Interview with Sebastian Schreck & Thomas Uebel

Breaking down silo walls: “DevOps is not an engineering discipline”

Dominik Mohilo
Sebastian Schreck & Thomas Uebel

How can Devs, Ops, and management all work together on one shared goal? What role does management have in the implementation of DevOps? We interviewed Sebastian Schreck and Thomas Uebel from Mister Spex about how to implement DevOps in the workplace and how to break down silo walls.

JAXenter: What is the first step to tear down the silo walls? What do you suggest the approach be?

Sebastian Schreck & Thomas Uebel: The first step in solving any problem is understanding there is one. We think the most common problem with silos is a lack of communication and collaboration.

You’ll want to enable collaboration, where currently none or very little exists. If you find your organization exhibiting a “them vs. us” mentality then the first thing to do is to bring people from different departments together.

You’ll want to share and discuss the pain points. The organization most certainly did not all of a sudden become that way – it got to that point slowly. And so, it will take a lot of discussion and building trust to regain a collaborative attitude.

You’ll want to ensure that your engineers have a mutual understanding and respect for all the other departments they work with. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we work to achieve common business goals that are shared across silos.

SEE ALSO: Top 4 challenges to adopting DevOps and the best ways to resolve them

JAXenter: Which role do management and business logic play in the development of better DevOps strategies?

Sebastian Schreck & Thomas Uebel: The introduction of DevOps principles in organizations aims to reduce the time to market for features. In order to deliver software faster, it has to be designed to be testable – you can not sacrifice quality for speed of delivery. Quality gates enable automated go/no-go decision for deployments.

A nice side effect is that software quality will almost always increase. In order to enable quick rollouts or rollbacks, business and management logic need to support feature switches: allowing a set amount of people to test the feature in the environment it runs in.

JAXenter: What are the main obstacles for DevOps to be implemented in a company?

Sebastian Schreck & Thomas Uebel: We see three categories of obstacles: technological, organizational, and cultural obstacles. The hardest obstacles to overcome are the ones we cannot solve simply by throwing money at them. For example, if you have manual release processes it is easy to invest in automation tooling.

On the other hand, tackling organizational problems take time, empathy, a lot of reflection, and the will to get rid of bad habits. Furthermore, cemented hierarchies and the unwillingness to share responsibilities will prevent a successful adoption of DevOps methodologies. A main aspect of DevOps culture is the lack of blame and finger pointing, the acceptance of failure, and the willingness to learn from it. An organization where employees are not encouraged to experiment, adapt, and improve is destined to fail.

JAXenter: What are the differences in the roles of Devs, Ops, and management?

Sebastian Schreck & Thomas Uebel: Historically, these three roles have conflicting goals.

Ops focuses on keeping the systems and the underlying infrastructure stable, resulting in an aversion against change. Development, on the contrary, is creating changes in order to enable the business to reach its goals. Management has the understanding of what the business needs and which actions are required to succeed, and formulates specific goals for departments to work on.

In the context of DevOps transformation, these roles need a common ground to work together. The ultimate goal of a DevOps transformation is to enable ever-faster changes of the software without sacrificing stability or quality. For this, Dev and Ops need to work closely together. But first, they need to develop openness in order to enable mutual understanding.

Management, on the other hand, needs to acknowledge the benefits of letting teams and departments choose their way of working. Not only should it accept this, but support and encourage that level of responsibility. There is little use in hiring experts and not listening to what they have to say. Management is becoming more about enabling, empowering, and trust.

SEE ALSO: How to deal with DevOps culture change: 5 steps to build a behavioral framework

JAXenter: What should people take from your session at DevOpsCon 2018?

Sebastian Schreck & Thomas Uebel: We would like to make clear that DevOps is not an engineering discipline. The DevOps transformation is not done by simply putting your developers and operation engineers together in one team and calling that DevOps. It is much more about culture than anything else.

In our opinion, there are three main aspects of a successful DevOps transformation: collaboration, amplifying feedback loops, and accelerating flow. Our talk at DevOpsCon 2018 will include some methodologies successfully implemented at Mister Spex in order to address those aspects.

Thank you!

Dominik Mohilo
Dominik Mohilo studied German and sociology at the Frankfurt University, and works at S&S Media since 2015.

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