DevOps Leadership: Kia Behnia Exc.#11: Executive DevOps

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This is the last excerpt from Kia’s interview. This focuses on something that has been a topic of discussion in the community for awhile: how do you talk to executives about DevOps? It’s related to the ROI of DevOps and other themes.


I remember when David Booth (then the CEO for ZeroTurnaround) led an awesome session at the DevOps meet in Boston (Feb 2010?)  about ‘ROI from DevOps’. It was fascinating to watch a group of high-IQ and broadly talented folks wrestle down potential answers. We came up with some interesting takes but a lot of it was frankly the sort of kumbayah stuff that doesn’t fly well in the boardroom. Every ‘Motivation 1.0’ (or ‘Motivation 2.0’)-driven* executive I’ve ever known would get dispeptic when told the measurement for something will be “count the smiles.”


DevOps was not on very many peoples’ radar then (IBM hadn’t renamed its cloud group to include DevOps, HP hadn’t started a big DevOps initiative, BMC hadn’t bought Streamstep and launched its DevOps initiative, executives at large multinationals weren’t asking about it, it wasn’t in job titles yet, etc.). We all knew there was — or would be — proof of our belief but we were often stuck with saying “we’re sure faster release cycles” or “probably happier IT folks”…


Kia takes it a little deeper, with a little more urgency. Feel free to quote him. He is most certainly “executive” — the CTO and SVP of a +$2B a year application software company, after all. In his opinion, if you aren’t getting involved in thinking DevOps in your organization, you are gambling that your competitors aren’t, too. As Deming said, survival is not mandatory.



edit add: did a minor change to fix David’s company name


*I am using the definitions of 1.0 and 2.0 from the amazingly helpful book DRiVE: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Required reading for all managers, executives, employees, contractors and anyone else IMO. This footnote is a second “edit add”.





Kia Behnia: They’re putting their company at risk, effectively [betting on] their competitor outgunning them.  This is not a lab exercise. This is a must.


Now having said that, most organizations are not as mature because it is an early movement. It is a movement that has only just started.  So, first thing I would tell them is to get educated on the benefits because we’ve seen at certain industries adopting a DevOps culture and processes and the tooling can give you a 3X improvement in terms of speed of delivery and directly contribute to competitive advantage.


So [for another example], many CIOs over the last few years have been beat up on cost savings.  They have a mindset around: “how do I cut costs?” and, increasingly, we’re seeing CIOs being asked to innovate more.  And DevOps projects could certainly be one of those that are uniquely positioned to help fuel your innovation engine while at the same time cutting your cost.


And like I’ve said, it’s a ‘start small’ attitude.  Find the areas where you can really strike a chord with the business, make the business happy, make a difference, and learn from it and apply it to other areas.





The Kia Behnia DevOps Leadership Main Page is Here.

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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