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
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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
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Using AI and DevOps to streamline communications

Using AI and DevOps to streamline communications

The way in which organisations deploy enterprise technologies has undergone a shift in recent years. Today, there is a cry for more agile ways of working. But to achieve this agility, teams need to establish a communication stream that works for both the techies and non-techies, the influencers and implementers, the stakeholders and the individual. In short, the more integrated and familiar your employees are with one another, the less painful (and costly) your communication has to be.

People, then tech

Whilst digital transformation is often perceived to be technology focused, you’d be mistaken to put the onus of change wholly on your DevOps team. According to PMI’s 2018 Success in Disruptive TimesReport, 29% of failed projects mention inadequate/poor communication as the primary cause of those failures.

Part of this problem is how different departments approach work, their interest in the change and the different language they use. Then there’s the fact that many departments are so busy working towards their own goals that they lose sight of the overall needs of the business – they can’t see the forest for the trees, as it were.

Rather than throwing work over the wall for unengaged individuals to pick up, creating communication streams that encourage collaboration and demonstrate value are fundamental to delivering a successful transformation.

Take automation. If the basic challenge behind DevOps is to keep moving parts in sync to enable a fail fast, fail often approach, having a collaborative team will reduce the number of moving parts that need to be synced – simplifying the process and accelerating deployment.

The same applies for feedback loops. Software developers use a DevOps approach to quickly release apps and gather feedback on new features – and not just when applications are in production. This enables teams to have full visibility over the development of products, testing as they build and releasing more rapidly with more confidence.

How is Artificial Intelligence (AI) strengthening DevOps Programs?

One of AI’s greatest strengths is that it can flex its intelligent, data-grabbing fingers a whole lot quicker than the average Joe. Not only does this help automate the extraction of knowledge from vast amounts of data at pace, it consolidates data from multiple sources, centralising data and granting teams a way of searching data pragmatically.

It also offers a greater degree of flexibility. Take Cloud tools as an example. There are so many different pathways of how to approach Cloud / implement the appropriate tools that whilst you might feel you know the best way to approach something, there is every chance a better alternative exists. And this is where AI comes into its own. Intuitive by design, AI can collate hundreds of thousands of examples, spot anomalies in this data and then recommend best practice based on what others have done. This intelligence offers a more holistic view and gives insights far beyond your companies’ four walls.

“It’s one thing to understand what’s happening, and it’s another to decide what to do. We see people turning to AI to help optimise their decision-making as the intelligence AI provides enables businesses to have a more holistic view over the data whilst remaining specific to the problem the business is trying to solve”

 Babak Takand, ML Specialist & DevOps Consultant at ECS Digital 

How is AI helping to streamline communications?

As touched on above, communication and feedback are two of the biggest challenges when it comes to moving to a DevOps methodology. Ideally, you need to be setting up channels that can revise workflows on the fly. Automated technology, chatbots and other systems enhanced with intelligence and learning abilities, are capable of doing just that, enabling communication streams to be simplified and more proactive.

As the communication streams begin to become slicker, businesses can begin to apply more pressure on their DevOps process with the confidence that the agility and tools in place will make it go faster than humans could go on their own.

Ultimately, tools are there to help you identify problems and to add flexibility to your system. Teams trained in these tools – like ECS Digital – are then on hand to train individuals on how to use these systems and adapt them to how things operate.

For those of us knee deep in sci-fi media, the utopia would be to invert this internally, so the system adapts to how you want your tech to work automatically. In other words, if you are wanting to use a specific DevOps tools, you could voice / code what it is you want to achieve, and the AI tool will have a good enough understanding that it will identify your needs and set it up for. Failing that, it will generate a set of steps you need to take to instead.

Leading by example

At ECS Digital, we are putting our tools where our mouth is.

For the past year, as part of our R&D initiative in AI and machine learning, we have been looking at what we can extract from our own internal communications, and utilise that knowledge to enhance our internal processes by looking at popular topics, reoccurring sentiments, and monitoring issues being flagged by individuals / teams. Using various tools – from nature language processing, visualisation, sentiment analysis and traditional analytics – we have the ability to capture the data we need totake a more proactive stance when it comes to problem solving.

Whilst the data is anonymised, the picture it paints is specific to the business and most importantly, it’s honest, meaning ECS Digital has greater visibility over the business communications to help it improve.

We have also begun trialling an automatic assistant for one our clients, introducing a fully automated tool that monitors the reaction of people and maps pathways in conversation. These insights are already helping to improve the customer journey. By flagging pain points and enabling the team to rework the available conversational pathways, our client is truly leveraging the power of AI to align their offerings with what the customer expects.

How can you leverage AI to streamline your communications?

You can’t have intelligence without data, and you can’t have data without formalising how you collect that information from various input streams.

Data collection is a fundamental part of DevOps and requires creating structure around your data collection pipeline.By creating structure, you are enabling the process to be repeated again and again and again, creating the perfect environment for an AI or Machine Learning tool to read your data and generate insights.

In the words of Babak: “As part of your DevOps experience, you will have information that is being submitted left, right, and centre. How you collect this data, how you store it, how you keep it, how you look it, that is important – make your data collection process uniform”.

ECS Digital can help you formalise that structure.

With over 15 years’ experience delivering successful digital transformations, ECS Digital can help you deliver better products faster through the adoption of DevOps, agile ways of working and modern software delivery tools. Talk to the team today to find out how we can help you leverage AI to streamline your communication streams.

Want to read more? Check out our ‘Why you need to embrace AI in your software testing’ blog here.

Babak TakandUsing AI and DevOps to streamline communications
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“Continuous Innovation” WTF is that about?

“Continuous Innovation” WTF is that about?

For those that haven’t noticed, we recently re-branded. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Following our acquisition by ECS Group, Forest Technologies has become ECS Digital. And with that re-brand, comes a new tagline. You’ve probably seen it: it’s splashed across our homepage, our business cards and our conference swag: Continuous Innovation.

We think it sums up everything we do here at ECS Digital – and why – but what exactly does it mean?

Put simply, continuous innovation is what it says on the tin: It’s a methodology that allows companies to continuously improve in line with customer demand and market expectations, as well as new and existing competitors.

But, why is Continuous Innovation so important?

Nearly 100 years ago, Albert Einstein, himself, said:

“we cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

This has never been as true as it is today.  Customer expectations have dramatically increased in recent years with the consumerisation of IT. Since the emergence of disruptive industry challengers, web 2.0 companies have begun to establish not only new markets, but new ways of consuming existing or traditional services.

As we head deeper into the digital age, new products, services and features are surfacing all the time, and customers have come to expect these to be delivered to them quickly.  This speed at which the consumer market is moving is forcing companies to innovate at an ever increasing rate.  With the breadth of choice and ease of switching providers eroding customer loyalty, this innovation has to be delivered to the highest standards.

Increasingly, companies are finding that in order to survive – let alone grow – they need to change the way they work.  At the same time, they’re being pushed to do more with less (or at least the same) making it imperative that organisations work smarter, not harder. It is no longer an option to do what’s always been done.

88%.jpeg

Industry disruption is so real nowadays that all businesses face the threat of disruptor companies.

In fact, compared to 1995, only 12% of Fortune 500 firms remain, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity, and the average time companies now spend on the Fortune 500 will shrink to 12 years by 2020 from 60 years back in 1960.

The more agile and able to innovate you are, the easier it is to keep up with changes in consumer trends, and avoid going out of business.

Let’s rewind a few years…

…and remember Blockbuster:  In 2004, the leader in home movies and video game rentals was valued at over $6 billion.   By 2010, Netflix had become a household name for online video streaming services, rendering Blockbuster stores bankrupt.

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Despite Blockbuster’s efforts to send rentals-by-mail and offer streaming services, they were unable to do so soon enough. Blockbuster were beaten to the post by a company that could innovate both continuously and rapidly, and left by fickle consumers demanding convenience at speed and value. Those of us that remember can only reminisce on the Friday nights going to Blockbusters, grabbing some popcorn and renting the latest releases.

If Blockbuster had been capable of innovating and delivering new services to customers faster, could they have competed against Netflix? 

It’s possible: more than simply allowing companies to stay ahead of trends, innovation has become one of the keys to dominating a market. Evolution is no longer enough to win, let alone retain customers:“The light bulb wasn’t invented by continuously improving the candle…it was about understanding what the job to be done was and then stepping back to look for solutions to solve this.”

Picture1-4.pngWho would have thought the adoption of agile principles would allow the world’s biggest online book seller, Amazon, to not only kill the traditional bookstore, the traditional bookstore, but become the world’s biggest cloud provider?

What if Amazon launched a bank…?

How does ECS Digital help companies achieve Continuous Innovation?

Here at ECS Digital, we believe that everything is done with the aim of helping our customer achieve continuous innovation.  As a DevOps and Continuous Delivery consultancy, we help companies of all sizes to adopt the working practices, processes and tools that enable them to deliver the continuous innovation that customers and users demand.

DevOps itself is an enabler of innovation.  As well as improving the speed, failure rates and efficiency of organisations, it encourages businesses to:

  • Collaborate more effectively, making for not only more satisfied and productive employees, but a more rounded view and wider pool of internal ideas. As Adam Jacob, CTO of Chef once said, Happy people make happy products.”

Achieving the above allows companies to continually innovate. At ECS Digital, we transform enterprises through the adoption of DevOps and Continuous Delivery, allowing them to stay ahead of competition and giving them the opportunity to disrupt their markets.

 

To learn more about how DevOps helps organisations to innovate, why not read my article, placed in Horizon Business Innovation: DevOps enables CIOs to create Innovation.”

Andy Cureton“Continuous Innovation” WTF is that about?
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DevOps enables CIOs to create Innovation

DevOps enables CIOs to create Innovation

Why has Innovation become such a high priority to the CIO? And how can DevOps help?

In the spirit of the Innovation Leadership Summit, our founder Andy Cureton, takes a look how DevOps can help CIOs achieve the most prominent 2016 objective: Innovation (up 19% since last year alone).

 

You can view the full article as published in Horizon Business Innovation, here.

Andy CuretonDevOps enables CIOs to create Innovation
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To the CIOs afraid of DevOps: You’re missing out

To the CIOs afraid of DevOps: You’re missing out

IT is all about innovation. 

Just five years ago, DevOps was virtually unknown. Yet, in the last two years, it has become possibly the hottest area in enterprise technology. You only have to look at the number of DevOps tools and conferences that have emerged to see just how big the interest around it is.

But DevOps is not just a buzzword. Today, a growing number ofmajor enterprises use DevOps, and some of the biggest International conferences (take DockerCon – now in its 3rd year and due to attract 4000+ delegates) are centred around DevOps.

The only reason it’s been able to grow to such scale, is because there really are tangible business benefits.

So why then, are there so many CIOs afraid of implementing DevOps?

DevOps is moving up in the food chain. A decision to invest in DevOps is likely to be made as far up as the CIO’s office: even when implementing DevOps from the bottom up, the C-level need to be on board to ensure it fits with the direction of the organisation.

The CIO role is perhaps the most rapidly evolving of all C-level positions. A glance at this year’s CIO 100 will tell you that for many, agile and digital are now the foundations upon which the role is built.

But there are still many who have a more traditional view. For these CIOs, a view based on a lifetime of carefulrisk-averse decision-making and maintaining the status quo is hard to shift. Such a distinct change in approach towards a focus on speed and agility is a big leap to make.

For others, DevOps is less accessible because it lacks hard value of return. Unlike the tangible agile manifesto, DevOps is simply a word with provisional principles. There is no definitive way of doing DevOps, and this can be hard to relate to.

Why should a CIO implement DevOps?

I could wax lyrical about the numerous business benefits of DevOps (and a good place to start if you want to learn more is the Puppet State of DevOps report). Key business values are continuouslybroken down into the following three categories:

At ECS Digital, we like to build upon this.  Our methodology for extracting business benefit from DevOps is:

  • People

Collaboration. Breaking down of silos. Cross-functional teams. DevOps aims to get everyone in the organisation rowing in the same direction. Once achieved, this brings with it, the business benefit of speed (imagine the time that could be saved if Ops knew what was about to be thrown their way and could prepare by pre-writing test cases).

  • Processes

DevOps helps to streamline processes from beginning to end: to find and remove bottlenecks and quality gates in the name of improving time to market.

  • Tools

The use of tools to automate processes increases both consistency and quality, since the loss of manual tasks removes room for error.

How are the CIOs missing out?

If the business benefits of dramatically increased speedquality and consistency weren’t enough, CIOs that haven’t yet implemented DevOps are missing out in a big way when it comes to business innovation.

The ability to innovate and disrupt your industry is one of the main priorities for CIOs in 2016. Big, complicated companies that are slow to market are beginning to be disrupted by newer and more collaborative competitors who can react quicker to change.

The saying “If you’re not innovating, you’re falling behind” has never been more true.

Take Mondo: an aspiring “app-only bank”, founded in 2015, now valued at £30 million. Growth of this speed and scale has been made possible only through effective DevOps. And Mondo is just one fintech company that has given the Finance industry a well-needed kick-up-the-butt. Major banks such as Lloyds are suddenly beginning major DevOps initiatives in response to the threat of disruption.

Is DevOps for everyone?

Naturally, DevOps is easier for companies that are able build their culture from scratch.

Implementing DevOps in large, legacy organisations can be harder, but by no means impossible.  You may be surprised to know that some companies now truly succeeding at DevOps are large, pre-established companies.

Remember the business values that we covered earlier?

  • Speed: Amazon now deploys code every 11.7 seconds (on average)
  • Quality: Etsy deploys with far fewer disruptions than when the company used a waterfall approach
  • Consistency: Netflix engineers deploy code thousands of times per day

Whatever company size or structure, DevOps can be made to work: and it helps to have an experienced team to support the transition. Whilst a DevOps agency cannot remove the chance of failure (for failure in DevOps is guaranteed), a skilled agency will act as a parachute to minimise the damage. It is, after all, that successful DevOps culture that allows speedy detection of and recovery from failure.  Blameless post mortems ensure that fear of failure is no longer a barrier to innovation.

What does the future hold?

Organisations will forever look for ways to improve the speed, quality, consistency [and cost] of IT. DevOps is the latest trend, following on from agile, and five years from now there will be new methodologies that we haven’t yet thought of.

My guess is that, by then, most companies will have already adopted DevOps in one way or another: It will be part of the everyday life of running an organisation.

Companies that fail to implement DevOps, seriously risk missing out and being overtaken by those that are consistently quick at successfully responding to change.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how DevOps could help your organisation, our Maturity Assessment provides recommendations specific to your business on how to adopt and realise the benefits of DevOps and Continuous Delivery.

Andy CuretonTo the CIOs afraid of DevOps: You’re missing out
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ECS Digital achieves Puppet Labs Service Delivery Partner status

ECS Digital achieves Puppet Labs Service Delivery Partner status

London – 4th March, 2016 – ECS Digital (previously Forest Technologies), one of the leading DevOps and Digital Transformation Consultancies headquartered in London, announced today that it has achieved Service Delivery Partner Status with Puppet Labs. Through this partnership, ECS Digital will deliver digital transformation solutions for IT driven businesses using Puppet Labs’ market leading infrastructure automation and continuous delivery technologyPuppet Enterprise.

Under this partnership, ECS Digital will include Puppet Enterprise in its reference continuous delivery tool chain for their customers’ DevOps and digital transformation engagements. Every business today relies on software to deliver value to its customers. DevOps is the perfect catalyst for innovation in software development, and a powerful tool for organisations looking to stay relevant in an ever-changing market where software is more critical than ever.

“Puppet Enterprise is one of the leading continuous delivery technologies, building on its heritage in infrastructure automation with the addition of Puppet Application Orchestration,” said Andy Cureton, Founder and CEO of ECS Digital. “We are excited to formalise our relationship with Puppet Labs so we can deepen our knowledge of their technology with the addition of a Puppet practice in ECS Digital.  We are confident that our expertise combined with Puppet Enterprise will deliver rapid value to our customers’ digital transformation initiatives.”

“We are excited to announce this relationship withECS Digital,” said Mukesh Sharma, EMEA VP of Sales at Puppet Labs. “In ECS Digital we have a partner with over 12 years experience of consulting and training, delivering automation solutions that complement Puppet. We talk to an increasing number of customers who want to use Puppet Enterprise as part of a full CD tool chain and ECS Digital fits the perfect partner profile to extend the value of Puppet Enterprise to more organizations globally.”

About ECS Digital

ECS Digital was founded to deliver the consulting experience all customers wish for.  We respectively challenge the status quo and constantly review the latest technology and methodology advances, to ensure we deliver the optimal solution.  Our team are recruited for their DNA as much as their technical ability because honesty and the desire to go the extra mile are key to delivering what we promised, when we promised it, and within the budget we agreed. Consulting the ECS Digital way.

About Puppet Labs

Puppet Labs, Inc. is the leader in IT automation. Puppet Labs Puppet-logo.jpgsoftware provides system administrators the operational agility, efficiency and insight they need to proactively manage dynamic infrastructure, scaling from tens of servers to thousands, both on premise and in the cloud. Thousands of the world’s leading organizations use Puppet Labs software to configure and manage their IT infrastructure, including Bank of America, Cisco, NYSE, Salesforce.com and WebEx. Based in Portland, Oregon, Puppet Labs employs 400 people. The company is backed by investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Google Ventures, VMware, Cisco, True Ventures and Radar Partners. To learn more, please visit PuppetLabs.com.

Media Contact

Andy Cureton: andy@ecs-digital.co.uk

Image credit: http://blog.crazyegg.com/

Andy CuretonECS Digital achieves Puppet Labs Service Delivery Partner status
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DevOps: What it isn’t is just as important as what it is

DevOps: What it isn’t is just as important as what it is

Over the past few years, DevOps has been steadily gaining traction in enterprise IT for the benefit it provides in driving business forward at a faster pace. The results speak for themselves – from ‘unicorn’ companies like Etsy and Netflix, who seem to be able to achieve the impossible through DevOps, down to start-ups and Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who are realising its potential as a way to eclipse their competition.

But as the hype around DevOps continues to grow unabated, many companies fall into the trap of ‘doing DevOps’ at the expense of actually implementing value-adding DevOps practices. In this blog, we’ll look at why effective DevOps adoption depends on understanding what DevOps isn’t,as well as what it is.

“Doing DevOps” isn’t the same thing as adopting DevOps practices.

In an article on DevOps.com, David Geer sums the ‘doing DevOps’ paradox as follows: “No one should be doing DevOps. It’s not an action, it’s not a title, it’s a blanket term for approaches that bridge the gap between traditional operations and development groups.” The first, and most important thing to understand about DevOps is that it isn’t, as Geer says, a title or an action. It is the combination of people, processes and tools, assembled in accordance to guiding principles and best practices that results in a more efficient delivery of better quality software. Many organisations make the principal mistake of creating a ‘DevOps team’ without considering what this truly entails. Creating a specialised DevOps team is counter-intuitive – DevOps makes organisations more efficient by breaking down the barriers that traditionally exist between dev and ops teams, and creating another silo within your organisation will only work against what you’re trying to achieve.

Automation isn’t all there is to DevOps, but it’s an important aspect.

One of the most common misconceptions about DevOps is that it’s just another word for automation. I’ve already discussed why DevOps is more than just automation in some detail in an earlier blog post, but the point is worth reiterating here. Automation constitutes a vital component of DevOps, but automating a few processes doesn’t mean you’ve achieved anything. What you have created are islands of automation where systems are loosely connected often causing further silos of expertise within the ecosystem. Automating the right processes is key to creating value for your business, and this depends on having the necessary insight into the way your business works. As Alan Sharp-Paul says in his blog on UpGuard, “A common misconception for Enterprises commencing their automation journey is that the key preparation work is choosing a tool and training their staff up. These are necessary evils, sure, but the real work is actually gathering requirements. With legacy infrastructure in play, what matters most is getting visibility of current state.

Without visibility into the current state of your business and target objectives, automating processes is akin to drawing names from a hat, at best. In other words, don’t automate what you don’t understand.

Adopting DevOps doesn’t mean downsizing or shedding staff.

DevOps doesn’t mean throwing out all your developers and operations staff and replacing them with an all-star ‘DevOps team’ that can accomplish anything in no time at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – DevOps is about empowering your existing staff to achieve more by working more closely together and automating the vital links between traditionally disparate departments. Creating a specialised DevOps team might seem like a great way to fast-track your organisation, but this is counter-intuitive to the benefits that DevOps provides. Ultimately, adoption of DevOps allows you to get more value from your existing workforce, not replace it with another, smaller unit.

DevOps is notoriously hard to define, and it can be even more difficult to adopt without a clear understanding of where you should be heading. ECS Digital has over 12 years’ experience helping organisations in many industries around the world realise the value of DevOps done right providing a independent and agnostic approach to what works best for your organisation. If you’d like to know more about how we could help this become a reality for your organisation, please contact us for a DevOps maturity assessment.

Image Credit: www.linkedin.com

Andy CuretonDevOps: What it isn’t is just as important as what it is
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Learning DevOps: Theory versus Practice

Learning DevOps: Theory versus Practice

DevOps is notoriously difficult to define. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is that it’s not simply a skill, a tool or a process – it’s a combination of all three, and specifically how these three factors interact to bring about a change in the way software is delivered. For this  reason, learning for DevOps is a tricky thing to talk about. Knowing the theory behind good DevOpspractices is essential, but without any practical knowledge, you’ll quickly find yourself out of your depth in your organisations DevOps journey. As Alfred Korzybski put it, the map is not the territory. But that doesn’t mean you should jump head-first into DevOps without any kind of roadmap. In short, mastering DevOps requires both a solid understanding of the theory that underpins it, as well as the ability to handle the reality of DevOps in practice. In this blog, we’ll look at what this means for learning DevOps.

Theory provides the foundation, practice allows for innovation.

In a strange way, learning DevOps is similar to learning how to play an instrument: you could spend years studying the theory and learning how to read music, but if you never sit down to practice, you won’t have any idea how to actually play a piece of music. In the same way, learning the fundamentals of DevOps lays the groundwork, but without practical experience, you’ll very quickly find yourself out of your depth. A significant part of success with DevOps relies on innovation – the theory might show you how to accomplish something, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ DevOps solution. With practice, you’ll be able to refine and adapt the theory to create a variation that suits your organisation perfectly. By no means is this a recipe for success, you may get some broken chords along the way but the key is to learn from your mistakes and improve. As Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX says “If you’re not failing you’re not innovating enough.” Ultimately, having a good handle on both the theory and practical application of DevOps is essential for organisations that pride themselves on innovation.

What is DevOps theory, and where do I learn it?

The way we see it at ECS Digital, DevOps consultancy consists of three components: people, processes and tools – in that order of importance. DevOps theory is concerned with the first two: people and processes. Because DevOps makes some fundamental changes to the way people within the organisation collaborate, getting a handle on the theory behind it requires completely rethinking the nature of a software company from the ground up. At its core, DevOps is influenced by the principles of agile software development – continuous delivery and integration. Shorter delivery times and working in sprints are the legacy of agile development’s influence on DevOps. There are many resources for learning about DevOps theory all around the internet, from blogs, to social media portals, to training videos on sites like Vimeo and YouTube. However, more in-depth training focuses on theory and practice in equal measure, since mastering DevOps requires an understanding of theory and practice as two sides of the same coin. 

What is the best way to learn about DevOps in practice?

The final component of DevOps in ECS Digital’s view are the tools that underpin the software delivery processes and bring DevOps to life. Defining exactly what a DevOps tool is can be problematic, since there are many aspects of the practice that can be augmented with a huge number of tools, and different organisations may use entirely different combinations of tooling depending on what works best for them. Typically, DevOps tools can be grouped into some core categories: Configuration Management tools like Ansible, Puppet and Chef  make it possible to manage and automate infrastructure as code; Application Deployment tools such as Automic and Jenkins provide the framework for continuous integration, and delivery;

Learning which of these are most valuable to your cause comes with experience of the tools themselves. The DevOps training offered by ECS Digital provides the theoretical foundations and then introduces the practical concept with some of the leading tools.

Whether you’re a DevOps veteran looking for new opportunity for innovation or an aspiring newbie, ECS Digital offers a comprehensive selection of training courses that cover everything from DevOps basics to advanced tips and tricks. As a consultancy with over 12 years’ experience implementing DevOps in organisations around the world and in a myriad of different industries, our training provides some truly unique insights on DevOps. If you’d like to find out more about getting started on your DevOps career, visit our training page to find out more about our Introduction to DevOps course.

Andy CuretonLearning DevOps: Theory versus Practice
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How ChatOps drives innovation, transparency & collaboration in enterprise DevOps

How ChatOps drives innovation, transparency & collaboration in enterprise DevOps

Since the dawn of the digital age, and even long before that, our culture has been fascinated by the prospect of being able to talk to computers. There’s no better evidence of this than in film and literature – indeed, just about every sci-fi universe is bound to feature at least one form of artificial intelligence (AI) as a central role: without KITT, Knight Rider would have just been a guy with a fancy car. Without HAL 9000, the crew of the Discovery One in 2001: A Space Odyssey might have fared dramatically better. And without R2D2’s help, the Jedi prophecy would never have been kick-started and Luke Skywalker might have lived out his days as a simple farmer on Tatooine. In any event, a development that has been taking the DevOps world by storm in recent months is ChatOps – the practice of integrating ChatBots into a DevOps workflow. While it may still be a couple of years before it becomes sentient, there’s a lot to be said for implementing ChatOps in your delivery pipelines. In this blog, we’ll look at how ChatOps drives innovation, collaboration and transparency in enterprise, and how this facilitates good DevOps practice.

ChatOps puts a human face to automation.

ChatOps centres around conversation-driven automation. What this boils down to is that any command can be handled via an English-language ‘conversation’ with a ChatBot of your choice: from monitoring, to provisioning, to deploying code, to responding to security alerts and even making you coffee! And, while there are several freely available ChatBot scripts – the most popular being Hubot (Javascript), Lita (Ruby), and Err (Python), all of which are open source – it’s easy to customise them to work with specific plug-ins and scripts. This makes it easy to customise your ChatBot to suit the purposes of your organisation, or even a particular project. Ultimately, ChatOps abstracts the complexity of the process and allows complex automation tasks to be carried out with a simple, easily typed command. The upshot of this is that a single message sent to your ChatBot can accomplish what might take a significant amount of time – and, consequently, money – to carry out normally. This is also a bonus for non-technical teams by providing them with the ability to execute complex processes that previously they might not have had the technical skills to achieve.

ChatOps brings everyone’s work to one central location.

With ChatOps, wasting time trying to figure out which of your co-workers ran a particular command or whether the command was even run is a thing of the past – by using a chat client everyone’s work exists in one central place that is visible and accessible to everyone. This encourages collaboration among your team members and the inherent transparency ensures that everyone is working towards the same goals. The benefits to the overall quality of work and working environment are huge here – by bringing your entire team’s work together, there are almost limitless opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas across departments that might not happen if they worked in isolation. ChatBots also facilitate innovation in their own right – firstly, by freeing up time for your team to spend on developing new and innovative projects, and secondly, by providing a framework for innovation by creating plug-ins for the ChatBot itself. The only limit to how innovative you can be is in how far you’re willing to go in customising your ChatBot to suit your needs.

Don’t stagnate by taking ChatOps for granted.

It’s (hopefully) pretty clear from this article that ChatOps provides great opportunities for collaboration, innovation and transparency, but taking your ChatBot for granted could have the opposite effect. Remember that behind the ChatBot are complex processes that have been automated. Encouraging all members of your team to maintain the code and scripts that are in place as well develop enhancements to enable new processes to be accessible from the chat client will go a long way towards staving off complacency. Without this you would create a new sub team within your teams of people that can only execute ChatOps commands and not create or maintain them.

At the same time, new starters in your organisation will benefit from first understanding how the nuts and bolts of your processes work before moving on to using a ChatBot to execute those processes. Once again, this comes down in large part to the culture in your workplace, but bear in mind that using ChatOps should encourage the transparency and collaboration that are key elements of a DevOps culture, which ultimately helps to deliver better software faster.

ECS Digital is a DevOps consultancy with 12 years’ experience implementing DevOps solutions for companies all around the world. If you’re interested in finding out more about our approach and the unique insights we can offer into how to transform your business with DevOps, contact us to request a free DevOps Maturity Assessment.

Image Credit :www.phoenix.k12.or.us

Andy CuretonHow ChatOps drives innovation, transparency & collaboration in enterprise DevOps
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