes, sizes, and types (i.e., the “horses”) are using DevOps practices and getting benefit from those practices. DevOps isn’t just the domain of Etsy, Netflix, Amazon, and Google (i.e., the “unicorns”). The conference more than achieved its purpose.
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User Focus 2014: Debrief

I attended the one-day User Focus 2014 event last week to get the latest and greatest on the state of the user experience (UX) domain. It blows my mind that there is whole group of professionals whose sole mission in life is to make life better for me by making my experience with various devices and services awesomer. And if you haven’t gotten with the UX program yet or don’t believe it’s important, you might want to reconsider.
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What I Think When Your Website Is “Down for Maintenance”

We have two dogs at home, one of whom is “microchipped” in case she wanders off or we lose her. We pay $18 a year to a company to keep our dog’s information available to whomever finds her. This year’s renewal notice came in the mail and it indicated there was an online renewal option available. So I toddled over to the website, entered the microchip number, and… no record found. Hmmm. Maybe I fat fingered it. I entered it again and… no record found. So I called the customer service number and spoke to a rep. I told him I was trying to renew the account for my dog, but the website wasn’t bringing up her record. His response was, “Oh, yeah. Our website is down for maintenance. I use the same website so I can’t take payment from you right now, either. Could you try again tomorrow?” Hmmm, again. I was really surprised this company would schedule a website maintenance window in the middle of the day and it would be so significant they couldn’t even take payment from a customer. Who does that??? It left me thinking about the company and what else I could infer about them just based on this one experience, especially about their IT practices.
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Good Coach, Bad Coach: What does a good Agile coach do?

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from people about engagements with so-called Agile coaches. They want their teams to perform better and, from what they’ve learned and heard, they believe Agile is a way to address that. So they spend a bunch of money on individuals claiming to be Agile coaches hoping to find Agile goodness, but they end up just being frustrated and a little poorer. Even worse, their teams get frustrated, too, and sometimes the whole Agile transformation is put at risk because of the bad experience.

So what does a good Agile coach do?
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6 Principles for Consulting Teams

I’ve worked on a lot of consulting teams over my career. Many of them have been mixed teams including our employees, other contractors, and even client staff. Everyone comes with different backgrounds, perspectives, and personalities and it’s important to get everyone on the team pulling in the same direction to get the best results. You’ve probably remember times when a team wasn’t clicking either within itself or with the client. It’s not fun. It’s feels bumpy. It takes effort. It’s draining. And you feel things could be so much better.

One tool I’ve used to orient teams and get alignment is a set of team operating principles. These principles aren’t rules, per se — they define the basics for our attitudes and outlook and guide our actions. I’d much rather have a few principles that can be applied by intelligent, well-meaning people in a variety of situations than a ton of rules covering every conceivable situation.
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Why UX Matters

I started my IT career in the early days of the World Wide Web. I built stuff that allowed users to do things they couldn’t do before. The focus was on the function and not so much on the form. Did it work? Yes? Great. Nobody really cared if it looked like something only a developer could love. And then people did start caring. With the increase in mobile and smart phone use and the “Rise of the App”, people started caring even more. They cared a lot, in fact.

And so user experience (UX) rose to prominence.

I know enough about UX to be dangerous (a nice card sort exercise, anyone?). For example, I know that UX is not the same thing as UI and it’s not the same thing as usability (thanks for the coaching, Norm Sun). There are some good resources out there about what UX is, including definitions of UX from various sources.

Beyond what UX is and isn’t, I also know that UX really matters. Anything that has an ISO spec has to be important, right? Just kidding. A lot of people have provided commentary on the importance of UX, like herehere, and here. Here’s my take on why UX matters, boiled down to three big reasons.
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Eliminating Fear with DevOps

I was at a DevOps workshop with Gene Kim last week. It was a great event (thanks for sponsoring, CollabNet) and I always learn so much from him every time I’m around him. No surprise that I’m a big fan of the DevOps movement because of all of the benefits I believe DevOps practices bring to an organization.

There was one point in Gene’s presentation where I had an “aha” moment. Continue reading

Creating Transparency with an Agile Project Dashboard

We do a lot of Agile software development work for clients. Small teams. Big teams. .NET. Python. Java. Ruby. Lots of tooling. Minimal tooling. Startups. Large enterprises. One consistent challenge we’ve faced, especially in larger projects with big teams, is making sure everyone involved has accurate context and awareness about the state of the project as a whole. Getting everybody “on the same page” helps people recognize issues, communicate better, and make better tactical and strategic decisions. When people aren’t on the same page, they get surprised — and not in a “hey, surprise, it’s a birthday party for you” kind of way. These surprises cause confusion, stress, more work, and loss of confidence. No fun.

To avoid those unwanted surprises, we need context and transparency into different aspects of a project. And for context and transparency, my “go to” solution is the dashboard.
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Using a New IT Provider: Are You Really Doing It Wrong?

A friend of mine in a professional group we’re in together asked me a question recently. He’s not in the IT field so he has a perspective I really appreciate. He gave voice to what a lot of companies out there might be thinking, “Why does every new IT provider I use tell me our old IT provider did it all wrong?” As someone leading a company that does various kinds of IT assessments, this was an eye-opener for me. Knowing my friend’s perspective, maybe we can be a little more sensitive to it in the future when we’re doing an assessment for a new client. Let me give some reasons why my friend might have this perspective.
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The DevOps Audit Defense Toolkit: Helping IT and Audit Work Better Together

Many organizations want to adopt DevOps practices to get the benefits associated with it: faster time to market, increased stability and quality, and more time to build stuff that’s valuable to the bottom line. But they often get tripped up by audits and compliance checks to make sure the organization is adequately addressing risk. DevOps practices don’t align well with traditional audit practices. So these organizations are often left asking themselves, “How do I position my organization for an audit when I’m using DevOps practices?” Until recently, there hasn’t been a really good answer.

But that’s changing.
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