Gene Kim joined Red Hat Coffee Hour for a discussion about how best to implement DevOps practices and build a successful, forward-looking company culture. In this conversation Kim touched on a variety of topics, including the importance of innovative leadership, how to implement a company culture of sharing and learning, and how best to embrace the future of DevOps.
Gene Kim is an award-winning entrepreneur and best-selling author of several books, including The Unicorn Project (2019), The Phoenix Project (2013) and The DevOps Handbook (2016). With more than 20 years of experience researching IT operations and information security, Kim is a true leader in his field.
According to Kim, innovation in any organization starts at the top. Leaders who want to establish new norms and promote new ways of doing things must lead by example. As a leader becomes more senior in their organization, the scope of their activities should expand beyond just their job description. Strong leadership should never say, “that’s not my job,” because the wellbeing of the organization as a whole is their job. In Kim’s words: “The more senior you become, the more you’re responsible for changing the system that you’re responsible for.”
Strong leadership is necessary for any organization wanting to integrate better DevOps practices. However, it’s also important for lower and mid-level DevOps experts to look for opportunities to rise through the ranks and become executive sponsors of DevOps themselves. The field of IT has become increasingly specialized, and teams don’t always communicate the way they should. It’s up to this new generation of leaders, at all levels, to connect separated teams and integrate different functions towards a common goal.
IT leaders must allocate their efforts and assets appropriately. Though it may be tempting to place the most senior software engineers on customer-facing projects, the best-performing organizations know to put their best minds to work on the systems developers use daily. By focusing on developer productivity, these organizations deliver better business value than their competitors.
A successful company culture is all about sharing
Leaders need to establish a “learning organization,” where sharing and seeking out innovation is the norm. Kim shares four great ways organizations can promote learning and sharing knowledge:
Holding internal technology conferences where engineering teams can show off what they have achieved, for the entire company to take pride in.
Establishing an “innovation week,” during which teams and individuals have the opportunity to work on whatever they want—as long as it demonstrates technical strength.
Using shared source code repositories to maximize efficiency and spread greatness.
Creating “Today I learned” chat channels or other such avenues for employees to share their own growth and spread innovative ideas.
The future and the growing role of DevOps
DevOps is all about bringing together development and operations to establish trust, and to ensure that operations and infrastructure are not a bottleneck for development efficiency.
In the modern DevOps landscape, employees with technical talent have a lot of options, and it’s more important than ever for organizations to do what they can to attract skilled DevOps specialists. What are they looking for? A sense of purpose, says Kim: “The scarce resource is not money, right? It's really small teams that are just dedicated and love the product.” By providing that sense of mission, organizations can ensure they attract the best DevOps experts on the market.
A great measure of DevOps success is time to value—in other words, how quickly can your organization deliver value to its customers? Deployment frequency, deployment lead time, change success rate and change failure rate can all be important metrics for DevOps research, but they are all ultimately contributing factors to time to value. At the boardroom level, delivering value as quickly as possible is how organizations will beat out the competition.
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