Jez Humble on DevOps (part C): Is It Enterprise Ready & What Metrics?

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And our third segment from the interview with Jez.


You need to create organizations that are organized around outcomes, not function, and think about how to organize your teams – and your systems architecture – around the idea that everyone has something to contribute.

Chris: is DevOps an enterprise-ready notion?


Jez: Absolutely. One of my current jobs is making it absolutely clear that DevOps and Continuous Delivery apply at scale and in an enterprise context. I’ve written articles in the last year which describe how to make Continuous Delivery and DevOps work with ITIL change management and controls such as segregation of duties.


There’s no reason you can’t implement these principles and practices and still be compliant with regulation like Sarbanes-Oxley or PCI-DSS – indeed my co-author, Dave Farley, works for a financial exchange that is subject to both of these regulations. They found that their deployment pipeline actually made it much easier to do auditing – they got it for free, as a by-product.

They had an old-school ops person who was initially skeptical (having heard fairy stories from developers many times before), but once he saw it all working he was thrilled and helped to convince the external auditors that this stuff was actually superior to the “traditional” implementations of these kinds of controls, which often (ironically) increase rather than decrease risk.

Chris: [I gave a recent customer visit example and then went into asking about metrics and what to look for in those situations.] How do you as an executive, look out and navigate the entire business to this place of integrated, efficacious accomplishment? How do you adopt to modern customer requirements for responsiveness, speed, improved velocity, etc., before the reality of your current Waterfall situation puts the dinosaur in your company DNA out of business and takes your company along with it?

Jez: Well, I’m not going to be able to answer these questions in a few paragraphs. But they’re very common – so common in fact that I am currently writing a book to address them.

But to sketch out a short answer, I think that senior management has to really pay attention to IT. You can’t treat it as separate from the line of business. For many organizations – more than currently realize it – software is the business, and so you have to pay attention to the details.

You need to create organizations that are organized around outcomes, not function, and think about how to organize your teams – and your systems architecture – around the idea that everyone has something to contribute.

There’s this idea in lean that people optimizing locally can actually create a sub-optimal system. Everyone in your organization has to have a macro-level vision of what the organization is trying to achieve, and think about how they can work together to achieve that.

We’ve known this forever – Peter Drucker was talking about how to manage knowledge workers in the 1950s – but recent work by people like Dan Pink and Donald Reinertsen, movements like Design Thinking and Beyond Budgeting and Lean Startup – they’re all pointing in the same direction. Companies like Amazon and Apple have already adopted some these ideas, and my personal revelation of the last 18 months is that everyone wants a piece of this.

Unfortunately though you can’t just wave your magic wand and make it happen. It sounds obvious, but I work for an IT consultancy, and we’ve had people hire us in the expectation that we can somehow painlessly transport them into this magic world of Continuous Delivery and DevOps. It’s like the Underpants Gnomes in South Park.

But guess what. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be painful, it’s going to change the way you manage and lead your organization, the way you collaborate, the way you think about everything. Most people don’t like change, even if they like the idea of change.

And when you grow in size, it’s incredibly easy to become sclerotic and lumbering and descend into political deadlock and lose touch with any sense of passion about what you do. It takes constant hard work from everyone in your organization to avoid that fate.

So ultimately you have to find a way to drag the people in your organization out of the tar pit and harness the great ideas they have, and fight the people who are – with perhaps the best of intentions – preventing you from changing. That requires being hands-on, making trade-off decisions and managing risk without enough information, and generally (as my colleague Jim Highsmith puts it) riding paradox.

That sounds utterly indigestible. But the goodnews – as I said earlier – is that everybody can make a difference provided there is some slack. The fear of local optimization shouldn’t paralyze people from trying things – that’s one of the paradoxes we need to work with.


Next Jez discusses what he sees 3 to 5 years out.

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

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