DevOps and Kanban


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One of the leaders of the DevOps movement is Dominica DeGrandis (@dominicad), who teaches and coaches teams using Kanban for IT Operations and Development Operations. She is an independent consultant as well as an associate of David J. Anderson. Her background includes ten years of doing Configuration Management, build and deployment automation, and server & environment maintenance, followed by leading teams performing those functions.

This is a transcription of the podcast, How to unite Development and Operations with Dominica.

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DevOps and Kanban

  1. 1. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems DevOps with Dominica Guest was Dominica DeGrandis Related Podcast: How to unite Development and Operations How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  2. 2. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsDominica DeGrandis has taught the use and implementation ofthe Kanban method to teams and organizations in San Francisco,Seattle, Portland, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis,Miami, Detroit, Salt Lake, Paris, London, Ghent, Munich,Columbia... and counting.The thrust of her work is to teach methods for managing andimproving workflow and communication between and within teams and departments, especially the workflow through IT. She is a proponent of the DevOps movement and works to bridge the gap between Development and Operations teams. After spending most of her career synchronizing interactions and dependencies between teams, Dominica is keen on improving the way teamswork together to help bring alignment to the entire organization.Dominica holds a BS in Information Computer Science from theUniversity of Hawaii. She is an independent trainer, coach andinternational speaker.She can be reached at and on twitterat @dominicad when not in the yoga studio or the garden. How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  3. 3. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Transcription of Podcast Joe Dager: Welcome, everyone. This is Joe Dager, the host ofthe Business901 podcast. With me today is Dominica DeGrandis.She teaches and coaches teams, using Kanban for IT operationsand development operations. She is an independent consultant,with a background that includes 10 years of doing configurationmanagement, build and deployment automation, and server andenvironment maintenance, followed by leading teams performingthose functions.She has also filled the role of project and program manager. Shetravels across the world speaking about her signature area ofwork, improving interactions and dependencies between teams.With a little time left, she spends it at the yoga studio or in thegarden.Dominica, I would like to welcome you, and would like to ask you,which have you been practicing longer? DevOps, or yoga?Dominica DeGrandis: Hey, Joe, thanks for having me on. Itsgreat to be here. I have probably been practicing DevOps longerthan yoga, I would have to say. They wouldnt call it DevOps,back 10, 12 years ago, but Ialways seemed to be in a position Sponsored byof the middle person between thedevelopment and the operationsteams, and having to do handoffsall the time, and handleintegration points. So that goesback with my first job, out ofcollege.Joe: I always thought of yoga asan individual thing, finding peacewith yourself. But knowing that How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  4. 4. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsyoure an avid practitioner of yoga, what are some of theprinciples of yoga that helps in teamwork?Dominica: Its remarkable how the energy is different,depending on the different people at the yoga studio. Sometimesyoull go in, and there will just be a few people, and they mightall be fairly advanced. And theres a different rhythm thathappens when you have some advanced practitioners in theroom, versus if youre in, what I mean, a really big class. Theremight be some beginners, there might be some people who havenever done yoga before, medium people, and advanced people.The idea of vinyasa yoga, which is all about moving and flowing,vinyasas like a flow yoga. Its concentrated on breathing, andyour breath for different positions. So when you have a group ofpeople doing yoga together, and theyre all breathing together,theres energy in the room that starts to happen. I can feel ithappening in the room, and its like everybodys in sync, andsupporting one another.Even though I think initially its meant to be as an individual, Iwork out all the time with lots of people.Joe: Let me dive into the teamwork a bit here. Is teamwork thatmuch different in DevOps than it is in other parts of anorganization?Dominica: I believe so, yes. I believe that because there aredifferent incentives for development teams versus operationsteams. In the development world, you are getting paid, and youare getting recognition for creating, developing, and deployingnew functionality into production. In the operations world, we aregetting paid and recognized for keeping productions stable.Anytime change is put into production, there is a risk ofdestabilizing it. Therere two opposite ends there as far asincentives go. Usually these two things will report up to different How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  5. 5. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsdirectors. Sometimes youll have to go to a VP level to get acommon leadership point.Joe: Well, youre a proponent of combining the two, arent you?Dominica: Im a proponent of the DevOps movement. TheDevOps movement is about bridging that gap between the twoteams. You could merge these teams but not necessarily. Itsreally meant to help bring an understanding of these differentteams so that they can break out of their individual functionalsilos and start improving the way they work together for thebenefit of the organization as a whole. Whats the real goal here?Are we trying to deliver new functionality to get us a jump aheadin the market? We want to start having teams look at that goalinstead of just only trying to keep production stable or only tryingto get the highest number of change request fixed in a limitedamount of time.Joe: When we talk about that gap, to bridge it or bring ittogether. The obvious thing is better communication, but theresgot to be more to it than that.Dominica: Completely. I think the biggest thing is probablybringing visibility. Bringing visibility to what the other teams aredoing. Many times these teams have heavy dependencies on eachother. The development team is dependent on operationssupplying them with environments and equipment. Access todifferent databases and trying to bring some visibility to thosedependencies upfront and early on is very useful. Normally, wedont have a lot of visibility between these two teams becausetheyre off in their own silo. Theyre off in their own world andone team will say, "Oh, why does it take so long to get anenvironment up?"They dont have a clue at the struggles that some of theseoperations teams have to go through just to get servers orderedin or just to get refreshed from production. So this ability helps How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  6. 6. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsbridge the gap between the teams and it brings them closertogether so they can understand and help. We want them to helpeach other out.Joe: Well, this may be naïve on my part to even say that, butwhen you talk about the visualization, is that just putting a bigtask board up there for everybody to see?Dominica: Its a good start, putting the work thats being doneup on the board so people can see what tasks or what work itemsneed to be completed in order for the job to be done. "Done" is atricky word because whats the definition of "done?" In manycases its, "OK, Ive coded up this story, and its done. Imthrowing it over the fence to operations. Im done."The idea is, well, no, its really not done. Its not done until itsworking in production. Then we can all consider it done.But even then I would say its still really not done. Is it beingused in production? A lot of times well deliver functionality, and itdoesnt get used. I would say its really never done until thatfunctionality is not in use anymore, and its been sun set becausewe still have to maintain it. We still have to maintain thoseservers that run that functionality.Joe: Whats the difference between, lets say, a task board and aKanban board?Dominica: A Kanban board is going to show the work inprogress. Its probably going to have WIP limits on top of thecolumns, Work In Progress limits, so that you can see whatscoming up next and whats being probably delayed because itcannot be worked on yet due to the WIP limits. Youre likely goingto be able to notice bottlenecks on a Kanban board. There arevery simplistic Kanban boards. To do, doing, done. I dont see awhole lot of that in my world in a DevOps implementation. Wevegot maybe a "next" column. Weve got maybe a "waiting for" How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  7. 7. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemscolumn where were waiting on some dependencies, and maybesome analysis is going on with some implementation. We canvisually see the steps of the workflow that is happening fromdevelopment through operations all the way until its delivered.Instead of just having one "done" column because "done" is hardto define, we might have a "delivered" column on the board. Thenafter that, have a column that will indicate features or functionsthat are actually in use and have been maintained. We have allthe monitoring and everything set up for that functionality.Another item that I like to see on my Kanban board anyway is anabandoned work area. I just did an Ignite talk at the last DevOpsstaged in Mountain View, California on this because I think its anessential thing for us to think about. The business understandsthe direction that theyre going, but they may change their mind.They may pivot. They may want to stop working on a feature thatgot so far through the pipeline.Sometimes this can say...well, it used to for me. It would impactmorale because it was like, "Oh, we put all this effort into doingthis work, and now the business wants to consider it waste and itgoes in the waste bin."But with an abandoned work area on the board, then weanticipate that there may be those kinds of changes, that we doexpect some work to be abandoned and not make it all the wayto production, and thats the right thing to do and we need to letgo of that work and be OK with it.Joe: When you talk about a Kanban board, does each team havetheir own Kanban board then?Dominica: That really depends. Thats highly contextual in theorganization. It depends on the size of the organization. Itdepends on how well these teams are integrated or not. The goalis to have a Kanban board that you can walk up to and it makes How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  8. 8. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemssense and people can understand whats going on. If theres toomuch stuff going on in the Kanban board and its too confusing,its not going to work right. Its whatever works. If one teamstarts using Kanban, say a development team starts usingKanban, then, it may spread virally, and well see others teamsin the organization start putting up their own Kanban boards.Then they start working together over time and it may be thattheyll evolve into one Kanban board so that both teams can seeeach other’s work on the board. That can be very useful, but itdoes require support from leadership to do that.Joe: I think thats a big thing because all of these boards lookkind of messy to me. And youre saying another team should beable to come up and decipher someone elses board?Dominica: I think its really helpful if they can. If differentteams have their own Kanban boards and theyre using differentcolors for post-it notes and different policies, itll be harder. Itllbe more confusing for teams to read the other ones board. So itcan be helpful and help them keep it in better alignment if theycan agree upon some-- I dont want to standard, because therereally is no standard, but you could see how it could be helpful if,for example, people would use bright pink post-it notes todesignate blocking tickets.Then, as youre moving through the organization, people wouldknow "OK, thats a pink post-it note, so they must be blocked onsomething. OK, lets see what theyre blocked on."Joe: I think that would be an excellent idea. It is a good thing todevelop some "standards" about a board.Dominica: In the same organization, if the goal is to--down theroad we think that we might want to bring these teams intobetter alignment or maybe even merge these teams together, How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  9. 9. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsthen the easier it is to understand each others boards and thatthe better it is.Joe: What do you mean by workflow mapping?Dominica: What I mean by workflow mapping is identifying thesteps basically that the work flows through. Its up to understandhow work comes into your organization and then how it exits orhow it gets handed off to the next team, and to clearly enter allthose states in there. When we first started using Kanban back in2006, at Corbis, we were using it for sustainmentfixes--production fixes and sustainment fixes, small changes. Wehad the analysis work and development work, and then it wouldgo into test.I sort of raised my hand and went, "Well, hey. Wait a minute.Theres this whole area in there where were getting the code,and source code control, and were doing builds, and werepackaging it up, and deploying it to these environments. Wheresall that work happening? Its not magic."I admit, there was a sense of, "Hey, what about me?" Not evenrepresenting all the work Im doing, or that our team is doing onthe board. We ended up putting a build ready queue on theboard, so that we could really see all the steps that the workneeded to get to in order to see value for the business.Joe: In your speaking and in your work, you work a lot withcreating teams.Dominica: Not necessarily creating teams, but uniting teams. Iwould say, uniting the different teams so that work can flowsmoother between the teams. I believe that the integration pointsand the handoffs are some of the biggest risks in softwaredevelopment. When we have to hand things off to a differentteam is where we have a lot of problems, a lot of accidents, a lotof unknowns. The better those teams can be aligned, and sync How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  10. 10. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsup, and understand the problems that the other team is facing. Ithink the bigger the improvement that we have, and the fasterthat well be able to deploy those improvements into production,to see if thats what the customer wants or not.Joe: How do you go about making that handoff? Do you havetwo teams meeting together to make it? How do you go aboutdoing that?Dominica: A couple of key things: One is standups, havingstandups in front of the Kanban board, and ensuring thatsomebody from the operations team is attending thedevelopment teams standup in front of their Kanban board.These standups are very short, and very brief. Theyre typicallycentered on blocking issues. If Im in an operations role, and Imattending a development Kanban standup, I can see whatsblocking them, and I can also get a good look ahead. I can seewhats coming up the pike, so I have fewer surprises. "Oh, Ididnt know you needed an environment by tomorrow."Dominica: I can find that kind of stuff out earlier. Hopefullyhave some kind of feedback mechanism in place too, so that theteams can learn whats working, whats not working well, and wewould do this not only through standups, but through ops review.Operations review is a monthly meeting where the goal is to,basically, show the data. Each lead of a team will get up and, justlike in five minutes, present the demand that their team isseeing, and their capability to meet that demand, and what theirissues are.The good, the bad, and the embarrassing get revealed at theseops reviews. I believe that brings about empathy betweendifferent teams, and a greater understanding, and that helpsteams want to work together better to improve everybodys life. How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  11. 11. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsJoe: I picture each team rolling in their Kanban board, theirmonthly briefing.Dominica: We hope, that its off-site, so that people are focusedand paying attention, but theyll show their cumulative flowdiagrams, or their control charts. Theyll show their issues. Itsmore about looking at the actual data over the last 30 days.Joe: We have daily standups, and the monthly review witheverybody, thats typically off-site. Do we have a weekly?Dominica: Not necessarily.Joe: We talk a lot about multiple teams working together. Is it acombination of just team leaders communicating with each other?You mentioned someone from the ops team was attending thedevelopment teams. How do you get the multiple teams to worktogether like that?Dominica: I think one of the best scenarios is if you have oneboard that incorporates all these teams, and everybodys at thesame standup every morning. To me, thats ideal. Organizationsdont always have the ability to do that. And they might say, "Oh,our teams too big." But we had about 50 people attending ourstandup. It was a huge implementation, like a 12 million dollarimplementation of SAP that impacted everybody from analysis, tobusiness, to ops, to development. Customers or product ownerswould attend these standups, and then everybody gets to seewhat the issues are.Obviously, if youre not ready for that and your teams do haveseparate Kanban boards and separate standups, hopefully thestandups are staggered so that people can attend one or theother.Another great thing Ive seen is when somebody from one team isactually embedded in another team for a period of time, maybe How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  12. 12. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems30 days, or 60 day. You might have a team member embedded inthat team and their working right alongside them.Joe: That was really one of my questions here, what happenswhen someone has to be on multiple teams. Is he going tomultiple meetings?Dominica: Oh, thats a great question. Hopefully, you candesign your Kanban system to show demand coming in on maybeone shared services team and how its impacting them and howand how are they supposed to prioritize across five or sixprojects. I think thats where the visibility can be so critical tobring about understanding because people can only do so manythings at once.And if a shared services team, theres a real risk there. If youvegot four or five projects going on, and everybody needs supportfrom the security guy, or from the sysadmin guy. How do they goabout prioritizing?Its very challenging. If we can visualize that on a board andbring customers to see that--when I say customers Im notnecessarily talking about external customers to the company, butdownstream and upstream customers, business people, ordevelopers, or product owners.If they can come look at a board and see the demand thatscoming into their shared services team, then they can begin tohelp prioritize, so that the shared services team, or a person in ashared service role, itd be easier for them to select the next workitem to work on, or the next task to work on.When you visualize a board like that, it could be that they decideto hire more people. It could be that they decide to actually bringsome of those specialized skill sets into the team. In other words,they might embed a specialized skill set into their team for awhile. How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  13. 13. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsJoe: One of the statements I heard in your talk in Boston is thatyou can set policies in place, instead of solutions. Could youexplain what you mean by that?Dominica: I love policies. We talk about making policies explicit.This is all about, stop hiding the rules. Thats really what wemean when we say, "Make process policies explicit." "Stop hidingthe rule on page 200 thats in some document thats buried outon a share that nobody can find." If theres a policy, for example,say developers are supposed to check their code into this branch,then put it up, make it visible to them. Especially new peoplebeing hired, they dont know where to go find policies. Putpolicies up next to your Kanban board, or put them at the bottomof your Kanban board. Sometimes youll see a policy at thebottom of each column, and thats the policy for the criteriabefore the item can be pulled into the next column. Policies canbe changed when they need to be changed.Policies are really just a short-term, tactical fix to make animprovement while youre waiting on some longer term strategicfix. Policies can come and go, and be modified. The idea is that ifa policy is staring at you, its much easier than to have adiscussion about why its a bad policy or a good policy, or how itneeds to be changed.Joe: Talk about the goalie that stops people from interferingwith the team and everything. How much authority does a goaliehave? Can he stop a leader from coming in on the team?Dominica: The goalie is really about running interface to protectthe rest of the team from getting interrupted. Like most things,we really need leadership support in all of this. If the VP comes inand interrupts somebody, maybe they need to be remindedabout, "Hey, we have this policy. We have a goalie, and please gowork with the goalie, so we dont get interrupted." Well probablyalways have emergencies. Thats just the nature of our work in How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  14. 14. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systemsoperations. We will handle the emergencies. And thats why itsimportant to design a Kanban system thats going to handleemergencies, so that we have the capability to do that.But the thing I love about the goalie is, one, it helps providecross-training for the team. If you have one person thats alwayshandling that one feature, or that one functionality, or that onetool, it brings in a lot of risk. When they win the lottery, its notwhen they get hit by the bus, its when they win the lottery, andthey call in rich, who else is going to take it? The goalie helps tocross-train teams, reduces that risk.Its a rotating position. It might rotate on a weekly basis, ormaybe a 10 day basis, or whatever. So everybody gets tounderstand the problems that people are having on a day-to-daybasis. Its a way to train people. Its also a way to help documentor automate some of those daily requests that come in.Joe: Is there something about Kanban or DevOps youd like toadd that maybe I didnt ask?Dominica: One of the biggest challenges with Kanban is that,because its not very prescriptive, and people will ask...Somepeople will want to be told what to do. And that can be reallychallenging, because thats not really easy. What we like to do is,were trying to improve collaboratively by doing these safety failexperiments. "Were going to try this, see how it works, adjust itslightly, and try it again." Its through that gradual evolution overtime where we can, hopefully, get to where we want to go. Thatsone of, probably, the bigger challenges that I see. Also, peoplewill try to copy other peoples Kanban boards, and thats a bigproblem. Trying to do what everybody else is doing just rarelyworks. Your situation is likely to be different, and sometimes itcan just be dangerous to copy somebody elses Kanban design. How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  15. 15. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing SystemsJoe: You also have a couple of community groups online thatyou work with in the DevOps field. Could you name them, andmention how someone could contact you?Dominica: Sure. There is Kanban Ops. Its a Yahoo! Group. Youjust google "Kanban Ops." Its a private group, which is nice,because we dont have a lot of vendors posting outside, trying tosell anything. Kanban Ops is a group of practitioners who can askquestions, like Kanban Dev. Theres a Kanban Dev Yahoo! Grouptoo, where people can just ask questions to the community andget responses. The Kanban Ops group is much smaller. Its reallyjust getting going, but its more about case studies for thecommunity out there whos using Kanban for ops, and I facilitatethat group. So if somebody just went to Kanban Ops andsubscribed to that, then I would approve that.We have the Limited WIP Society, which is a nonprofitinternational society. There are local Limited WIP Societies allover the world, Australia, London, Europe, U.S., everywhere, andthey have meetups. Its a great resource to go to, for example,get a list of the three dozen online electronic Kanban tools outthere on the market now, things like that. Then there are videosout there from all the latest speakers at the Lean Kanbanconferences.One last thing I wanted to mention, Joe, was another importantthing to know about Kanban, typically, especially in the officearena, we are used to having work pushed on us, right? "Do this,do that," without people really understanding the front up-timethat we might need.That continual pressure and force are just not sustainable. Evenno relationship can respond positively to that continued force.Thats why its so key to set those work in progress limits and toadhere to them. How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901
  16. 16. Business901 Podcast TranscriptionImplementing Lean Marketing Systems Joseph T. Dager Business901 Phone: 260-918-0438 Skype: Biz901 Fax: 260-818-2022 Email: Website: Twitter: @business901Joe Dager is president of Business901, a firm specializing inbringing the continuous improvement process to the sales andmarketing arena. He takes his process thinking of over thirtyyears in marketing within a wide variety of industries and appliesit through Lean Marketing and Lean Service Design.Visit the Lean Marketing Lab: Being part of this community willallow you to interact with like-minded individuals andorganizations, purchase related tools, use some free ones andreceive feedback from your peers. Marketing with Lean Book Series included in membership Lean Sales and Marketing Workshop Lean Service Design Workshop How to unite Development and Operations Copyright Business901