What if you had absolute trust with your suppliers and your SLAs became insignificant? What would happen if your DevOps team became a “chaos monkey” that purposely initiated failures to examine your ability to survive them? What if IT could be a normal job where you never get interrupted in the middle of the night for an IT crisis? These are just a few of the topics I was introduced to by Rob England, the notorious “IT Skeptic.” As an attendee at the Pink Elephant Conference 2017, I was fascinated to hear more about the IT obstacles Rob tackled in his DevOps session. Below are a few critical lessons that changed the way I think about DevOps and the process of elevating the customer experience.
Why IT Teams Need to Embrace a New Mindset
The IT Skeptic introduced me to the idea that the IT mindset needs to shift. Rob England explained that “waterfall is based on a delusion that we are building simple linear systems that can be defined even before we start building them – and that’s rubbish.” IT deals with unpredictable systems, which makes it impossible to ever define your system. You cannot predict the future state while you cannot even truly know the current state of your system. He believes DevOps can never be defined or have best practices. This is the modern mindset that always delivers end results that surpass those who operate on traditional thinking.
Why Unicorn IT Teams Deliver Unbeatable Quality
According to the IT Skeptic, unicorns are organizations with practices so advanced they are almost magical to the rest of the world. Their customers constantly receive the best possible product, and when unpredictable failures occur, changes are not burdensome to retrace. Unicorns know products only get better by failure. Their processes keep changes small and reactive so that they can produce unbeatable speed in their diagnoses and deliver the highest-quality end products. A development team cannot operate like a repair team, or it leaves your team reactive rather than proactive. Unicorns do not deliver single versions of completed projects, they sell systems that are ever-evolving.
The IT Skeptic gives the example of Google, who he mentions deploys changes to production every three minutes, yet their availability is so high that it is not even measured! He also describes Netflix as a unicorn and as a chaos monkey, as they deliberately remove areas of code to test whether it causes failures. Unicorns set the aspirations for others on optimizing processes, embracing failures, and delivering the highest-quality products.
Why Aren’t We All Unicorns?
Many IT professionals are aware of the industry’s ongoing shift in mindset, but many do not know how to put it to action within their team. A unicorn operates on a modern mindset and embraces a flexible and dynamic work environment that can grow or shrink based on the needs of their current state.
Most IT organizations are stuck in the traditional cycle of processes/workflows, such as waterfall, which produces an assembly line that systematically pumps out broken and/or disappointing end results. Traditional-thinking IT teams identify and repair problems reactively, which can lead them to over-invest in a repair squad. Forward-thinking IT teams drive exceptional processes and results that enable them to focus on innovation, performance, and service experience.
The Results of a New Mindset
Rob England introduced me to the shift in mindset in DevOps where there is a true trust relationship throughout the IT team. There are organizations that do not even know their SLAs – and that’s a good thing. These organizations can tell their vendors what they want, and they trust them to deliver. This trust is a direct result of the radical thinking that allows your IT team to thrive. An IT team excels when it embraces changes, failures, and the unpredictability of your systems. IT leaders should strive to be a unicorn team that welcomes chaos, which, in turn, is likely to unlock your team’s ability to deliver impressive end results to your customers.
Expanding The New Mindset to Other Areas of IT
As I listened to Rob England’s lecture, I thought about how it relates to areas of IT outside of DevOps. This proactive and chaos-embracing mindset could benefit any area of IT that deals with high levels of unpredictability and also strives to deliver superior customer experiences. Within IT reporting data, you may deal with aggressive fluctuations such as spikes in tickets based on the season or service disruptions based on your number of changes. Yet solely relying on reporting data is a traditional, and time-consuming, method of diving into the root causes of these fluctuations.
Data is only the framework for a full picture of the state of your IT that does not help you deliver your highest-quality end results. By relying on traditional thinking and methods, the full picture of your IT operations often ends up looking completely different from what you anticipated. However, a modern mindset goes beyond reporting, and leverages analytics to make better decisions and ultimately improve the customer experience. You can make continuous adjustments to your operations based on analytical insight to ultimately achieve greater end results for your customers. Whether you are part of a DevOps or IT operations team, you strive to optimize your customer experience. By looking at top companies that embrace innovative IT practices, you can see the pattern of forward-thinking workflows/processes and greater business achievements.
[Image credit: Greg Rakozy.]