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When Life Gives You Silos (Devopsdays Amsterdam 2013)
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When Life Gives You Silos (Devopsdays Amsterdam 2013)

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A 5-minute Ignite talk about how the Devops mindset can help to survive in organizational silo's. …

A 5-minute Ignite talk about how the Devops mindset can help to survive in organizational silo's.

Short Summary:

Often in large companies, everyone with the same profile is pushed into the same department. For example system guys, python guys and helpdesk people. Each with has different team leads and middle management... This is called “The Silo Effect”.

This idea probably sounds good on paper but in reality, it is why companies are slow and cost ineffective. For the people inside there is no way to easily bounce ideas off someone with different skills and expertise.

The problem with Silo's is that teams can get easily isolated from other teams. This results in a situation where it might become impossible to get help from other teams when problems arise and you are dependent on them. The middle managers are then often dragged into the fray and everyone starts blaming everyone.

So in order to fix this, do something technical people often forget to do: stop focusing on solving the technical dilemmas and start communicating. Ask other teams how you can improve your system and realign
it with their vision.

So my story here is really about how to build bridges between silos. As a developer or ops person, talk about different concerns and visions.Share the responsibility of shipping an application with your systems team.

It is about planting seeds that will create cooperation, respect and trust. Seeds that only grow by making compromises. It is about inspiring a change in work ethic, not forcing it.

We got there by compromise and lots of strict agreements. Given our technology, we agreed to a deployment process flow and laid down the tracks to follow that path. In our case we created a Jenkins pipeline and since we build as Debian packages, we make it easy for operators to manage.

So what do you do when you encounter silos? Don't put energy towards knocking them down. The management structure has been there for ages and will probably never change. Make it your playground, learn to navigate them and uncover shortcuts. Informally discuss with the people in other teams, at the coffee machine for example.

In the end, it is about a gradual evolution of improving communication and collaboration, not an immediate revolution. Keep in mind IT is not centered around the systems or the tech we use, it is
about the people.

Finally... Real silos are often painted in the color of the sky, to make them look transparant.
And this is exactly what we should do too with organizational silos.


So when life gives you silos, paint them.

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  • 1. When Life Gives you Silos...@KevinVanWilder
  • 2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cammu/5108751670/Large CompanyLarge CompanyDepartmentsDepartmentsManagementManagement
  • 3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicalibre/494933454/Divide & ConquerDivide & ConquerSlowSlowCost IneffectiveCost Ineffective
  • 4. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicalibre/494933454/Bouncing ideasBouncing ideasThe drawing boardThe drawing board
  • 5. http://www.flickr.com/photos/riggsy23/4439289015/Rolled our ownRolled our ownRefusal to helpRefusal to help
  • 6. http://www.flickr.com/photos/demorro/4123129376/Help?Help?Battle!Battle!
  • 7. http://www.flickr.com/photos/26093368@N07/2556523595/Middle ManagementMiddle ManagementUnnecessary meetingsUnnecessary meetings
  • 8. http://www.flickr.com/photos/creemorekid/7747548806/Stop focusingStop focusingStart communicatingStart communicating
  • 9. http://www.flickr.com/photos/roevin/4743043069/Building BridgesBuilding BridgesShare the ResponsibilityShare the Responsibility
  • 10. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cotarr/5336549336/Cooperation, Respect, TrustCooperation, Respect, TrustCompromiseCompromiseListenListen
  • 11. http://www.flickr.com/photos/42149347@N00/4478537611/InspireInspireReplacingReplacingNo ForcingNo Forcing
  • 12. http://www.flickr.com/photos/aallan/537431715/Equally ResponsibleEqually ResponsibleHappy EmployeesHappy Employees
  • 13. http://www.flickr.com/photos/florahaggis/6313457943/Strict AgreementsStrict AgreementsProcess FlowProcess Flow
  • 14. http://www.flickr.com/photos/duckypipeliner/4281438859/PipelinePipelineTriggersTriggers
  • 15. http://www.flickr.com/photos/tisue/4283167163/Debian PackagingDebian PackagingInstant RolloutInstant Rollout
  • 16. http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuckincustoms/3930943796/Across SilosAcross SilosEnforce AgreementsEnforce Agreements
  • 17. http://www.flickr.com/photos/darko_pevec/2300487155/Knocking DownKnocking Down
  • 18. PlayPlayDiscussDiscussTogetherTogether
  • 19. http://www.flickr.com/photos/contour1968/2670038394/Gradual EvolutionGradual EvolutionImprove CommunicationImprove CommunicationPeoplePeople
  • 20. http://www.flickr.com/photos/13313698@N06/2264809711/Thanks!Thanks!