DevOpsDays 2015 Berlin – good principles start gaining ground

written by Alexander Bittner on 2015-10-30


It was a joy to be at DevOpsDays 2015 in Berlin. The community did a great job in organizing the conference. The location was nice and the evening event, taking place in a beautiful old Wilhelminian style flat, provided a good atmosphere for enlightening discussions.

I was impressed by the program as well as the mindset of the audience because it was different from what you might expect from a typical conference where technology is the focus.

Here are my key takeaways.

Keeping your DevOps culture alive is a Kata

Comparing DevOps practices to those of martial arts might sound strange in the first place. However, DevOps is not just about using cool tools and automating everything. It's even more about breaking with old habits and improving communication, understanding and collaboration.

Changing your own habits requires skills on a different level than changing your tools. It does not come over night and once you get a grasp of it, you need to constantly keep up a mental dialogue with yourself. John Willis (@botchagalupe) pointed this out very nicely in his keynote about the Toyota Kata.

A lot of DevOps practices may appear counter-intuitive in a world of market pressure, competition and quarterly reports, but history has also proven that sticking to quality and good principles will make you last. And encourages others to follow.

Applying DevOps principles is much like working scientifically

I had a very interesting discussion with a physicist who currently works as a software engineer. The company he is working for develops sensors for scientific experiments. He was new to DevOps. He instantly pointed out that the DevOps principles and the scientific way to approach problems are very much alike.

For instance, in science findings are only accepted when they have been verified by others. In DevOps you use Pair Programming or code reviews for the very same purpose: verification by others.

Another example are development methods following iterative approaches to problem solutions. You use project and process retrospectives, where you have a look at what was good and what can be improved next time. Scientists typically follow the plan-do-check-act method to improve their experiments, finding the way to solutions in an iterative way. Agile programming methods use the same approach, as a lot of DevOps principles do, too.

DevOps is less about technology than you might think

When looking at the topics of the talks and what was requested in the open space sessions, there was a trend visible: it appears that people have understood and accepted a lot of DevOps principles. They now want to learn more about how to introduce these principles in their environment.

There have been interesting discussions:  How do I convince stakeholders of the DevOps idea? What are the things I can do to plant the DevOps seed in my organization? How do I reorganize teams? What can I do to increase diversity?

Also, the topics of the talks were focused a lot on dealing with important aspects of human interaction: how you see others and how they see you. How do you sensitize yourself to your own limits and the limits of others? Maximilien Riehl's (@MaximilienRiehl) talk about "the beauty and the bias" was a pleasure to watch and illustrated these effects nicely.

DevOps is using your head while trusting your own gut

The conference left me with a lot of confidence that DevOps principles will continue to find their way into our daily business life.

My impression is that DevOps enables us to start accepting thoughts that do not serve economical purposes in the first place. It's like trusting your own gut becomes more relevant in our daily work. Nature gave us this feeling for a reason. And as long as we do not stop using our heads, things can only improve.

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