[=] Equal Experts

Our Thinking

Tue 16th May, 2017

Beyond DevOps: DevOps is just a conversation starter

Conversation starter

In previous posts in our ‘Beyond DevOps’ series, Dan has explained why DevOps is a constraint, and why operability is so valuable.

Thanks to Dan, we now understand that DevOps is both a problem and an opportunity for us. As a result, I’d like to talk about how DevOps will fit into Equal Experts in the future. But in summary: DevOps is just a conversation starter.

Allow me to explain why we will be making a significant change across our business, despite the IT industry moving in a different direction.

DevOps is NOT our goal

Equal Experts’ Delivery Values are based on our shared experiences of working with many different clients worldwide. One of those Delivery Values is “we value agility and feedback, but ‘being Agile’ is not our goal”:

“We want to be responsible for business outcomes – not for making organisations feel like they are more agile. Agile is simply a means to an end.

While we value the XP practices in particular, we do not mandate any specific practice in our deliveries; we want to avoid ‘cargo cult’ agile, where people blindly follow a practice for the sake of it. Instead, we seek to always pay attention to what a given practice is really trying to achieve. No practice is so important that it can not be questioned and adapted to meet the desired outcome”

When I read this, I can replace ‘agile’ with ‘DevOps’ and the sentiment remains the same.

DevOps is a means to an end for us to help our clients – never to make us feel like we are doing DevOps in a particular way. However, just like Agile in the past, in the wider industry there is now a DevOps cargo cult where organisations blindly create DevOps roles and adopt new automation tools without considering their business needs. That’s not something we are interested in doing.

Delivery IS our goal

At Equal Experts, our goal is to deliver valuable software with our clients while helping them gradually improve their capabilities in the process. Over the years, we’ve found the best way to do this is to release new features early and often, in close collaboration with our clients. This helps our clients realise value faster, and it accelerates customer feedback loops. It also reduces risk, shrinking the potential for errors and remediation time.

This isn’t something we’re doing in a vacuum, of course. It is Continuous Delivery, and we apply the principles and practices laid out by Dave Farley and Jez Humble within different client contexts. We also support Continuous Delivery community events such as the PIPELINE conference and LondonCD meetups.

But Continuous Delivery is only part of the story. After all, frequent production deployments aren’t much help if a production system has unstable infrastructure and zero telemetry. It’s hard to minimise the revenue lost during a production incident if you don’t know what errors have occurred, or how to fix them.

That’s why we put so much emphasis on helping our clients with the delivery of operational requirements. We invest in operability to deliver reliable production systems, and we create an operational agility that – combined with Continuous Delivery – becomes a competitive advantage for our clients.

This approach has served us well on many of our client engagements, such as an award-winning platform for the central UK government. Over the years, this platform has become a multi-cloud Platform as a Club for a very large number of teams and hundreds of microservices. All of those teams work towards Continuous Delivery, and some deploy to production multiple times a day. This is made possible by the extensive automation of infrastructure, logging, monitoring, and anomaly detection on the platform.

DevOps is just a conversation starter

As this series explains, at Equal Experts we want to go beyond DevOps. So we’re making a big change with how we discuss DevOps services with clients and how we recruit DevOps practitioners, as well as how we practice DevOps in our delivery teams worldwide.

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll shift our ways of working until “DevOps” is simply a term we use to begin conversations with our clients. These conversations will go on to cover much more, though: release engineering, operability, and/or Continuous Delivery.

So, I ask everyone working with Equal Experts to merely think of DevOps as the beginning of our shared understanding. This is a great opportunity for us to break our DevOps constraint and further embrace Continuous Delivery and operability. But most importantly, it’s an opportunity for us to help our clients succeed.

This is the third article in our multi-author series “Beyond DevOps”, which aims to explore DevOps and Continuous Delivery – and how they affect our culture and work. In the next part, we’ll be looking at how one of our delivery teams has adopted Continuous Delivery and operability. Keep an eye on the blog or follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.

  1. DevOps as a Constraint
  2. The value of Operability
  3. DevOps is just a conversation starter (you are here!)
  4. Looking for DevOps/Operability Engineers
  5. Operability for a Platform-as-a-Service