Interview with Jan Schilt, co-owner of GamingWorks

DevOps delivers value but there are projects that will have to be done the ‘old’ way

Dominik Mohilo
Jan Schilt

GamingWorks has built a simulation based on “The Phoenix Project,” the famous book by Gene Kim. We talked with Jan Schilt, co-owner of GamingWorks and speaker at the Microservices Summit about the Phoenix Project simulation and its benefits, as well as the advantages and challenges of going on a DevOps journey.

Many organizations want to apply DevOps principles in their organization but they don’t really know what DevOps is, what it requires from the employees, what value it will bring and how to start a DevOps journey. Other have already given DevOps a try but they faced misunderstandings and challenges that slowed them down.

We talked with Jan Schilt, co-owner of GamingWorks and speaker at the Microservices Summit about how The Phoenix Project will solve your day to day problems quicker and better, as well as the advantages and challenges of going on a DevOps journey.


JAXenter: What is —in your opinion— a good start for any DevOps journey?

Jan Schilt: The most important action is to start developing a new mindset in the whole organization.

Every person (Business, Development, and Operations) should understand what DevOps brings in terms of new ways of working, added value, benefits etc. We need to let people understand that we will go on a journey that’s based on continuous experimenting and learning. That we need to learn to work as a team. That we need to put the customer first etc.

JAXenter: DevOps is a highly cultural approach. Is it even possible for every project/company to embrace DevOps or are there cases where the transformation is bound to fail from the very beginning?

Jan Schilt: DevOps is an approach built on Agile, Lean, ITSM, collaboration, Flow, Visualisation, Product Ownership and many more. There are situations where one or more of those elements work in order to create more value. But there are projects that will have to be done the ‘old’ way. Just waterfall will probably work much better. I have seen organizations where they have some squads that work as DevOps teams, and other teams are just using Prince2 or any other PM approach. We have to think what is the best solution given the situation at hand.

SEE ALSO: Top 4 obstacles to DevOps adoption and how to successfully eliminate them

JAXenter: Tell us a little bit about the Phoenix Project.

Jan Schilt: This simulation is based on the book “The Phoenix Project’ by Gene Kim et al. We have the exclusive rights to build a simulation based on this. So in this simulation, the team will act as a squad within Parts Unlimited. They are responsible for finishing the Phoenix Project that has been going on for so long. Sales are going down, investors are selling their shares and the company is in danger. They need to implement a new way of working based on DevOps. So the team will receive a pile of work, and they must implement DevOps principles like visualization, flow, teamwork, automation, learning, feedback, product ownership and more to get all the work done, FAST and WITHOUT ERRORS.

In four rounds, we teach the team all the basic elements and we help them in a continuous learning cycle to become a better team.

JAXenter: What are the advantages of DevOps?

Jan Schilt:

  1. Teamwork. A dedicated team assigned to a product owner (value stream) to support this product owner by solving issues, building new features etc.
  2. Customer First. Working on things that are important for this specific value stream.
  3. When implemented right, perfect match with ITSM processes. Like problem management processes and 2nd line support.
  4. Faster Deployment, by having all expertise in one team, including the authority (and expertise) to deploy new features fast and without errors because we have a clear focus on avoiding unplanned work.

JAXenter: Are there any downsides?

Jan Schilt: I would call it: “What are the challenges….?”

  1. How to create multifunctional teams? We do not have unlimited resources to give each squad all the skills and knowledge. Think about: sharing knowledge, train people, minimize handoffs…
  2. How to work with teams that are across the world? Think about: setting up teams in one location, close to the product owner.
  3. How to create a culture in which we have time for reflection and learning? Think about: giving teams five percent of their time for reflection and learning. Give the team space to experiment and learn. Organize creative moments in which teams can share knowledge.
  4. What to do with managers? If we create multifunctional self-controlling teams, we are ‘killing’ the large departments which means less management needed. Yes, this is a challenge, and I don’t know the answers yet.

Jan Schilt will be delivering one talk at Microservices Summit in which you will experience DevOps in a real case experience using a serious business simulation. The talk will also show you how simulations can help you to understand theory better and transfer it to day to day work environment faster.

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

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