DevOps Is A Myth
(Practitioner’s Reflections on The DevOps Handbook)
The Holy Wars of DevOps
Yet another argument explodes online around the ‘true nature of DevOps’, around ‘what DevOps really means’ or around ‘what DevOps is not’. At each conference I attend we talk about DevOps culture, DevOps mindset and DevOps ways. All confirming one single truth - DevOps is a myth.
Now don’t get me wrong - in no way is this a negation of its validity or importance. As Y.N.Harrari shows so eloquently in his book ‘Sapiens’ - myths were the forming power in the development of humankind. It is in fact our ability to collectively believe in these non-objective, imagined realities that allows us to collaborate at large scale, to coordinate our actions, to build pyramids, temples, cities and roads.
There’s a Handbook!
I am writing this while finishing the exceptionally well written “DevOps Handbook”. If you really want to know what stands behind the all-too-often misinterpreted buzzword - you better read this cover-to-cover. It presents an almost-no-bullshit deep dive into why, how and what in DevOps. And it comes from the folks who invented the term and have been busy developing its main concepts over the last 7 years.
Now notice - I’m only saying you should read the “DevOps Handbook” if you want to understand what DevOps is about. After finishing it I’m pretty sure you won’t have any interest in participating in petty arguments along the lines of ‘is DevOps about automation or not?’. But I’m not saying you should read the handbook if you want to know how to improve and speed up your software manufacturing and delivery processes. And neither if you want to optimize your IT organization for innovation and continuous improvement.
Because the main realization that you, as a smart reader, will arrive at - is just that there is no such thing as DevOps. DevOps is a myth.
So What’s The Story?
It all basically comes down to this: some IT companies achieve better results than others. Better revenues, higher customer and employee satisfaction, faster value delivery, higher quality. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula, there is no magic bullet - but we can learn from these high performers and try to apply certain tools and practices in order to improve the way we work and achieve similar or better results. These tools and processes come from a myriad of management theories and practices. Moreover - they are constantly evolving, so we need to always be learning. But at least we have the promise of better life. That is if we get it all right: the people, the architecture, the processes, the mindset, the org structure, etc.
So it’s not about certain tools, cause the tools will change. And it’s not about certain practices - because we’re creative and frameworks come and go. I don’t see too many folks using Kanban boards 10 years from now. (In the same way only the laggards use Gantt charts today) And then the speakers at the next fancy conference will tell you it’s mainly about culture. And you know what culture is? It’s just a story, or rather a collection of stories that a group of people share. Stories that tell us something about the world and about ourselves. Stories that have only a very relative connection to the material world. Stories that can easily be proven as myths by another group of folks who believe them to be wrong.
But Isn’t It True?
Anybody who’s studied management theories knows how the approaches have changed since the beginning of the last century. From Taylor’s scientific management and down to McGregor’s X&Y theory they’ve all had their followers. Managers who’ve applied them and swore getting great results thanks to them. And yet most of these theories have been proven wrong by their successors.
In the same way we see this happening with DevOps and Agile. Agile was all the buzz since its inception in 2005. Teams were moving to Scrum, then Kanban, now SAFE and LESS. But Agile didn’t deliver on its promise of better life. Or rather - it became so commonplace that it lost its edge. Without the hype, we now realize it has its downsides. And we now hope that maybe this new DevOps thing will make us happy.
You may say that the world is changing fast - that’s why we now need new approaches! And I agree - the technology, the globalization, the flow of information - they all change the stories we live in. But this also means that whatever is working for someone else today won’t probably work for you tomorrow - because the world will change yet again.
Which means that the DevOps Handbook - while a great overview and historical document and a source of inspiration - should not be taken as a guide to action. It’s just another step towards establishing the DevOps myth.
And that takes us back to where we started - myths and stories aren’t bad in themselves. They help us collaborate by providing a common semantic system and shared goals. But they only work while we believe in them and until a new myth comes around - one powerful enough to grab our attention.
Your Own DevOps Story
So if we agree that DevOps is just another myth, what are we left with? What do we at Otomato and other DevOps consultants and vendors have to sell? Well, it’s the same thing we’ve been building even before the DevOps buzz: effective software delivery and IT management. Based on tools and processes, automation and effective communication. Relying on common sense and on being experts in whatever myth is currently believed to be true.
As I keep saying - culture is a story you tell. And we make sure to be experts in both the storytelling and the actual tooling and architecture. If you’re currently looking at creating a DevOps transformation or simply want to optimize your software delivery - give us a call. We’ll help to build your authentic DevOps story, to train your staff and to architect your pipeline based on practice, skills and your organization’s actual needs. Not based on myths that other people tell.