Monday, June 29, 2015

Try these 3 strategies to FIX your DevOps problems!

In my previous post, we saw the Top 3 DevOps challenges faced by organizations today. So let us review how organizations can address these challenges by leveraging the power of systems thinking, feedback loops and cultural transformation at the core, to claim the real promise of ‘agility’ for the customers and stakeholders


·      Build Ownership

The goal is to foster win-win relationships, where the dev and ops team start thinking as a SINGLE UNIT, responsible for end customer delight! This requires the organizations to align the Goals for both the groups and provide the ‘right’ environment for collaboration.

Organizations which understand systems thinking, can help the Dev and Ops teams visualize the FLOW (from concept to cash), and are able to articulate the importance of cycle time, while error proofing and preventing downstream defects (aka. operational headaches).

These teams typically use Value Stream Maps, to share the areas that slow them down (or identify bottlenecks), while building a shared understanding of the complete end to end system. These exercises allow the teams to build empathy for each other’s roles and share the pains, thereby allowing the silo’d groups to start to trust each other and build better relationships over time.

·         Build Shared Practices

The long divide between Dev and Ops can be bridged by amplifying the feedback loops at every step in the end to end delivery cycle and sharing the knowledgebase and increasing transparency across both the worlds.

Organizations typically start this journey by treating Infrastructure as Code, where there is a single repository of truth and everything is version controlled. The teams start thinking about making each step of the highest quality and incorporating feedback from multiple levels – application data, process data, infrastructure dashboards, and business metrics – to highlight pain points early and design shared solutions around the problems. Refer the diagram below highlighting the areas for embedding and/or extending the teams and crossing the systemic boundaries.

Organizations can be seen experimenting with embedding Ops and Dev team members across each other’s groups, which allows for increased empathy (example – Design for Operations), learning’s and increased collaboration.

                                                                                        Source: DevOps Patterns Distilled (Velocity London 2012)

·         Build a Learning Culture

The best ways for bridging the cultural gap between dev and ops is to build a learning culture. Organizations which embrace the learning culture are good at communicating a compelling reason for the change (primarily business outcomes), measuring the new behaviours and giving feedback, creating “triggers” in the work environment that remind teams what needs to be done, and building communities (CoP’s) that support this shared learning

The leadership encourages learning from failures, and is happy to conduct experiments and take risks, promoting a healthy culture of constant innovation while aligning team goals and changing human resources policies.

In the end

Dev-Ops is a long journey and it begins with building a “we” culture among the development and operations teams with shared goals and shared incentives. The improved communication and collective ownership fosters an environment of trust, leading to sharing of ideas, tools, processes and everyone focussed on delivering business value at the end of the day.

Let me know what other solutions you have practiced with your DevOps teams.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Top 3 challenges in your DevOps journey

The 2014 State of Devops survey report clearly shows higher organizational performance linked to the performance of the IT group and it's DevOps practices. But most organizations are still struggling in their IT-DevOps journey  - "only 21% of those familiar with it are using it". In the DevOps journey the main objective of "Collaboration between the Dev and Ops" faces many challenges! Let me attempt to highlight the Top 3 challenges faced by most organizations.


  • No Shared Ownership

Most programs typically have Development and Operations as separate teams, with conflicting goals.

The top down goals for development teams are to build features (potentially shippable increments) at short regular intervals so that they can be deployed, with all incentives promoting 'faster' build cycle, versus the operations team goals favor operational stability with changes minimized, in order to maintain existing system reliability and high availability, with incentives for reducing operational costs.

These conflicting goals setting lead to development teams “handing off” the code to operations after development, and operations "pushing back" almost every time.

The overall impact is that the feature 'go live' date is delayed, with both the groups lacking "shared ownership" for reducing the overall feature delivery cycle time from an end customer view point.

  • Physical separation

Development and Operations teams are separated by distance, and mostly do not share the same physical location or work area. Most organizations will have centralized operations teams, possibly across time zones for larger enterprises.

The silo'd physical structure is also carried in the silo'd organizational structures with different reporting heads for both the teams, thus ensuring that local optimizations rule the day, with the Operations team members managing and running multiple applications, in closely guarded areas, with restricted access or interaction opportunities with the Development teams.  

How can you relate to someone whom you have never met face to face and never talked? bye bye collaboration !!

  • Cultural differences

Cultural differences are visible in the behavior and actions of both the development team and the operations teams. 

The lack of trust and transparency on both sides is what manifest in the communication gaps on both sides, with the development team having minimal visibility on deployment activities and feedback on production systems (read  infrastructure metrics), and the Real business metrics and similarly the operations teams having minimal visibility on what is the expectations on the features wrt.  scalability, run books, or reliability that they should care about to maximize the applications potential and operate as expected by the development team. 

The lack of shared evidence and the missing Shared ownership clearly comes out and creates a sense of mistrust and results in overall delivery delays.

“The developer and operations divide in IT is almost like humidity at times. You can’t see it, but you feel it,” - This quote from the Starabucks devops post sums the challenges....  

what are the challenges do you see in your devops journey?

Look out for my next post which will try to address possible solutions for these challenges...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Step by Step guide to installing Robot Framework

Robot framework has been a little tricky for most folks though now provides an installer for windows, but still it is best to know the detailed steps if you do not wish to use the Installer.

So let's get started -

Installing Robot framework - requires Python installation first as a pre-requisite.

All steps below for Windows OS (32/64 bit)

Step 1. Install Python version 2.7.8 
(supported Python version for Robot Framework version greater than 2.7)
Installer Files:  python-2.7.8 - for 32 bit / python-2.7.8.amd64 - for 64 bit

Ex. Installed at c:\python27\

Update PATH environment variable for Python -


**Verify Python installed and the path set
Run command:
cmd C:\>python -help
Lists python command line options

Step 2. Install setuptools 7.0
(Easily download, build, install, upgrade, and uninstall Python packages)

Run command :
cmd C:\>python
"Installed c:\python27\lib\site-packages\setuptools-7.0-py2.7.egg"

**Verify Setup Tools folder and files available -
setuptools-7.0-py2.7.egg file created under ..\lib\site-packages

Step 3. Install pip
(Python Package Manager)


Run command :
Downloading/unpacking pip
Installing collected packages: pip
Successfully installed pip
Cleaning up...

**Verify pip folder and files available -

NOW you can install ROBOT FRAMEWORK finally !

Option 1 - Install Robot framework using pip

Run command :
C:\Python27\Scripts>pip install robotframework
Downloading/unpacking robotframework
Successfully installed robotframework

**Verify pybot.bat created under C:\Python27\Scripts

** Verify Robot framework installed
C:\>pybot --version
Robot Framework 2.8.6 (Python 2.7.8 on win32)

Option 2 - Install Robot framework using the Windows installer

Pre-requisite - Python installed
Installer Files:  / robotframework-2.8.6.win32.exe

Option 3 - Use the Stand-alone Robot framework JAR package
Robot Framework is also available as a stand-alone robotframework.jar package.
This package contains Jython and thus requires only JVM as a dependency.

Maven Central -

Assumes java installed already
** Verify Java installed
cmd c:>java -version
java version "1.7.0_05"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.7.0_05-b06)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 23.1-b03, mixed mode)

Pre-requisite - Python installed

File: robotframework-2.8.6.jar

Run command:
cmd C:\dev\robotfx\jar>java -jar robotframework-2.8.6.jar

** Verify Robot framework installed ...

robotframework.jar - Robot Framework runner.
Usage: java -jar robotframework.jar [command] [options] [input(s)]

Hurray, you are NOW READY to use the Robot Framework for writing your tests !!

Photo Credit:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Top 5 Agile project Myths – Smashed !

Catching a glimpse of a snake charmer on a busy Indian metropolis, is a big myth that many foreigners visiting India still cherish (wishful thinking you might say!). But the reality is that snake charming is illegal in India (India Wildlife Act) and has been for a number of years, although snake charmers do still exist and are now an ‘elusive’ sight. But the myth still exists and something similar is the case with the agile projects and the myths surrounding them.

If you take a look at the the annual state of agile surveys for last few years, they have been throwing similar results wrt 'Concerns' about Agile (read as Myths – see below Reference1), reflecting the dismal failure of the agile enthusiasts to be unable to bust the folk tales surrounding the agile projects delivery. This post hopes to therefore Smash the Top 5 agile project myths (popular faolke tales), with a pinch of sugar/salt (take your pick) for added flavour.

Source: Reference 1

Myth1– Agile projects do No Planning

The traditional projects have a Big plan upfront, and planning is highly visible, with a complete plethora of activities, draining the energy for a couple of weeks\months, and resulting in a sometimes scary GANTT chart.

But Agile projects instead focus on Continuous planning, and planning is therefore invisible!
Well you may ask how exactly that is achieved.  The answer lies in the 5 levels of agile planning (at multiple levels) which includes the following -
1.       Product vision plan
2.       Product roadmap plan
3.       Release plan
4.       Iteration (Sprint) plan
5.       Daily plan

Source: Reference 2
These 5 levels of continuous planning allows the agile projects to do continuous risk identification, assessment, and risk burn down via the daily scrum / scrum of scrums among others. The agile project teams are able to visualize these risks using the risk burn down charts, and able to highlight to the stakeholders about the potential upcoming pitfalls.

Myth 2 – Agile projects are Not Predictable and lack Transparency

The traditional projects typically provide an amazingly detailed Big GREEN cover report, with deep RED inside (aka. The Watermelon Report) for those who dare to dig deeper into a project health and find the darker side of reality.

But Agile projects provide Big Visible Dashboards on a real-time basis, which are visible to anyone who cares to look. The charts could include BIG Visible Burn Down charts, Release Burn up charts - showing possibilities of current state and the future trends, allowing trade off decisions to be made early in the project lifecycle. For teams looking at continuous improvements, the CFD (cumulative flow diagram) and other technical metrics indicating the project health and quality indicators complete the project dashboard, thus providing complete transparency and predictability.

Myth 3 –  Agile projects have No Architecture and lack design

The traditional projects typically follow a Big Design Upfront model (BDUF) resulting in the creation of Big Balls of Mud (BBM) and extremely high maintainability costs, primarily due to the high cost of change inherent in the muddy architecture.

But Agile projects tend to let the architecture evolve and follow the emergent design model. Since architecture is indeed the ‘hard to change stuff’, agile projects tend to have as little of that stuff, and take guidance from the enterprise architecture policies and the application architecture constraints.  The design spectrum diagram below highlights the BDUF to cowboy hacking approach and the agile projects fall in the middle.

Source: Reference3

The Ambysoft surveys indicate that 77% agile projects did perform high level initial architecture envisioning and are focussed on reducing technical debt more mercilessly, using the engineering practices like TDD, continuous refactoring and harvesting patterns for reuse.

Myth 4 –  Agile projects have No Documentation

The traditional projects produce Big Bulky Documentation (BBD) for every stage in the software life cycle, most of which is internal and tends to get stale quickly, smelling of wasted time and efforts.

But Agile projects tend to write just enough documentation which is fit for the purpose for the team/project needs. The agile documentation could take many forms and occur at multiple stages in the project lifecycle. The collaborative approach of the agile teams includes using - wiki’s /word doc / simple sticky notes/ big physical boards – to communicate and document lightly the project story including the technical design and requirements elicitation discussions.

Source: Reference 4

Myth 5 –  Agile projects have No engineering discipline

The traditional projects, which produce big balls of mud, have a tendency to end up forcing the technical excellence as a post release activity (“let’s clean up the code now that we have released to production” – is a common pattern).

But Agile projects always pay continuous attention to technical excellence, since agile teams know that a good design enhances agility and helps in the longer term maintenance. The agile teams accept change and have much simpler design thanks to the engineering practices, like following team coding standards, having collective code ownership, writing unit tests, practising continuous Integration and doing pair programming, while following test driven development.

Source: Reference 5

The Ambysoft surveys clearly indicate that the agile teams follow high engineering discipline, since     - 72 % - write unit tests, 55% have coding standards, 58% do CI,  47% do refactoring,  38% do TDD

....and so the search continues for the elusive snake charmer. Let me know if you have seen one recently...

  1. 8th Annual State of Agile Survey
  2. Mike Cohn, Agile Estimating and Planning, Informit, 2009
  3. IBM Evolutionary Architecture and emergent design
  4. Agile Modelling
  5. Agilitrix
  6. AmbySoft Surveys
  7. Photo credit

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mr. Product Manager: Are you ready for the brave new Agile world ?

This was an interesting question, which got me thinking to rant out on the state of product managers in the Scrum India meetup in 2011.

The fact is that after couple of years later, I still see that the product management is not ready and not ready to embrace the new world. So here's my wake up call again for them (from my archives) and possibly make atleast some of them embrace the new agile world now. You can hear my rant (pecha kucha style) in the video below. Feel free to drop me a note on your experiences.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Agile Balanced Scorecard - Does it exist ?

It is indeed a difficult question to answer!  The "Agile" Balanced Scorecard may or may not exist today (the literature published is pretty scant on this), but if you are looking for developing this scorecard or modifying your existing Balanced Scorecard for your organization, then you may want to watch my video below in the Agile India Kerala 2013 conference titled - Balanced Scorecard for the Agile Enterprise

Hope you enjoy the video, and leave me any feedback \ comments.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

3 Simple steps to build your Continuous Delivery Dashboard

Continuous Delivery is gaining traction now, but it is never easy to get funding :-|| But using Lean Value Stream Maps you can now showcase tangible efficiency gains by following these 3 simple steps to build your Continuous Delivery dashboard.

In uncertain times, people always struggle with executive funding for resources (infrastructure asset purchases and/or dedicated people). This is where I have borrowed the Lean Value Stream maps (VSM) to showcase visible dashboards focused on process efficiency gains, resulting in hard $$$ savings, and help win executives approval, for funding the various activities under the Continuous Delivery initiatives.

Here is a basic definition for Continuous Delivery, which is a set of practices and  principles aimed at, building, testing and releasing software faster and more frequently. The practices would typically include configuration management, continuous integration, automated testing, deployment automation, build pipelines and an agile team delivering frequent releases.

From the Lean camp, the Value Stream Map (VSM) is a lean manufacturing technique used to analyze the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer.
But for our needs and this scenario specifically, we are only focusing on the value stream map for the engineering organization delivery to UAT stage (which may include the deployment operations team).

The primary VSM metric to measure is the Process Cycle Efficiency where the cycle time is the total time measured from the developer checkin to the deployment and testing of a ‘candidate’ release on a UAT test machine or similar or the complete time it take to do a ‘NULL Release’(“If we changed one line of code in our application (or system), how long would it take us to deploy it into production using our regular release process?”)

Formula for Process Cycle Efficiency (PCE)
Process Cycle Efficiency (PCE)  = (Value Added Time / Cycle Time)
where Value Added Time – time spent producing a product or service for which customer is willing to pay for.
Cycle Time – Total time from start to finish including the Value Added and Non Value Added time (defined as time spent in setting up systems, equipment turnover, handoffs or simply WASTE’s in the production process)

So the 3 simple steps to build your Dashboard are -
  1. Build Process Cycle Efficiency (PCE)  for Current State
  2. Build Process Cycle Efficiency (PCE)  for Target State
  3. Calculate and Track Efficiency Gains

Step 1 – Build Process Cycle Efficiency for Current State

Let us assume a simplified typical 3 stage process which includes Build – Deploy – Test activities. Each of these activities may include multiple steps and can be drilled down, but for simplicity we keep this at a high level. A typical PCE Value Stream would appear as below –

 and the typical timelines for each of the activities can be depicted as –

All data in MINUTES
Time Taken
Build Wait Time*
Build Execution Time
Deploy Wait Time*
Deployment Execution Time
Test Wait Time*
Test Execution Time
Total Cycle Time
Value Added Time
V1 =X1+Y1+Z1
Process Cycle Efficiency
PCE1 = V1/TT1 %

* Wait Time = Non Value added activities, which could include handoffs, signoffs, approvals, hardware latency, software latency etc..

Step 2 – Build Process Cycle Efficiency for Target State

As you implement the core practices of Continuous Delivery- Continuous Integration, Automated Testing, Continuous Deployment, Build Pipelines etc., the Target PCE Value Stream would appear as below –

and the typical timelines for each of the activities can be depicted as below –

All data in MINUTES
Time Taken
Build Wait Time*
Build Execution Time
Deploy Wait Time*
Deployment Execution Time
Test Wait Time*
Test Execution Time
Total Cycle Time
Value Added Time

Process Cycle Efficiency

*Wait Time – Reduction in wait times as a result of following the core practices or waste removal for the non value added activities.

Step 3 - Calculate and Track Efficiency Gains

The PCE can be depicted on a monthly or quarterly graph to show progress, as shown in the example below. Based on the financial data, costs can be further assigned highlighting the time savings and the resultant cost savings per quarter.
Therefore Total Cycle time Savings achieved are = TT2-TT1=  980 – 220 = 760 minutes ~ 
13 hours SAVED = $$$ Savings

          Continuous Delivery Progress Dashboard

Assuming that the above scenario was for a single platform and single build, but these savings could increase exponentially, based on the number of parallel builds/deployments, across multiple platforms in a large scale enterprise product.

Let me know if this helps you move forward in your continuous delivery journey and if you have similar experiences with your executives and what was your solution. Till then you may wish to mull the below quote, while you try to Sell the benefits and joy’s of Continuous Delivery!

I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard. -Estée Lauder`