Interview with Julia Wester, co-founder and Principal Consultant at Lagom Solutions

“Thinking DevOps is a role or a team and expecting those people to do the ‘DevOps’ is a challenge”

Dominik Mohilo
© Shutterstock / Ashalatha

In order to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of DevOps, we invited Julia Wester, co-founder and Principal Consultant at Lagom Solutions to weigh in on the development of DevOps over the past few years, its present and future, as well the biggest obstacles to overcome when implementing DevOps.

JAXenter: DevOps is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It all began in 2008 when Andrew Shafer and Patrick Debois presented their “Agile Infrastructure” talk. Could you perhaps make a quick analysis of how DevOps developed over the past 10 years?

Julia Wester: DevOps has changed from merely focusing on the last mile – from code commit to deployment – to a more holistic focus on delivering value from end to end. We’re hearing more about shifting left to include more of the value stream. We are focusing more on the people aspect than we used to. Now, we hear about it as much as – if not more so than – the tools aspect. Though much of the literature still focuses on that last mile. What we’re talking about in the field does not.

JAXenter: How would you describe the current state of DevOps? Where is it headed?

Julia Wester: I was asked what the future of DevOps looked like a few years ago after a talk at DevOps Enterprise Summit. I have the same opinion now. The future of DevOps is systems thinking. DevOps was always a focus on an interaction between the development function and the operation function. Now that we are making progress with that handoff, optimizing it, we’re moving to include much more of the value stream… more of the interactions. You can tell as we hear terms like DevSecOps, BizDevOps, etc. We have realized there are more problems and we’re trying to tackle those as well so we can make it a more optimized whole. This is systems thinking – working on the interactions in a system.

JAXenter: Developers are facing more and more tasks formerly handled by operators and vice-versa. Are the classic roles of developers and operators still going to be used in the future as well or are they blending?

Julia Wester: I think the classic roles will remain but that each will be expected to understand more about the areas in which they overlap…

JAXenter: DevOps is not only about the cultural aspects, but also about the tools. Which tools do you recommend for a successful transition to DevOps?

Julia Wester: I won’t recommend specific tools but you need source control systems and build systems – ideally connected to processes that will deploy artifacts to environments and install them for you so they’re done consistently every time. You need work tracking tools to help see how smoothly (or not) workflows through your value stream and how long it takes to do so.

SEE ALSO: “Make sure you think about the damage you can do by blindly optimizing for a metric”

JAXenter: Do you have any best practices that every team or company should embrace when moving to DevOps?

Julia Wester: Best practices are only applicable when there’s one best way of doing things. Most things we talk about are in the space of good practices, or even emerging practices. Good practices I recommend are:

  • Get input from all team members when defining existing challenges. Don’t assume you can see the whole picture from a management position.
  • Make creating a psychologically safe environment a top priority. If you don’t, the problems you need to address will be hidden from you.
  • Treat improvement as a continual stream of work – carve out time, give it the priority.
  • Visualize as much as possible: work (aka value being delivered, including improvements), the process that it goes through, any problems it encounters, etc.

JAXenter: What do you think are the biggest obstacles in implementing DevOps successfully?

Julia Wester:  Thinking DevOps is a role or a team and expecting those people to do the “DevOps” is certainly a challenge. Other challenges are:

  • Thinking a new toolset will fix the problems addressed by the DevOps movement. Tools will help, but they are a means to an end. Not the solution in and of themselves. The harder problems are the people and mindset problems.
  • The name DevOps doesn’t help executives realize that it’s something that they need be part of as opposed to something they can delegate down to teams/departments. We need to help executives understand their role in a “DevOps transformation.”

Thank you very much!

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

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