Reflections from DOES15: Enabling the Value Stream

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October was a big month for DevOps and Continuous Delivery practitioners, especially for the 1,200-plus passionate individuals who gathered in San Francisco for the DevOps Enterprise Summit. We came together not only to celebrate the community-driven movement, but more importantly to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing some of the largest and most complex Fortune 1,000 enterprises that are in the midst of business-critical IT transformations.

Earlier, Steve Brodie reflected on our key takeaways from the event and what those mean for the industry moving forward. I now wish to dive into some of the key themes that emerged  from some of the great talks at the event, which helped make DOES15 a cut above the rest. Let’s call these the “Power 5” themes that drive DevOps (and in fact, any large-scale organizational change) anywhere, at any time, and for anyone:

1Empathy:

This is probably the most important of the “Power 5” themes from DOES15. Why? Nearly every presentation (out of 85 sessions) at the show touched on this topic in some form or another and it cannot be understated how important this is to the success of driving a DevOps transformation. In fact, people like Josh Corman of Sonatype will go as far as telling you that “DevOps starts with empathy.”

But why is empathy so important? Because it is one of the most effective ways for people to actually understand for themselves the “SWOT analysis” of a current business practice that they themselves would otherwise never know. People may forget what was said or done in the past, but they will never forget how something made them feel. A great example of building empathy in an organization was how Heather Mickman and Ross Clanton from Target developed an immersive learning session where it had executives build & deploy code, in order to build empathy with their software engineering teams.

2Transparency:

Perhaps one of the most respectable revelations of the DevOps Enterprise Summit is that in order to be an “awesome company,” everyone in the organization must value transparency. Once again, several presenters shed light on the topic and how it is essential to the fabric of an enterprise IT transformation. Mike Bland from 18f gave a truly uplifting presentation (his slides are available here) and talked about how transparency, autonomy and collaboration empowers a team to exceed customers’ expectations. He said “It is dangerous to think that change can only come from the power and magic of a selected few.” Jody Mulkey from Ticketmaster also discussed transparency as a key to success, urging the attendees to “measure results, not activity” since “transparency breeds progress.” If you really stop and think about it, knowledge really is the way to derive power. But, power is only gained by the sharing of knowledge – not the hoarding of it.

3Trust:

When Adrian Cockroft talked about trust during his presentation on systems thinking being applied to organizations, he said “it is hard to build and easy to break.” For anyone in a large enterprise, this is especially true. Trust must be earned over time and it will take even longer to repair, if broken. Relationships will always be formed on the basis of trust – between you and your boss, your co-workers, and more pointedly, your customers. If you don’t have an internal culture that values and practices trust, any goal of a large-scale IT transformation is destined to fail.

So how does a CIO or business leader support a DevOps transformation with this in mind? Ralph Loura from HP gave us great insight into his philosophy when he said “trust & empowerment are non-negotiable.” In fact, when Ralph got up on stage with Olivier Jacques and Rafael Garcia, they shared the pillars of HP’s own DevOps Manifesto and guess what? Trust is the basis for everything they do.

4Collaboration:

Another significant piece to a winning DevOps pie highlighted at the show was the power of collaboration. Why? Because the true strength of any organization lies in the collaboration of its many learners, and not in the knowledge of a few experts. We were ecstatic to hear Jason Cox from Disney talk about this concept at DOES15 during his “Star Wars” themed presentation. He explained that to change the culture at Disney “we set out to embrace collaboration, curiosity and courage.” Progress is able to be made by breaking down the obstacle of “there’s too much to do and not enough time to get it done.”  Erica Morrison from CSG International also gave great insights during her presentation with Scott Prugh when she said “Through collaboration, we were able to identify the problem and resolve the issue quicker.” This may seem obvious, but sometimes even the smallest of problems to you can cause the biggest of headaches for others. This is another reason why it is important to enable and encourage mutual learning – everyone is a participant on the road to success.

5Automation:

How are all these large enterprises unlocking new possibilities? In addition to all of the above, automation is indeed central to an IT transformation journey. According to Kathy Herring Hayashi from Qualcomm, “automation lets the developers [or engineers] focus on innovation first.” But this isn’t a technology specific idea; it is a cultural objective to address the removal of “process debt.” By pulling people out of doing the same repetitive tasks and putting them into the mindset of creation, you not only reduce mistakes (born out of human error), but enable a quicker time to market for new ideas.

We also heard automation being discussed as a way to enable discovery. Dominic Faraone from CenturyLink talked about automation as a way to “attack the real constraints, not the perceived constraints” of software delivery. Enabling this mindset and organizational behavior around “more automation” in everything your organization does can equate to some amazing outcomes, and keep the focus on improving the process of how work gets done.


Overall, DOES15 speakers explained numerous ideas to advance any organization forward. Some of the largest, most complex, companies in the world – across all industry sectors – are making DevOps a reality by creating empathy across disparate parts of an organization, removing the blockers to transparency, making trust a priority, promoting learning by collaboration and instilling an automation mindset.

DOES15 in the news:

Check out some of the coverage below to learn of others impressions and key themes they observed at DevOps Enterprise Summit this year:

Stay tuned for more reports, highlights, photos and videos from DOES15 and we hope to see you all again next year at DOES16!

Jim Ensell

Jim Ensell

Jim Ensell is Chief Marketing Officer at Electric Cloud. He brings more than 25 years of experience in marketing, technology, business, and executive management in private and public companies, with a proven track record of fueling substantial growth in both large and small enterprises. Prior to joining Electric Cloud, Jim was Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at Enterprise Cloud Development provider CollabNet where he was responsible for Marketing, Strategy, and Business Development.
Jim Ensell

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