DevOps - And Pizza - Can Keep IT Projects From Going South, Conference Told

Want to make sure your IT implementation projects don't fail? Try serving your teams more pizza. DevOps can help too.

That tip and other tricks of the trade were offered to attendees at the NexGen Cloud Conference on Tuesday by Dave Thompson, CTO of RightBrain Networks, a cloud and DevOps consultancy based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Most everyone in the conference room had seen a project fail, Thompson confirmed by a show of hands at his NexGen tech talk in Anaheim, Calif. A recent survey by project management software maker Innotas found that 55 percent of the channel experienced project failure at least once in the past year.

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DevOps methodology can go a long way toward preventing such problems in the future, Thompson said.

While the term DevOps has come to be associated with a set of tools and titles, fundamentally it’s a practice to get people to work collaboratively, especially software and systems engineers.

The DevOps approach insists that "people responsible for the entire lifecycle are able to communicate," Thompson said.

That cooperation between development and operations staff solves many common problems, helping the channel deliver more predictable, higher-quality solutions to customers, Thompson told attendees.

To implement the DevOps methodology, it helps for solution providers to learn to recognize project failure quickly.

The first sign often is internal squabbling — infighting, sarcasm, nasty words — that reveals poor alignment between teams. There are other warning signs, from missed deadlines to too-big-to-fail scenarios in which no one is willing to tell leaders a major project isn't going to work.

It's also important to understand the underlying causes of failure, which vary from insufficient resources, to unrealistic requirements to overly ambitious engagements.

"One of the most common killers, surprisingly, I've seen in my career," said Thompson, is people grabbing business opportunities without fully understanding what they involve.

So, once those stumbling blocks are understood, how do channel leaders introduce the DevOps approach to their staffs?

First, project managers should identify a group of engineers to work together. Then they should give them a single task to complete.

Then the pizza comes into play.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a rule that a project team should be able to be fed by two large pizzas, Thompson said. That translates to a squad of between five and eight people.

If you create a small team, in which everyone brings in specific skills, combine those roles and orient them to a specific object, delegating authority so those members can make decisions for themselves, Thompson said. Then, failure will be a much less common occurrence, he added.