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.

Here were some of my take-aways.

1. DevOps can be done, should be done, and is being done in organizations of all shapes, sizes, and types.
The three days of the conference was filled with speakers from the “horses”, all talking about how they were enjoying the benefits of DevOps. The organizations represented included large financial institutions, telcos, retailers, and even the U.S. Federal Government. These weren’t small startups. If you think your company can’t adopt DevOps practices, you’re wrong, regardless of how big you are, how you’re structured, or what industry you’re in. If organizations like Target, Barclay’s, GE, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can do it, so can you.

2. Change management is the long pole in the tent.
Change management was a consistent theme throughout the conference. Almost every speaker either mentioned or completely focused on the journey of getting people to understand, use, and value DevOps practices. They talked about barriers and resistance from Dev, Ops, executives, and “the business” (isn’t it “our business”?). Some had overcome the barriers and resistance. Many more had made progress with more work to be done to get the organization to fully adopt DevOps. Spend time addressing the people-related aspects of DevOps adoption, even above the tools and technology, if you want the best results.

3. DevOps is a collaboration mindset that can be extended beyond Dev and Ops.
Of course I heard a lot about how to get Dev and Ops to collaborate more. But I also heard about how to include other groups in the collaboration — audit, information security, “the business”, and the customer. Instead of trying to keep these groups shut out or at arm’s length, they were embraced and included as first-class citizens in the process of delivering high-quality software faster. The more perspectives and people you have collaborating to help your business win, the more likely it is your business will win. Be inclusive.

4. Lots of people are struggling with automated testing.
I already knew automated testing is hard for a lot of reasons, but I was surprised at how many organizations were struggling with it. Gene asked the speakers to finish their talks with a “Help I Need” slide asking for help from the audience on specific challenges. Coming in second to various change management challenges (see point #1) was the challenge of automated testing. This challenge included dealing with legacy code, how to know you were doing enough/the right amount of automated testing, and how to efficiently increase the amount of automated testing you were doing with limited time and money. It was clear automated testing was important and people wanted to do more of it.

5. DevOps isn’t a technology thing — it’s a “make life better for humans” thing.
My biggest surprise of the conference was the recognition of the human side of DevOps and the positive impact it had on people’s lives. In one talk I attended (the speaker was from a hundred-year-old Dutch shipping company — a “horse”, indeed), one of the success metrics for their DevOps adoption was “happy families: being able to take their summer holiday with no issues requiring business escalation”. The speaker told the story of one employee’s kids who asked their father on their family vacation if his phone was working because he hadn’t taken any calls or sent any emails. Successful DevOps adoption gives you more quality time with your loved ones. Now who can’t behind an outcome like that?

Gene committed to putting this conference on again next year — maybe at a “horse” location, like Detroit, instead of where all the “unicorns” hang out in Silicon Valley. Wherever it is, I’ll be there front and center.

3 thoughts on “DevOps Enterprise Summit 2014: Debrief

  1. Reblogged this on Excella Consulting Blog and commented:
    We are big fans of everything DevOps here at Excella, so naturally when Jeff hit the West Coast for the DevOps Enterprise Summit last month we couldn’t wait to hear what he learned. Read on for his debrief on the summit and learn why DevOps isn’t just for the “unicorns” of Silicon Valley!


  2. […] It has a lot of power to make a huge impact on organizations and people and because of that, more and more organizations are going through DevOps transformations. Despite all of this momentum, I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “What is DevOps?” Truth be […]


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