The key themes from DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas 2018

Gene Kim talking at DOES 2018

When it comes to embarking on a digital transformation journey, there’s no place better to seek inspiration than at the DevOps Enterprise Summit in Las Vegas. Founded by Gene Kim five years ago, it’s become one of the staple events in the technology world.

This year’s conference took place between October 22 and 24, bringing together industry experts from leading brands for an immersive few days of talks and workshops about the latest trends and journeys in DevOps.

Representing DevOpsGroup at the conference were our Co-Founder and CPO Steve Thair, DevOps Product Manager Ed Pearson, and Principal DevOps Consultant Raj Fowler. During the latest DevOps Discussed webinar, they reflected on their experience attending DOES 2018 and talked about some of the key themes.

1) Culture first

Ed kicked off the webinar by describing the sheer volume of people attending and speaking at the event, as well as commending Gene Kim and IT Revolution. There were around 2,000 delegates and over 65 talks, all of which covered topics such as digital transformation, continuous delivery, Agile, culture, cloud, and customer stories.

“One of the things Gene does really well is that he tries to take the idea of building on the shoulder of giants, incorporate thought leadership from other fields and areas, and bring some of those things to the forefront of the community,” he said.

His view is that DOES is not your typical technology conference, with it placing an emphasis on disruptive change and people. “It is very much focused on the cultural elements of DevOps and how DevOps is making a difference within organisations.”

2) A new word

In his keynote speech, Gene Kim introduced a new word called “scenius”. He believes that behind every genius, there’s a scenius. And this highlights the critical role that communities play in DevOps. To succeed, people should contribute and share ideas regularly. “We’re all trying to stand on the shoulders of giants, but we’re also trying to lift everybody up at the same time,” remarked Steve.

3) Defining DevOps

Because DevOps is a relatively new area, there’s a lot of debate around what it actually means – and this came up during the event. Gene described DevOps as the architecture, technical practices, and cultural norms that increase application and service deployment, enable rapid experimentation and innovation, and deliver value to customers quickly.

Steve commended the description and compared it to his own. “My definition was always that DevOps is a set of patterns, practices, and behaviours correlated with High-Performance IT organisations. His architectural patterns and technical practices fit very well.”

Meanwhile, Raj attributed the lack of a solid definition to the fact that DevOps is a wide and encompassing field. “Defining it is going to need abstracts of the engineering practices, the cultural element, and speed and stability. I’d like to see leadership come through stronger.”

4) High-Performance IT underpins digital disruption

Another key message was that, regardless of industry, all organisations face disruption. To stay ahead-of-the-curve and outflank competitors, they’re responding with digital transformation. This is where High-Performance IT becomes fundamental.

Steve commented: “In order to succeed with digital transformation, you need a High-Performance IT capability. And the best answer we have at the moment for creating sustainable High-Performance IT is DevOps patterns, practices, and ways-of-working. DevOps means you can have speed and stability, too.”

Raj agreed, claiming that technology is at the heart of every successful business. “We aren’t talking about how we are being disrupted; we’re now talking about how we have been disrupted.”

5) Telling the DevOps story

DevOps can have a transformative effect on organisations, but for many, it’ll be a completely new way-of-working. By harnessing the art of storytelling, it’s possible to demonstrate the benefits to everyone in your organisation.

Steve believes that companies should stop selling their DevOps transformation vision based purely on tech. To get the whole team onboard, you must build a narrative for your employees and customers. The question should be: How will this benefit them?

To Raj, DevOps is all about thinking out-of-the-box, experimenting, and innovating. “We need the stories, and we need the ideas. It’s these that get you more traction in the marketplace,” he explained.

6) People must evolve

Technology is constantly changing, and as a result, we’re always going to be transforming and re-skilling. PowerShell inventor Jeffrey Snover believes that to remain relevant, organisations need to adapt and evolve. And this should also be the case for those working in IT.

But how do you grow your culture and build a dynamic learning organisation to allow personal transformation? Steve said: “Make space and time for learning. If you’re an organisation that wants everyone to be 100% utilised, and you don’t create any space for learning, it’s never going to work. At DevOpsGroup, we have a company-wide conference every month, individual budgets for personal development, and internal book clubs.”

7) Product, not project

In today’s interconnected and fast-paced economy, organisations are moving away from a project way-of-working and are focusing on products. That was the claim of Canadian IT pro Mik Kersten, who has spent time studying the disconnect between business leaders and technologists. Raj commended this observation, saying: “Don’t bring the people to the work – bring the work to the people.”

Ed agreed that the organisations reaping the rewards of digital transformation are the ones creating and empowering product teams. However, he made the point that this will still be new for many companies.

“This is a significant change from the way people are used to working. It feels a little bit flippant to go ‘we need to build cross functional teams, we need T-shaped individuals, and we need product owners.’ But there are the structures around that, including financial models, organisational planning, goal setting, alignment, culture, and training.”

There’s no denying that DOES Las Vegas was another exciting and insightful technology event we’ve attended. It’s clear that DevOps is having a revolutionary impact on a range of organisations, but people and culture are fundamental here. You can’t embark on a successful digital transformation without the backing and contribution of your teams.

Sign up for our next webinar here.

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