Steve Souders, a web performance engineer at Google, was a bit disheartened when he made his closing remarks at the recent Velocity conference in New York City.
"It's been seven years. I thought we'd be done by now," he said. He was addressing the pain that anyone involved in a movement of change has probably felt.
It Starts With Denial And Anger
It was a bit ironic that a group of people who spent three days talking about Resiliency, Concurrency and Adaptability at the conference did not seem to understand how to apply these concepts to their own problems. Souders, along with fellow conference co-chairs, John Allspaw, senior vice president of Etsy, and Courtney Nash, conference co-chair and an editor at O'Reilly Media, asked the audience for insight and suggestions for how to increase the uptake by businesses that were just not "getting it."
Several people walked up to the mic and talked about talking to the business in their own language. There were calls for more business cases. There were calls for tying everything back to specific return on investment (ROI) metrics. Souders, Allspaw and Nash all took these suggestions in stride and agreed that more of these types of activities were good. But they also harkened to the fact that these types of artifacts and proofs already exist and aren't being used. The problem as they saw it: some businesses just weren't getting it.
Then Andrew Clay Shafer, founder of Puppet Labs, walked up to the mic and rocked the foundations of belief for the whole room. "If the economic advantages to be had are so great, why don't you just form some new companies and crush them all?" he asked.
When Souders explained how the economic advantages of development and operations (DevOps) were not sufficient to overcome the market advantages of entrenched players, Shafer pounced. He claimed Souders had "answered his own question."
The reason companies are "not getting it" is because the economic advantages were not compelling enough. The academic term for this phenomena is what game theory refers to as a Nash equilibrium (made famous in "A Beautiful Mind").
I happened to be the next person in line and after paying my respects to the idols of the DevOps movement, I attempted to point out a different perspective. It's not that businesses aren't getting the message. The problem is that all of us in the room were not repeating the message enough in as many different ways as possible.
To give a visceral and concrete example, I compared the plight of DevOps to apartheid. With ridiculously worse conditions and a much more self evident problem, Nelson Mandela sat in jail for 27 years to show a minority of people in only one country that racism is wrong. Industry level change doesn't take seven years. It takes upwards of 27.
The second problem is in the fallacy pointed out by all the economic arguments. ROI and efficiency are not the whys behind DevOps. If these metrics are your only mechanism for getting people on board, get in line behind everyone else who can show greater top line increases and bottom line savings than you. Take a cue from the user experience (UX) movement, which has labored for more than twice the seven years DevOps has been around. UX is only now being viewed as "self evidently true" by the business community at large.
Just like UX, the real why behind DevOps is not for the economic gain: it is for improvement to the human condition. The real why for DevOps lies in the life of the operations professionals, whose on-call duties drag them from their families, doing an average of more than 60 hours a week with no end in sight to the pain that comes from a sense of unending oversubscription. The human cost of a non DevOps world is detailed in the second section of the IT Revolution Press manifesto:
"Working in most IT organizations is often thankless and frustrating. People feel as if they’re trapped in an ever-repeating horror movie, helpless to change the outcome The organization abdicates their responsibility to ensure that IT is managed well, plunging the department into relentless intertribal warfare between development, IT operations and information security. And of course, the auditors.
What inevitably results is chronic underachievement. The life of an IT professional is often demoralizing and frustrating, typically leading to feelings of powerlessness and rife with stress which seeps into every aspect of life. From stress-related health problems, to social issues, to tension at home, it has become clear that the current state of the IT professional is not only unhealthy, but unsustainable.
As people, we’re wired to contribute and to feel like we’re actively making a difference. Yet, all too often when IT professionals ask their organization for support, they’re met with 'you don’t understand' or worse, a barely masked, 'you don’t matter.'
As a human being, this is the worst response we could receive. Because the opposite of love isn’t hate — it’s apathy."
Fellow DevOps revolutionary Gene Kim is a little closer to a real solution to the problem when he talks about a multi-faceted approach to selling DevOps.
Kim is ready to partner with UX to talk about the human cost. Kim is ready to partner with the product managers to talk about the speed to market. Kim is ready to partner with finance to talk about the ROI. Kim is ready to partner with the strategists to talk about the risk of faster competitors. DevOps is about all of these things: love, competitiveness, money and fear.
When you want real change, you must be willing to do what is necessary (resiliency) to have as many people repeat your message in as many forums as possible (concurrency) and pivot your messages to be primarily attuned to the ear of your audience (adaptability).