Tag Archives: IT Operations

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DevOps and the Product Owner

In a previous post we talked a lot about the “Product-centric” approach to DevOps but what does this mean for the role of the Agile “Product Owner”?

So what is the traditional role of the Product Owner? Agile author Mike Cohn from MountainGoat Software defines it thus:

“The Scrum product owner is typically a project’s key stakeholder. Part of the product owner responsibilities is to have a vision of what he or she wishes to build, and convey that vision to the scrum team. This is key to successfully starting any agile software development project. The agile product owner does this in part through the product backlog, which is a prioritized features list for the product.

The product owner is commonly a lead user of the system or someone from marketing, product management or anyone with a solid understanding of users, the market place, the competition and of future trends for the domain or type of system being developed” – Mike Cohn

The definition above is very “project-centric” – the Product Owner’s role appears to be tied to the existence and duration of the project and their focus is on the delivery of “features”.

DevOps, conversely, asks us (in the “First Way of DevOps”) to use “Systems Thinking” and focus on the bigger picture (not just “feature-itis”) and the “Product-centric” approach says we need to focus on the entire lifecycle of the product, not just the delivery of a project/feature/phase.

Whilst decomposing the “big picture” into “features” is something we completely agree with, as features should be the “unit of work” for your Scrum teams or “Agile Software Development Factory”, it needs to be within the context of the Product Lifecycle (and the “feature roadmap”).

So the key shift here then is to start talking about the “Product Lifecycle Owner”, not just the Product Owner, and ensure that Systems Thinking is a critical skill for that role.

The second big shift with DevOps is that “Non-Functional Requirements” proposed by Operations as being critical to the manageability and stability of the product across its full lifecycle “from inception to retirement” must be seen as equally important as the functional requirements proposed by the traditional Product Owner role.

In fact, we’d like to ban the term “Non-Functional Requirements” (NFR’s) completely, as the name itself seems to carry an inherent “negativity” that we feel contributes to the lack of importance placed on NFR’s in many organisations.

We propose the term “Operational Requirements” (OR’s) as we feel that this conveys the correct “product lifecycle-centric” message about why these requirements are in the specification – “This is what we need to run and operate this product in Production across the product’s lifecycle in order to maximise the product’s likelihood of meeting the business objects set for it”.

We propose the term “Operational Requirements” (OR’s) as we feel that this conveys the correct “product lifecycle-centric” message about why these requirements are in the specification.

For the slightly more pessimistic or combative amongst you the “OR” in Operational Requirements can stand for “OR this doesn’t get deployed into Production…” .

The unresolved question is do we need an “Operational Product Owner” or does the role of the traditional, business-focussed Product Owner extend to encompass the operational requirements?

You could argue that the “Operational Product Owner” already partly exists as the “Service Delivery Manager” (SDM) within the ITIL framework but SDM’s rarely get involved in the software development lifecycle as they are focussed on the “delivery” part at the end of the SDLC. Their role could be extended to include driving Operational Requirements into the SDLC as part of the continual service improvement (CSI) process however.

That said, having two Product Owners might be problematic and confusing from the Agile development team perspective so it would probably be preferable if the traditional Business product owner was also responsible for the operational requirements as well as the functional requirements. This may require the Product Owner to have a significantly deeper understanding of technology and operations than previously otherwise trying to understand why “loosely-coupled session state management” is important to “horizontal scalability” might result in some blank faces!

So in summary a “DevOps Product Owner” needs to:

  • Embrace “System Thinking” and focus on the “Product Lifecycle” not just projects or features
  • Understand the “Operational Requirements” (and just say “No to NFR’s”!)
  • Ensure that the “OR’s” are seen as important as the “Functional Requirements” in the Product roadmap and champion their implementation

In future posts we’ll examine the impact of DevOps on other key roles in the SDLC & Operations. We’ve love to get your opinions in the comments section below!

-TheOpsMgr

image source: – CC  – CannedTuna via Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/cannedtuna/7348317140/sizes/m/

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DevOps and the “Product-centric” approach

When doing the research for our BrightTalk Webinar on DevOps I came across this quote from Jez Humble on “products not projects”, which really struck a chord with our thinking about what we call the “product-centric” approach to DevOps.

Products not Projects quotation

Figure 1 – DevOpsGuys BrightTalk Webinar

One of the key elements of DevOps is to ensure that IT strategy is directly linked with Business strategy.

One of the critical scenes in “The Phoenix Project” is where our hero Bill gets to meet with the CFO and they work through the list of “pet IT projects” in the organisation and find that many of them can’t really be tied back to any business strategy or organisational goal.

This is, we feel, one of the major problems with the “project-centric” view of IT and why we need to push for a “product-centric” view.

The “project-centric” view, whilst important for mobilising resources and organising activities, can easily get disconnected from the original business objectives. Any “Project”, just like the “Phoenix Project” in the novel, runs the risk of becoming its own “raison d’etre” as it becomes more about getting “the Project” over the line than whatever business benefits were originally proposed.

In contrast a “Product-centric” viewpoint is focussed on the Product (or Service) that you are taking to market. By keeping the focus on “the Product” you are constantly reminded that you are building a product, for customers, as part of an organisational objective that ties back to over-arching business strategy.

For example if you were in the travel sector you might be adding a new “Online Itinerary Manager” product to your website to enable your customers to view (and possibly update) their itinerary online as part of your business strategy to both empower customers online and reduce the number of “avoidable contacts” to your call centre (and hence reduce costs).

One of the other benefits of the “product-centric” view is also highlighted in Jez’s quote above – “From Inception to Retirement”.

The “product-centric” view reminds us to think about the “Product lifecycle” and not just the “software development lifecycle”.

The “product-centric” view reminds us to think about the “Product lifecycle”
and not just the “software development lifecycle”.

You need to understand how this product is going to be deployed, managed, patched, upgraded, enhanced and ultimately retired… and that means you need close cooperation between the business, the developers and operations (= DevOps!).

So how do you introduce the “Product-centric” view into an organisation that might already have existing website that offers products/services to customers?

Well, firstly, you need to stop referring to it as “the website”.

A “website” is a platform and a channel to market, it’s not a “product”.

A product is a good or service that you offer to the market in order to meet a perceived market need in the hope that you will in return received an economic reward.

For some “websites” there might be a single product e.g. Dominos sells pizza online (food products) and for other there might be multiple products e.g. theAA.com sells membership (breakdown services), Insurance, Financial Services, Driver Services (mostly training) and Travel Services. If you’re ever in doubt on the products your website sells your top navigation menu will probably give you a pretty good indication!

What Products does the AA Sell?

Figure 2 – what products does the AA sell?

It’s worth mentioning that the AA has another product too – the “RoutePlanner”. Although the route planner is “free” is has a value to the organisation both indirectly (by drawing traffic to the site that you might then cross-sell too) and intangibly (by offering a valuable service for “free” it enhances the brand).

Secondly, you need to identify the “product owners” for each of the core products that use your website as a channel to market, so in our AA example you’d probably have separate product owners for Membership, Insurance, Finance etc.

If you’re ever in doubt about who is, or isn’t, the right product owner then there is a simple test – “Do you have a significantly financial incentive (bonus) for Product “X” to succeed in the market?”.

The “Product Owner” Test:
“Do you have a significantly financial incentive (bonus) for Product “X” to succeed in the market?”

If the answer is “no” keep going up the hierarchy until you find someone who says “yes”. A product owner who doesn’t have any “skin in the game” regarding the success of their product line is a bad idea!

Thirdly, you need to work with the product owner to map out the product lifecycle of that product, and then identify the IT dependencies and deliverables at every stage along that product lifecycle. Within your product lifecycle you might also want to map out the “feature roadmap” if your product devolves into multiple features that will be released over time. Creating the “big picture” can be vital in motivating your teams and helping them to understand what you’re trying to achieve, and this in turn helps that to make better decisions.

Fourthly, you need to “sense check” your product lifecycle and feature roadmap against your business strategy and organisational goals. If they don’t align you either need to re-work the plan or you might decide to drop the product altogether and re-deploy those resources to a product that *IS* part of your core strategy.

Lastly you need to re-organise your DevOps teams around these products and align your delivery pipeline and processes with the product lifecycle (and feature roadmap). Your DevOps teams are responsible for the “inception to retirement” management of that product (*Top Tip – just like your “product owner” it might be a great idea to incentivise your DevOps teams with some “product success” (business) metrics in their bonus, not just technical metrics like “on-time delivery” or “system availability”. It never hurts for them to have some “skin in the game” to promote a sense of ownership in what they are delivering!).

So, to summarise, the key elements in a “product-centric approach” are:

(1)    Breakdown your “website” into the key “Products” (that generate business value)

(2)    Identify “Product Owners” with “skin in the game”

(3)    Map out the product lifecycle (and ideally feature roadmap) for each product with them

(4)    Sense check this product strategy with your organisational strategy

(5)    Align your DevOps teams with the core products (and incentivise them accordingly!)

So next time you’re in a meeting and someone proposes a new “Project” see if you can challenge them to create a new “Product” instead!

 

image source: - CC  - jeremybrooks via Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremybrooks/5401494223/sizes/s/
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DevOps – how to find the constraints in your IT services? Part I

One of the key quotes in “The Phoenix Project” was, for me, “Any improvement not made at the constraint is an illusion”.

“Any improvement not made at the constraint is an illusion”

The logic is clear – any improvements in delivery upstream from the constraint just causes more work to queue up at the bottleneck constraint, and any improvement downstream just means more idle time for the downstream resources as they wait for work to be released from the bottleneck.

So, how can you identify the constraint(s) in your IT services?

Well, in the Phoenix Project is obvious – the constraint is “Brent”, the uber-geek with his hands in every project and too much un-documented knowledge in head. However, in your organisation the constraints might be much more subtle and may need a more methodical investigation to uncover.

I am sure that the business process re-engineering and Six-Sigma experts out there have a wealth of methodologies to discover these constraints, but the purpose of this article is to outline a pragmatic approach, derived from first principles, that you can use to get started. (p.s. if you ARE a business process re-engineering and Six-Sigma expert please feel free to point us to relevant techniques and models via the comments!).

Where should you start? Clearly, your focus needs to be on those IT services (people, process and technology) that are key to your business success and contribute the most to your organisation’s strategic objectives. (BTW one of the other key lessons from the Phoenix Project was how many “mission critical projects” actually had no real linkage to the company’s strategic objects or business plans).

So, step #1 is to dig out your organisation’s annual report and most recent strategy presentation and make sure that YOU know clearly what the organisation’s goals are. This is your “BS filter” for the rest of the rest of the process… if someone complains about an IT service but can’t link that service or project back to a key business objective then put that one the bottom of the pile!

The next step is to do a bit of exploratory research with your key business users (note, business users, not IT staff!) which should quickly provide you with a list of “Top Ten IT services that get in the way of the business success”. This list might include services that you DON’T currently deliver e.g. “if we had a more flexible and responsive laptop support team e.g. “like a genius bar” where our mobile sales teams could get their laptop problems fixed fast and get back on the road selling to our customers.”.

Step #3 is to try to validate these subjective opinions with some objective data.

Now, assuming you have some type of helpdesk logging system you should have a ready source of data about the performance of your key IT services. If you DON’T have some form of logging tool then find a way to start logging your work, immediately, even if it’s just one big shared Excel spreadsheet. Personally, I like Service-now.com and have used that very successfully at a number of sites but the key point is “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and to have any hope of demonstrating improvement you need to be able to measure the before & after impact of whatever changes you make.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”

What sort of things can you look at? Well, things like which tasks/services/processes are used the most? Take the longest? Breach the SLA’s the most (days overdue)? Who in your team has the most items assigned to them? Which systems/services have the lowest availability? All of these (and many others) should start pointing you in the right direction for things that need improvement.

So, now you have a list of the stuff that’s most important to the business, backed up with objective data about how frequently the issues might occur, how many users are impacted and that should enable you to make a first pass at what’s important and where to start first.

So, write them up on cards, stick them up on your Kanban Board, and move your top pick to “in progress” and start working on the detail of finding and fixing the constraints in that service.

How we’ll do that step will be in Part II!

-          TheOpsMgr

 

Photo: Flickr/bjornmeansbear

Are you really doing DevOps? 8 prerequisites you must consider

A recent “2013 State of DevOps” report from PuppetLabs indicated that “52% of [over 4,000] respondents said that they’ve been doing DevOps for > 12 months”. Our own, less formal, survey found very much the same – 60% of respondents indicated that they were currently doing DevOps”. Take part in our survey, by clicking here.

PuppetLabs Survey Results
PuppetLabs Survey Results

The question is Are you really doing DevOps?

As we pointed out in our earlier DevOpsDays wrap-up blog there are at least 7 different definitions of what DevOps is, judging by the presentations given on the day:

DevOps … is a movement, a philosophy, a way of thinking.
DevOps … is a person who can perform both Dev and Ops roles.
DevOps … means cross skilling people.
DevOps … is continuous delivery.
DevOps … is a team of developers and operation staff.
DevOps …is a culture movement.
DevOps … is monitoring.

So… what’s the “minimum viable product” (MVP) for DevOps? What core things should you be doing before you can truly say you are “doing DevOps”?

In the whitepaper “The Top 11 Things You Need To Know About DevOps” Gene Kim emphasizes the “3 Ways”:

(1) “ Emphasize the performance of the entire system” – a holistic viewpoint from requirements all the way through to Operations
(2) “Creating feedback loops” – to ensure that corrections can continually be made. A TQM philosophy, basically.
(3) “Creating a culture that fosters continual experimentation and understanding that repetition and practice are the pre-requisites to mastery”

These are excellent guidelines at a high level, but we’d like to see a more operational definition. So we’ve made up our own list!

As a starter – we propose that;

  1. You must have identified executive sponsors / stake holders who you are actively working with to promote the DevOps approach.
  2. You must have developed a clear understanding of your organisation’s “value chain” and how value is created (or destroyed) along that chain.
  3. You must have organizationally re-structured your development and operations teams to create an integrated team – otherwise you’re still in Silos.
  4. You must have changed your team incentives (e.g. bonus incentives) to reinforce that re-alignment – without shared Goals you’re still in Silos.
  5. You must be seeking repeatable standardized processes for all key activities along the value chain (the “pre-requisite to mastery”)
  6. You must be leveraging automation where possible – including continuous integration, automated deployments and “infrastructure as code”
  7. You must be adopting robust processes to measure key metrics – PuppetLab’s report focuses on improvement in 4 key metrics – Change Frequency, Change Lead Time, Change Failure Rate and MTTR. We suggest Availability, Performance and MTBF should be in there too.
  8. You must have identified well-defined feedback mechanisms to create continuous improvement.

As mentioned above, this is just a starter list – feel free to agree/disagree in the comments and suggest additions or alterations.

We’ll be writing more about “DevOps Incentives” in an upcoming post, and we’ll revisit the “Are you doing DevOps?” topic once we’ve consolidated your feedback.

-TheOpsMgr

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Twelve DevOps Anti-Patterns

So you wanna do DevOps? Okay, but before you start, let’s have a look at some of the things you shouldn’t do.

In the good old days, we just called them “bad ideas”, but along came diplomacy and political correctness, out went the “brain storm” and in came the “idea shower” and with it came the “anti-pattern”.

If the “pattern” is the right way, then inherently the “anti-pattern” is the wrong – and so to stop you going wrong, we’ve compiled this list (with a little help from the DevOps community).

1. DevOps is a process

Not exactly. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of thinking. DevOps is supported by process and tools.

DevOps according to Gene Kim, is underpinned by 3 core principles known as the “Three Ways”

The First Way emphasizes the performance of the entire system – the value stream.

The Second Way is about shorting and amplifying feedback loops.

The Third Way is about creating a culture that fosters continual learning and understanding.

http://itrevolution.com/pdf/Top11ThingsToKnowAboutDevOps.pdf

2. Agile equals DevOps?

If you’re asking this question, then you’re probably running some agile process. That’s good. You’ve got a software development process that compliments DevOps, but Agile doesn’t mean you’ve adopted DevOps.

DevOps is an agile enabler allowing operations to collaborate supporting a more continuous flow of work into IT Operations and out into production where customers can realize its value.

3. Rebrand your ops/dev/any team as the DevOps

CIO: “I want to embrace DevOps over the coming year.”

MGR: “Already ready done, we changed the department signage this morning. We are so awesome we now have 2 DevOps teams.”

Yeah great. And I bet you now have lots of “DevOps” engineers walking round too. If you’re lucky they may sit next to each other at lunch.

4. Start a separate DevOps group

Go on. I dare you. Done it? Well done. You’ve implemented DevOps. Actually what you just did is create yet another silo. Now you’ve got yourself another team you’ve got to try and integrate. Another team with walls to breakdown. Maybe you could go back and rebrand (see AP: x) and create 3 DevOps teams then you’d be super awesome.

DevOps is not about cherry picking some developers and some IT Operations people and silo’ing them off. You’ve got to embrace and embed. Collapse the development team into the ops team or vice-versa. You need to fully break down the barriers / walls / guards between the teams and mould them into a single unit with shared goals and responsibilities.

http://www.slideshare.net/realgenekim/2012-velocity-london-devops-patterns-distilled

5. The hostile takeover

DevOps. So that’s a word that starts with “Dev”. That means development lead, because development comes first…… Problem?

DevMgr – “Er, we’re now doing DevOps. My guys need to learn the production systems.”

OpsMgr – “Er….ok. So who’s going to be developing the code?”

The word DevOps is clever. It’s a portmanteau. This means the combination of two words, to form a new word, which gives a new meaning. It even delivers some efficiency. It doesn’t mean we took the word operations and replaced it with the word development. So why would you try and adopt DevOps in that manner?

DevOps requires both groups to recognise their key skills. Share what needs to be shared to collaborate. Learn what needs to be learnt to improve. It does not mean retraining. It does not mean cross-skilling (however, this may be a welcome side-effect). It does mean providing feedback and visibility to improve.

http://www.slideshare.net/realgenekim/2012-velocity-london-devops-patterns-distilled

6. DevOps is a buzz word

If you think DevOps is a buzz word, then you’ve probably been using “The Cloud” as a misnomer too. DevOps is a word, you got that right. Actually, it’s a portmanteau of Development and IT Operations (I’ll collect my gold star from teacher later).

DevOps is more than just a cool buzz word. It’s a state of mind. You must embrace its values, you must help others embrace its values and you must continually improve yourself and help others to improve for it to be successful. Once you throw away the BS and start collaborating you might get people to think your catchy new word “DevOps” might actually be cool.

http://www.slideshare.net/realgenekim/2012-velocity-london-devops-patterns-distilled

7. Sell DevOps as a silver bullet

DevOps is voodoo. You basically get your Development team and your IT Operations team together. They smoke some peyote and then sacrifice a chicken. Once you’ve done that your organisation will be revolutionised. You’ll be able to ship software faster than ever before. Configuration will be self-managing. Your deployment tools will become self-aware. Your development and IT Operations teams will have a new found harmony.

Get this….. DevOps is hard work! For most it requires Culture Change! That’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever attempt. For seasoned development and IT Operations teams you’re about to try and turn their world up-side down. Don’t try and do it overnight or you will fail.

8. DevOps means Developers Managing Production

No. Hell No and No again. I’m so incensed you’ll just have to read this….

9. DevOps is Development-driven release management

Let me get 2 things clear;

  1. DevOps is not development driven.
  2. DevOps is not IT Operations driven.

If you want a developer driven environment, fine, go create one. Just don’t call it DevOps. It’s not.

Take a look at this article for example.

http://www.computerweekly.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=113&tag=release%20management&limit=20

“Within DevOps, programmers are programmers.” – Right on!

“Equally, within DevOps, operations staff are operations staff.” – We’re cooking now!

“Traditionally, getting software out to production can be either the responsibility of operations, or of the development team.”

Hang on……

“IT operations teams will have established and trusted deployment strategies in place that minimise downtime and ensure stability at the expense of agility and speed of response.”

Yep, we’re back on track…… and then bam!

“Development-driven release management” – WTF? It gets worse

“Development-driven release management goes the other way and looks at how deployment can be carried out as often and easily as possible. However, these deployments aren’t necessarily into production……………From a process standpoint, continuous delivery has two big requirements: first, the process itself has to be solid beyond development. This means that it has to be as solid as any process that a traditional IT operations team might put into place.”

No. Non. Nej. Na. Nee. Nein.

Development-driven anything may be a process. It’s just not DevOps. Replacing your IT Operations team with an automated deployment process is nonsense. Please don’t try this at home folks!

10. We can’t do DevOps – We’re Unique

Yes you are, you little beauty you! But you’re not special enough that you can’t adopt DevOps. I bet you’re the best developer out there; you code quicker than lighting, and deliver the sort of code that makes grown men cry with joy. No? Okay, so you’re the most awesome Ops Guy on planet. If Chuck Norris were an IT Operations Engineer he’d be want to be you. However, you and your organisation don’t have some unique factor that won’t allow you to adopt DevOps. So give it a go!

Jesse Robbins from OpsCode has some good advice for getting started;

  • Start Small – Build Trust
  • Create Champions
  • Build Confidence
  • Celebrate Success
  • Exploit Circumstance

http://www.slideshare.net/jesserobbins/cloud-expo-jesserobbinsopscode20130129b

https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydeveloperworks/blogs/ambler/entry/adoption_antipattern_we_re_special?lang=en

11. We can’t do DevOps – We’ve got the wrong people

Well why did you hire them? That’s right – they’re awesome! If you don’t think that, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself, then go and discover the real hidden talents in your team.

Someone told me recently that they couldn’t do DevOps because “they have the wrong developers or the wrong ops people…”. So they have developers who can’t code? I thought to myself, “my organisation has the wrong developers, people who can’t code, they run HR and Marketing!”

DevOps fosters a collaborative working relationship between Development and IT Operations. This collaboration can extend right through the organisation further enhancing working relationships between teams.

You don’t have the wrong people. You have the wrong thought process. Deal with it.

12. Collaboration when the S**T hits the fan

Ok genius. You f**ked up. So what? We all do it. But now you want your IT Operations guys out of bed at 2am to clean-up something they know nothing about. They are IT Operations engineers – not the “fixer” like Michael Clayton. Waiting until an error occurs during a deployment for Development and IT Operations to collaborate sucks.

It’s too late for this problem….. but maybe not for the next. You have your Development team and your IT Operations team talking (or swearing at 2am) with each other, but at least they are talking. Keep the dialog going. Get a retrospective review of what happened and how you can fix it going forward. If you have encountered this situation, then try and keep the dialog going with between your teams. Open the communication channels with Development and IT Operations early. There’s hope for you yet!

http://cdn.dzone.com/sites/all/files/refcardz/rc145-010d-continuousdelivery_0.pdf

– TheDevMgr