DevOps Journeys: Mike Dilworth

30/05/2017   DevOps Journeys  

As part of our DevOps Journeys series, we spoke to Mike Dilworth, accomplished DevOps Practitioner and Evangelist, about his experiences.

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What does DevOps mean to you?

DevOps is a cultural movement which is supported by processes and technology.  Fundamentally DevOps is all about getting stuff from the backlog and into production as quickly as possible and to the highest possible level of quality.  To do this, the DevOps culture follows a lean philosophy to empower full stack autonomous teams who are focused not only on the output of work but equally on improving the actual process of work,  because this fundamentally improves the end product. To help achieve this, the DevOps movement has adopted many agile processes, for example, short iterations with fast feedback loops, and employs state of the art technologies, such as cloud, containerisation and serverless architecture. 

What are the things that you see that people are still not getting right with DevOps?

There are a number of common failings which I see.

  • DevOps is used to rebrand a support team and there is no attempt to change how they work.
  • DevOps is viewed solely as the technical tools which engineers can use to deliver infrastructure or delivery pipelines.
  • DevOps teams fail to adopt a lean culture and are not empowered to focus on improving the process of work.
  • DevOps teams fail to adopt solid engineering principles, particular those derived from software development, such as TDD/BDD.
  • Organisations fail to understand that everyone should be doing DevOps. For example, architects should be selecting off the shelf components which can support self-service through an API and are not driven by the use of a GUI.
  • Many large organisations believe they have an issue with scale and adopt frameworks such as SAFe. But what they really have is a fear of change and of doing the right thing. These frameworks provide a more traditional waterfall and a bureaucratic wrapper around agile development teams.

What was the biggest mistake you made when starting out with DevOps?

My biggest mistake was trying to build teams of engineers comprised solely of permanent employees.  The way people want to work has changed and contracting is a way of life for many.  It is important to realise that to scale your capability you will need to use both perm and contract resources. Furthermore, you have to treat perms and contractors the same.  Contractors should not be given the dull and less challenging pieces of work. Rather they should be expected to make valued contributions to the team, both in terms of deliverables but also in terms of improving the actual process of work, to deliver on lean ways of working.  Diversity is an important element of an innovative team and contractors often bring this with them. So, embrace contractors and use them wisely.

DevOps has gone mainstream - is that a good thing?

DevOps going mainstream is a good thing. Common sense should not be the exclusivity of the few but the right of the many.

How should we measure the success of DevOps?

There are many key performance indicators that are used to measure the success of DevOps. Most of these concern the velocity, frequency and quality of software delivery. These are important measures of how well an organisation is doing in terms of its ability to innovate at speed, realise value quickly and hence compete.

But for me, the most important measure of success is job satisfaction.  DevOps is unique in that it has the ability to actually improve the working environment and to make the thing most of us do every day an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. We should be striving to achieve this as one of the top deliverables in any DevOps transformation. 

What are your predictions for the future of DevOps?

I predict a DevOps backlash.

DevOps is definitely here to stay, but it is far from being a mature practice.  If you believe what you read and what people say, right now everyone is a DevOps Engineer and everyone is doing DevOps.  However, this is very, very, far from the truth with many DevOps charlatans, both individuals and organisations, out there.  I don't see the need for certification or governance to formalise DevOps, to me this is another DevOps anti-pattern.  DevOps is a community driven initiative and I predict as this community grows and becomes more mature it will expose the individuals and organisations who simply just don't get it.  We may see a move towards platform engineering, SRE, or infrastructure developers, as skilled practitioners try to distance themselves and it is to these groups that we should look for the innovations in tooling and processes which help to underpin the lean ways of working that truly is DevOps.

Mike has 23 years of experience in the field of IT, where he has held roles within software, systems and network engineering.

Mike's early work in computer-supported collaborative working was fuelled by the birth of the modern Internet and the emergence of Linux.  He took these skills with him to Greece where he lived and worked for 17 years.  Here Mike worked for a variety of organisations ranging from large publishing houses, mobile telcos and small start-ups.  The combination of Greece's entrepreneurial culture and Mike's "full stack" skills naturally steered him towards more agile ways of working and the pursuit of innovation.

On returning to the UK in 2012, Mike headed up the infrastructure and operations teams for Thomas Cook's E-commerce Centre of Excellence.  At Thomas Cook, as part of his cloud-based data centre consolidation and rationalisation strategy, Mike implement key technologies and ways of working that today form the mainstream of DevOps.  Following this Mike perfected his work within DevOps at Sainsbury's where he had the opportunity to deliver DevOps at scale as part of a major digital transformation programme.  Mike currently works for Capgemini, at the forefront of the DevOps movement, evangelising concepts such as the "Three Ways of DevOps", "Technical Value Streams", the "Three Technical Pillars of DevOps" and realising DevOps with a "5 ways to DevOps" process.