Retrospectively Breaching the Wall between Developers and Operations
I like to describe my job at ThoughtWorks as helping Developers and Operations realize that they’re playing on the same team. No matter how awesome your code is, how elegantly you’ve solved the problem at hand, how nice and readable the code is – if you can’t get it into production your software is just a collection of bits. Likewise, you can have the best network, the most scalable hardware, the neatest cable patching scheme – but it’s just a big fancy heater if it’s not running the code your business needs.
As I’m normally brought in with the developers, I’ve been trying to find efficient ways to engage with the client Operations teams. Normally I end up having one on one conversations with various members of the team, try to find out what their current processes are, what their major challenges are and what their concerns are regarding the project I’m involved in. I usually do this to keep the safety levels high. The problem though is that it takes quite a lot of time and effort to get things going and get some momentum going.
At my current client though I didn’t have the time or access to the people to do things the normal way. A meeting was arranged with the key Operations stake holders and I effectively had just 2 hours to explain our development process in general, and Continuous Integration and Build Pipelines in detail. While talking with Graham Brooks about what we wanted to cover, he came up with the idea of running it as a mini retrospective.
After the usual introductions, we gave them 15 minutes to list the Good, the Bad and the Puzzles of their current development and release process. We had good participation from the group and as expected had a high number Bad entries. After talking through the cards and grouping them into related sections, we then allowed them to vote on the ones they most wanted to talk about. Most votes went to the core pain points, and we spent the rest of the time talking about how our process would address those issues. It also helped a lot that most of the Good entries related to the automation they already have in place…
By the end of the meeting no was talking about the bad old days (lobbing releases over the wall). Everyone was engaged starting to get some spirit of collective ownership going in the whole delivery process and that breaking down the walls that exist between the various silos was high on the list of things to do. Rather than talk to them about our process and how we would like to interact with them, we had allowed them to lead the discussion on which elements from our toolbox would have the greatest value for them.
All I need to do now is learn how to be as good a facilitator as Graham was…