John is an Agile Coach at Kainos, digital solution providers for a growing number of high profile government, commerical and public sector projects. Prior to his current role John was a Software Development Manager at MixRadio, based in Bristol. The role included a sojourn as Product Owner for the Continuous Delivery Team, leading to a strong interest in DevOps. John had a dubious start in IT, it began with several weeks erasing magnetic tape reels with a huge magnet in the staff canteen. Since then John has built web and enterprise apps in the publishing, teleco, commerce, defense and public sector arenas. These days his focus is firmly on coaching teams, and creating an environment that is both productive and enjoyable to work in. This has lead to forays into Scrum, Kanban, Lean, DevOps and just about everything in between.
Q: How did you get involved in DevOps?
A: Looking back the first time I got involved was as a Java developer building releases at IngentaConnect, there was a small, bright, team there, and the technical roles overlapped considerably, we just did what was necessary to keep the site healthy. I hadn’t experienced alternative approaches and it seemed natural to release when ready, automate a little more each time, and work closely with the people that ran systems. The first time I noticed DevOps as a ‘thing’, or rather the problem it aimed to solve, was tangentially, through continuous delivery. In 2009 I was working with Nokia Entertainment, where operations and development had evolved away from each other, both technically and culturally. They benefited from optimising in their own domains, but at the expense of cross team collaboration. Working as Product Owner of the continuous delivery Team it soon became clear to us that developing a DevOps culture was key to building a continuous delivery capability.
Q: What do you see as the biggest advantage of DevOps?
A: That’s a tough question, because when Continuous Delivery and DevOps are done right there are numerous, sometimes unexpected, benefits. I’ll start with a caveat though, because it’s perfectly possible to get it wrong. For example, investing a disproportionate amount of time or money, or alienating people and reducing engagement with an insensitive approach to change. It is also easy for tool and process choices to have a detrimental impact on quality, reliability and security. The biggest advantage in my mind is that Continuous Delivery is one of those rare initiatives that is good for business and individuals. Done right it accelerates the organisation’s ability to learn, assuming it knows what it’s goals are and can react to feedback. Releasing changes often means more opportunities to try something, check feedback, refine and try again. Damon Edwards put it nicely: ‘You get more shots at the prize’. On the individual side, people working in a Continuous Delivery and DevOps environment are often more engaged, putting responsibly in the right places promotes learning, eases frustration, increases autonomy and encourages personal development.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge in DevOps?
A: People; their history and habits. In this area tools have evolved rapidly, there are some amazing projects out there, and smart people to use and integrate them. Ultimately though it’s people that start the conversations that lead to technical changes. Despite what appear to be obvious benefits it can take an age for initiatives in Continuous Delivery and DevOps to gain traction. Often it is not a matter of a couple of people experimenting, the change spans departments, challenges existing roles, and the principles and conventions that built careers. There is a wealth of anecdotal and data evidence to support the approach. Despite this some organisations, and people, are still reluctant to take the first steps, the challenge is finding ways to encourage them…