Book Club: The DevOps Handbook (Chapter 6. Understanding the Work in Our Value Stream, Making it Visible, and Expanding it Across the Organization)

This entry is part [part not set] of 25 in the series DevOps Handbook

The following is a chapter summary for “The DevOps Handbook” by Gene Kim, Jez Humble, John Willis, and Patrick DeBois for an online book club.

The book club is a weekly lunchtime meeting of technology professionals. As a group, the book club selects, reads, and discuss books related to our profession. Participants are uplifted via group discussion of foundational principles & novel innovations. Attendees do not need to read the book to participate.

Background on The DevOps Handbook

More than ever, the effective management of technology is critical for business competitiveness. For decades, technology leaders have struggled to balance agility, reliability, and security. The consequences of failure have never been greater―whether it’s the debacle, cardholder data breaches, or missing the boat with Big Data in the cloud.

And yet, high performers using DevOps principles, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Etsy, and Netflix, are routinely and reliably deploying code into production hundreds, or even thousands, of times per day.

Following in the footsteps of The Phoenix Project, The DevOps Handbook shows leaders how to replicate these incredible outcomes, by showing how to integrate Product Management, Development, QA, IT Operations, and Information Security to elevate your company and win in the marketplace.

The DevOps Handbook

Chapter 6

Steps to improvement covered in this section:

  • Identify all the teams required to create customer value
  • Create a value stream map to make visible all the required work
  • Use the map to guide the teams in how to better and more quickly create value

Identifying The Teams Supporting Our Value Stream

No one person knows all the work that must be performed in order to create value for the customer.

Select a candidate application or service for the DevOps initiative, identify all the members of the value stream who are responsible for working together to create value for the customers being served.

All members of the value stream responsible for working together to create value for the customers being served must be identified.

Product Owner: the internal voice of the business that defines the next set of functionality in the service.

Development: the team responsible for developing application functionality in the service.

QA: the team responsible for ensuring that feedback loops exist to ensure the service functions as desired.

Operations: the team often responsible for maintaining the production environment and helping ensure that required service levels are met.

Infosec: the team responsible for securing systems and data.

Release Managers: the people responsible for managing and coordinating the production deployment and release processes.

Technology Executives or Value Stream Manager: in Lean literature, someone who is responsible for “ensuring that the value stream meets or exceeds the customer [and organizational] requirements for the overall value stream, from start to finish”.

Create A Value Stream Map To See The Work

The value stream focuses on (1) places where work must wait weeks or even months, such as getting production-like environments, change approval processes, or security review processes; and (2) places where significant rework is generated or received.

The first step is to identify high-level process blocks. Each process block includes the lead time and process time for a work item to be processed.

Adopted from the DevOps Handbook

Identify the metric that needs to be improved and then perform the next level of observations and measurements to understand the problem and construct the idealized, future value stream map.

Creating a Dedicated Transformation Team

The team must be accountable for achieving a clearly defined, measurable, system-level result (such as reducing deployment lead time from “code committed into version control to successfully running in production”).

To be successful, the transformation team should:

  • Assign members of the dedicated team to be solely allocated to the DevOps transformation efforts (as opposed to “maintain all your current responsibilities but spend 20% of your time on this new DevOps thing”).
  • Select team members who are generalists, who have skills across a wide variety of domains.
  • Select team members who have longstanding and mutually respectful relationships with the rest of the organization.
  • Create a separate physical space for the dedicated team, if possible, to maximize communication flow within the team, and create some isolation from the rest of the organization.

Agree On A Shared Goal

Agree upon a clearly defined deadline and a goal.

Improvement Goals include:

  • Reduce the percentage of the budget spent on product support and unplanned work by 50%.
  • Ensure lead time from code check-in to production release is one week or less for 95% of changes.
  • Ensure releases can always be performed during normal business hours with zero downtime.
  • Integrate all the required information security controls into the deployment pipeline to pass all required compliance requirements.

Keep The Improvement Planning Horizons Short

The initiative should generate measurable improvements or actionable data within weeks.

Short planning horizons and iteration intervals achieve the following:

  • Flexibility and the ability to reprioritize and replan quickly.
  • Decrease the delay between work expended and improvement realized, which strengthens our feedback loop, making it more likely to reinforce desired behaviors. When improvement initiatives are successful, it encourages more investment.
  • Faster learning generated from the first iteration, meaning faster integration of learnings into the next iteration.
  • Reduction in activation energy to get improvements.
  • Quicker realization of improvements that make meaningful differences in daily work.
  • Less risk that our project is killed before we can generate any demonstrable outcomes.

Reserve 20% of Cycles For Non-Functional Requirements and Reducing Technical Debt

Organizations that don’t pay down technical debt can find themselves so burdened with daily workarounds for problems left unfixed that they can no longer complete any new work.

Adopted from the DevOps Handbook

Increase The Visibility of Work

In order to be able to know if we are making progress toward our goal, it’s essential that everyone in the organization knows the current state of work.

Use Tools to Increase Desired Behavior

“Anthropologists describe tools as a cultural artifact. Any discussion of culture after the invention of fire must also be about tools.”

Christopher Little

Similar to Anthropologists, in the DevOps value stream teams use tools to reinforce culture and accelerate desired behavior changes.

Tooling reinforces that Development and Operations have shared goals and a common backlog of work. Common work system and shared vocabulary such as a unified backlog where work is prioritized from a global perspective is a benefit to the organization

Other technologies that reinforce shared goals? Chat Rooms. However, the expectations of immediate response means a barrage of interruptions and questions.

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