Eight essential summer reads for the agile-minded

Eight essential summer reads for the agile-minded

Summer Reads – booksIt’s a common theme that those leading digital transformations like to focus on new and emerging tools and technology. The problem is, they tend to place too much weight on the ‘DevOps dream’ rather than the steps needed to maximise the potential of the tools they’ve invested in.

Luckily for ECS Digital, we like to do things a little differently.

Rather than get sucked into the endless possibilities of the latest product releases – although our partnerships with some of the leading vendors in the DevOps space does mean we’re exposed to some pretty exciting technology – we balance the tools with the people and the process.

We do this because whilst tools can achieve groundbreaking results, it’s the people who make the tools perform the magic, and it’s the process that enables your team to scale this magic across your enterprise.

This is why all our consultants are trained up in the latest ways of working, soft skills and technology expertise, so when they embed into your teams during an engagement, they can achieve true, sustainable change for your business. Our consultants also have a habit of going above and beyond for our clients – learning from their peers, past engagements and self-teaching to put themselves in the best possible position to solve the problems of today, and put in place solutions that will safeguard and respond to the challenges of tomorrow.

Whilst most turn to YouTube tutorials, books remains a popular choice within the business. Easy to pack, download onto a kindle or pop onto your phone as an eBook, they seem to be the perfect option for when the team are out and about, or recharging their batteries on a white-golden beach with the sea breeze in their hair.

We appreciate that books within the DevOps and agile space aren’t always as riveting as delving waist deep into a classic Sci-Fi or a 19th century romance novel with a strong female protagonist, yet, there is the occasional diamond in the rough. Luckily for you, our team have pulled together their eight favourite titles, from the fundamentals of DevOps to how to apply more creative thinking to problem solving. We hope you find the space to squeeze at least one into your suitcase this summer.

Here we go…

Summer Reads – Phoenix ProjectThe Phoenix Project

In the words of Tyrion Lannister, “there’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story,” and like most things Tyrion says, he is right. In this case, Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford turn a seemingly dry subject (business and IT management) into a relatable narrative by asking you to follow Bill’s journey as he attempts to salvage a very late and over budget IT initiative – code name Phoenix Project.

Whilst the 90-day time frame seems a little unrealistic, the lessons around the relevance of IT in the enterprise and how interconnected everything is within a business are of benefit to all readers. It gives you a better perspective on what is needed to survive and presents agile methodologies in a refreshingly fun way.

For those who already know and love The Phoenix Project, you’ll be excited to learn that Gene Kim already has plans to release the much anticipated follow-up book ‘The Unicorn Project‘ this autumn. If you attended this year’s DevOps Enterprise Summit, you may already have a copy…

 

The DevOps HandbookSummer Reads – DevOps Handbook

Another classic from the rather distinguished Gene Kim – this time joined by Jez Humble, Patrick Debois and John Willis – the DevOps Handbook is a must read for those looking to understand how to implement DevOps culture to achieve high performance development and operations.

Whilst overwhelming in places, due to the sheer density of information and case studies, it truly breaks down the fact that DevOps is more than just a team with some nifty tools dedicated to one cause. DevOps is the transformation of the entire software development process. It is a change to the culture and mindset and this book lays out this philosophy well.

 

Summer Reads – Chimp ParadoxThe Chimp Paradox

Written by psychiatrist Steve Peters, the Chimp Paradox is a refreshing reminder that we are all human. Beings with impulsive behaviour, self-doubt, fears and emotions. Peters takes the physical structure of our brain and builds an illustrative model that explains how each part contributes to the behaviour we exhibit on a daily basis.

Whilst IT initiatives often focus heavily on introducing new tools and technology, this is simply the spark at the beginning of the journey. Soft skills are fundamental to the success of a DevOps implementation and therefore our behaviour and mindset towards change are equally as important. The Chimp Paradox gives readers the opportunity to understand how to manage self-harming behaviour, using examples and exercises to help drive home the learnings and make them applicable to everyday life.

Neither patronising nor boring, this self-help book is a must for anybody looking to better themselves.

 

Ansible: Up and RunningSummer Reads – Up and Running

As far as configuration management tools go, Ansible has some distinct advantages against its competitors. For starters, it’s minimal in nature, you are not required to install anything on your nodes, and it has an easy learning curve.

Considered the ‘Ansible bible’, O’Reilly delivers a no-nonsense introduction to Ansible, looking at everything from practical examples to writing playbooks, to how you can scale your Ansible deployments in terms of complexity and capacity.

Whilst it takes some hands-on work from the reader, there are some great chapters about using Ansible with AWS and Docker – extremely useful in today’s DevOps landscape!

 

First 90 DaysThe First 90 Days

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. Focusing on the first 90 days of any new role, this book identifies what you can do to properly plan your transition and make the right first impressions to greatly improve your chances of success. In short, this book offers a blueprint for finding out what you need to know, how to make contacts and who to make contacts with, how to formulate plans and how to operate in a new culture.

Considering that the majority of technology consultants and engineers spend time jumping between different clients and working environments, having a checklist to work from can be the difference between a successful engagement and one that ends as quickly as it takes to read this sentence. Luckily for you, this book is loaded with practical strategies, lessons, and advice for a smooth transition.

 

The Agile Samurai

Yes, the samurai seems to have been added for showmanship, and yes, a lot of the content within the book has evolved since its first release at the height of the ‘Agile’ fad in 2010, this book does continue to touch upon common frustrations and offers remedies to how you can overcome these challenges and put in place a more sustainable approach to software development.

Whilst no silver bullet, this book does offer helpful tidbits that remind you how to handle certain situations and refresh your skills. An interesting read for those looking to become more agile.

 

 

Summer Reads – Creative ConfidenceCreative Confidence

Who says the ‘creative types’ are the only ones who get to have fun. This book totally debunks the myth that you have to sit in a department with ‘creative’ painted in giant letters above unconventional desks, complete with thought-provoking cactuses and inspirational quotes framed in hot pink wood.

David and Tom Kelley – brothers with a passion for unleashing the creativity that lies within us all – take you a journey, uncovering principles and strategies that enable us to tap in our creative potential. The book is as much about coming up with ideas as it is about how we approach and solve problems. It also focuses on design-led thinking, asking readers to consider the practical application of an idea, rather than just the brilliance of it on paper. A mixture of both inspirational and practical tips, this is a must read for those looking to regain their creative side.

 

The Build Trap

Businesses that live and die by schedule-dependant outputs often fall into what is described as the “build trap”. This means that rather than focusing on meeting customer needs, you find yourself cranking out features to meet a timeline.

Whether you’re a consultancy looking to help your clients improve the CX for their customers, or you’re a business looking to become less output-led, this book considers everything from organisational culture to product management in order to help you shift from an output to an outcome focused organisation. A slightly heavier read, but a good one none-the-less.

 

*****

As we’re not promoting on behalf of any of the authors above (we genuinely like the material!) we’ve deliberately not dropped in any links to the books. However, we have been reassured that you’ll have no trouble finding a copy on Amazon!

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share the list as far and wide as takes your fancy.

If you’ve got any other suggestions for books within the DevOps/agile space that we’ve not mentioned, let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn what you’d add to the list!

 

Eloisa ToveeEight essential summer reads for the agile-minded
read more
DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019: what went down

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2019: what went down

For many, the word DOES means nothing more than the third person singular present of do. No further thought is required. No light bulb moments. No slight gleam of excitement in the eye. Nothing. Does is does.

Unless, of course, you’re one of the few skirting around the outside rings or smack bang in the middle of the DevOps world.

For those within this world, DOES is the much-anticipated DevOps Enterprise Summit – a unique glance into the inner workings of DevOps. Everything from the latest tools and technology to product demos, data science and keynote speeches that left tech enthusiast’s hearts rekindled and fired up for the rest of the year. Although to be fair, the sock swag might have had something to do with that …

DevOps Enterprise Summit Stickers

Whilst we could spend the rest of the blog talking about the free mini chocolate macaroons, copious amounts of free stickers and CloudBees rather epic prize giveaway (every tech fan’s wet dream), let’s instead dig into the ten key messages that ECS Digital took away from DOES 2019:

1. Eisenbahnscheinbewegung

Eisen what now?! No, this isn’t another legendary word plucked from the creative geniuses over at Disney. Eisenbahnscheinbewegung is in fact a German creation (no surprise there!), pulling together “Eisenbahn” – a railway, and “scheinbewegung” – a fake movement into an impossibly accurate description of an influential constraint in digital transformations. Essentially, it is the fake sense of movement you get when you’re sitting on a train, watching another train moving next to you, and you gain the illusion that you are moving too.

In the context of DevOps, Eisenbahnscheinbewegung is a dangerous assumption during any transformation striving for a high-performance, collaborative organisation. The essence of DevOps is that you create a guiding coalition with shared responsibility at the core, enabling continuous learning and a behaviour change – not the easiest of tasks. But what if you didn’t need to change your behaviour, wouldn’t change be so easy then! By watching other teams begin to show new behaviours, people can gain the impression that they themselves are moving too and initiate the start of their own fake movement. Avoid the inertia this can cause by calling out Eisenbahnscheinbewegung and nipping it in the bud before the movement gains momentum.

(Eisenbahnscheinbewegung is also a fun word to try and get your colleagues to repeat really fast, multiple times…)

2. DevOps confessions

Holly Cummins‘ talk on the “Tales from the DevOps Transformation Trenches” did exactly what it said on the tin. It drew on the stories from attempted DevOps and CI/CD implementations, looking at common mistakes and the dangers of remaining too headstrong on what we believe to be the only way. Learn to take controlled risks, leveraging the benefits of a/b testing and continuous improvement to limit impact, learn and deliver incremental value.

DevOps Enterprise Summit

You don’t have one chance to get it right – unless you’re the Ariadne/Cluster 5 spacecraft, in which case once chance is really all you have… There is also argument to suggested that customers don’t necessarily have the appetite for continuous releases. Instead, ensure you are building a roadmap and bringing your customers on your journey – focusing on value-add and product improvement. If in doubt about when to release, remember the wise words of Reid Hoffman:

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”

3. Employee engagement should be your competitive advantage

According to Richard James, your key business enablers are your culture, organisational agility and people. Employee engagement bolsters all of these, but championing employee engagement is about more than getting some bubbly in the office for ‘Fizz at Four’. It is about creating a culture and environment that fosters a mutual respect across all teams, strengthening your offering and providing something that your competitors will struggle to compete with you on. In the words of Joe Aho from Compuware:

“take care of your employee engagement and the cash flow will take care of itself”. 

4. Culture and calling out success

During DOES19, attention was drawn to Nike’s own transformational success, looking specifically at the impact of advocating a “thank you” culture and how this drove positive results in their distributed squads.

In the words of Chris McGinnis:

“culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

DevOps is a movement rather than a methodology which means that people matter more than technology. Recognise and celebrate the success of your teams / individuals and you’ll see a culture of collaboration ensue, because at the end of the day, “you have a far better chance of winning in life as team than as individuals” – Mehnaaz Abidi.

5. Data based thinking, because assumptions still make an ass out of you

Ultimately, data-based thinking gives you the information you need to make more informed, impact-controlled decisions. In the words of Gene Kim, “you do not want to be an organisation where information is hidden”.

Make your organisation transparent to encourage a culture where information is actively sought, messengers are trained – not shot – and teams can begin to learn from previous mistakes.

As well as transparency, make sure you have the tools in place to deliver the data you need to successful drive transformation. In the constantly shifting landscape of technology, continuous testing and a/b testing is a must. If you’re manually testing, you’ll only be able to pull data from the last time a test was made – and with the complexity of technology stacks and organisations as a whole, this could be months old. You also want to be giving yourself more data through experimentation. Not only will this help you know which pilot projects to scale, if an experiment shows your hypothesis is wrong early on, you have succeeded at reducing risk.

Last but not least, monitor your own transformation so you can begin to work smarter, not harder. You want to be continual measuring so you can support decision-making, enable better outcomes and remove blackholes created by unforeseen or futile tasks. In the words of Dominica DeGrandis:

“if you don’t track unplanned work, it’s invisible. It would be the perfect crime”

6. New kids on the block

 “At the current rate of disruption, 50% of the Fortune 500 are going to be replaced in the next 50 years” Mik Kersten. Whilst this predication can feel a little open ended – realistically, anything could happen in 50 years – the sentiment was mirrored in a statistic that came up at the Women of Silicon Roundabout:

“1 in 6 businesses will fail in next five years because they can’t keep pace with change”.

…an unsettling risk for those not willing to invest in an agile / DevOps way of working. With the pace of change in the technology sector, even those who have survived and profited from legacy technology stacks, a time will come – and has arrived for most – where this technology is no longer fit for purpose. Whilst some are on the front foot, many don’t realise quite how far behind their technology is until they see their competitors unsubtly eat into their market share. If these stats are trying to tell us anything, it’s that now is the time to change, because a few of you will be left behind.

7. Burnout – you work with canaries, not robots

Dr. Christina Maslach led what was perhaps the most relatable but least spoken about part of the technology sector: burnout. Given its high costs to employees and organisations, burnout has become an increasingly high topic in the workplace. While some believe burnout is self-imposed, empirical findings show that it is largely a function of the social environment in which people work – and is a warning sign that businesses should take very seriously. In the words of Dr. Maslach “our approach is to try to create more resilient canaries, instead of trying to figure out what is wrong in the coal mine.” Rather than setting unrealistic expectations on your team, address the toxicity of the environment and save multiple birds with one stone.

If you’re interested in this topic, our very own Ali Hill recent published a blog on his experience with burnout which you can read here.

8. IT might be Merlin, but there’s always a king Arthur

Whilst IT is the enabler, the digital wizard, the innovator, it rarely operates in isolation of the business. For IT to be successful in an agile transformation initiative, it needs the full buy-in and support of the business. Not only to enable cultural change, but to empower different teams to change at pace and scale successful products.

But there’s one hurdle. You won’t get this support until you can frame your ideas in terms that your business leaders can understand. Involve key stakeholders from the very beginning of the transformation to open up communication channels, then focus on outcome and value so they have something tangible they can buy-in to.

DevOps Enterprise Summit

9. Better Value Sooner Safer Happier

Jonathan Smart’s talk did one of two things. It delivered a clear explanation for the metrics we should be measuring the success of DevOps on. It also asked attendees to rethink their approach to DevOps. Rather than focus on scaling agile, Smart suggests descaling your work. Want to do an agile transformation? Don’t. Focus on outcome and value.

Essentially, Smart was talking about looking beyond the transformation, to the point that your language should change to adopt a more outcome-focused initiative. By changing milestone to outcome, project to product, plan to roadmap, you can begin to change the mindset of your organisation as well as the physical changes to your technology.

DevOps Enterprise Summit

10. Unicorn Project

We couldn’t do a summary of DOES19 without talking about one of the key influencers behind the event: Gene Kim. Not only is Kim a multi award-winning CTO, researcher and DevOps enthusiast, he has authored books with instrumental impact to the DevOps community including The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win and The Visible Ops Handbook. 

And now he’s thrown another book into the mix: The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Digital Disruption, Redshirts, and Overthrowing the Ancient Powerful Order. Focused on introducing the ‘five ideals’, Kim takes you on a journey, following Maxine – a senior lead developer and architect – as she faces rebel developers, dangerous enemies and a ragtag bunch of misfits in a race against time to innovate, survive and thrive. With many of our engineers still reminiscing aboutThe Phoenix Project, we can’t wait to get stuck in…

Those who attended DOES19 were given exclusive access to an early edition of the book – as well as a matching pair of the #UnicornProject socks. If you missed the DevOps Enterprise Summit, save those unicorn tears. You can pre-order your version of the Unicorn Project on amazon.

Concluding thoughts:

Feeling fired up by the DevOps Enterprise Summit to start driving your own successful DevOps transformation? Harness that energy, consider your roadmap, but be mindful of jumping in with both feet.

If you swung by ECS Digital’s stand during the conference, you will have noticed something rather unusual. This year at DOES19, we decided to focus on you. In particular, how we can successfully help you journey through The Great DevOps Rabbit Hole.

 

 

Designed to be challenging, agile and sometimes delves into spaces that nobody has ventured into before, The Great DevOps Rabbit Hole is not for the faint hearted, yet it is a journey any business can take. Our latest feature showcases the typical DevOps journey, flagging common areas where businesses stumble, struggle or succeed. It also gives businesses the confidence they need to make the leap into a new transformative future.

Wherever you are on your journey,and whether you’re a heavily regulated enterprise, or an agile start-up looking to scale, your digital transformation will benefit from a partner who’s been on the journey before…

Download your copy of The Great DevOps Rabbit Hole and learn the secrets of mastering your DevOps journey.

 

Eloisa ToveeDevOps Enterprise Summit 2019: what went down
read more
Women of Silicon Roundabout: Key Takeaways

Women of Silicon Roundabout: Key Takeaways

This week, Women of Silicon Roundabout opened its doors to over 5,000 incredibly passionate, brilliant and career driven individuals looking to explore all things business – from gender diversity and inclusion, to pushing boundaries and inspirational anecdotes from the rather Marvellous Karren Brady OBE…

And ECS Digital were right in the middle of the buzz! 

Proud to be silver sponsors, we set up shop in the middle of the conference – close enough to the fro-yo but sensibly out of reach of the specially brewed ‘DevHops’ beer on the other side of the room. With tote bags in hand and the DevOps Playground Panda for extra company, the team did an incredible job talking about the unique DNA of ECS Digital and the incredible DevOps / QA culture we have helped create for our clients. 

What was particularly refreshing about this event – other than the vibrant spectacle of business fashion which you never quite seem to get at male-dominated events – was that it solely exists to inspire, up-skill and give individuals the confidence to go out and do great things. Every speaker was rightly celebrated, with rooms packed to resemble the recent Spice Girls gig and audience members cheering like wildings for their admired colleagues. Every talk spoke to either the head or heart, or both. And every person who came by our stand was an absolute pleasure to speak with.

How spectacular is that! In light of all that is currently in flux (Brexit, Gender Pay Gap, Positive Discrimination, the number of CEO’s named David…) this conference boldly pushed through the negative noise and created an event filled to the brim with positivity, determined to set a few things straight. Including giving the audience the knowledge they need to make more informed decisions.

With this in mind, we couldn’t pull together a summary of this great event without drawing attention to the incredible job Marie Cruz and Samer Naqvi did on delivering their own talk on Software Testing Trends in 2019. Both QA and Continuous Delivery Consultants at ECS Digital, their talk looked at delivering less yawn, more Elvis in software testing, focusing on the tools and technology that help create valuable solutions. Here’s a little sneak peek…

 

 

It was also a great opportunity for both to showcase their expertise. In the words of Marie, 

“Speaking at Women of Silicon Roundabout has given me the boost of confidence in my career and I wouldn’t have done it without the support of ECS Digital. Networking with a lot of respectable women in technology and listening to the other speakers talk about their experiences just means that the technology sector is empowering women and we all have a role to play”

Whilst there is a recording on Facebook already, we hope to release the event exclusive version of their talk our YouTube channel very soon.

With so many speaker sessions over the two days, we could only catch a handful of talks, so here’s our Women of Silicon Roundabout key takeaway iceberg – with the hope that others might add some quotes or titbits of what we may have missed. Enjoy! 

Eloisa ToveeWomen of Silicon Roundabout: Key Takeaways
read more
We joined Puppet for DevOpsDays Singapore ’16

We joined Puppet for DevOpsDays Singapore ’16

It’s true what they say about time flying really quickly. It seemed like only yesterday that we got together for the inaugural DevOpsDays Singapore 2015 and now here we were at DevOpsDays Singapore 2016.

The venue is still the same: the easily accessible Raffles City Convention Centre. We did notice a significant drop in the number of sponsors this year though: Not sure if it was due to a back-to-back event –Agile Singapore 2016 took place just before DevOpsDays – or due to the event being held on a weekend. Nevertheless, the turnout for participants appeared to be about the same as last year.

It was heart-warming to see familiar faces amongst the crowd and encouraging to see several new faces too. There was also a good number of overseas participants who flew in especially for the event from neighbouring countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Team

This year, we decided to team up with our strategic partner, Puppet to co-sponsor the event as Gold sponsors.

We shared a stand and portrayed ourselves as a team – which worked really well as we had numerous engaging conversations with participants who were not only interested in tooling but also wanted to find out more about how digital transformation consultancies can add value to their organizations.

Below is a photo taken of our team. As you can see, we also had a lot of fun giving away freebies like stress balls, USB sticks, pens & stickers.

 

image004.jpeg

(L-R: Jason, KH, Brett, Karl, Steven)  

DevOpsDays Singapore: Day 1

This year, DevOpsDays Singapore took on a slightly different format.

The first day covered the usual 30-minutes speeches, 5-minutes ignite talks and open space discussions.  We were honoured to have our DevOps Practice Lead, Jason Man, fly all the way from London to present a 30-minutes speech, entitled “I want DevOps, but how do I justify it?”.

Several attendees visited our stand during the break to have further conversations with Jason about his speech. One of them even invited Jason to present at an event in his home country, which was awesome!

We ended the first day in style with a round of drinks and networking at Bobby’s @ CHIJMES.  

DevOpsDays Singapore: Day 2

Our second day consisted of hands-on workshops covering topics like Creating a CD PipelineAnsible and Hashicorp that ran in parallel for the first half of the day.

It was energizing to watch participants at the workshops leave with smiles on their faces, as if they’d learned something very useful.

It’s been interesting to see how topics presented and discussed at the event have slowly moved away from the traditional “What is DevOps?” to “How to justify it, go about doing it and gain value from it” as people have become more aware of what DevOps is.

We’re seeing a lot of value in the communication of success/failure stories, and passing on lessons from those who had been there, done that.

It seems more organizations are planning to make the leap to embrace DevOps as part of their Digital Transformation initiative, and we expect to see more advanced talks on this topic next year.

We’re already looking forward to it!

If you’re interested in how DevOps fits into Digital Transformation, why not take a look at Jason’s new blog: “How does DevOps enable Digital Transformation?“.

How does DevOps enable Digital Transformation?

Eloisa ToveeWe joined Puppet for DevOpsDays Singapore ’16
read more