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Engineering Your Organization:
Services, Platforms, and Communities
Randy Shoup
@randyshoup
linkedin.com/in/randyshoup
Background
@randyshoup
All organizations are wrong,
but some are useful.
@randyshoup
Organizational
Goals
• Sustainably deliver value
• Effectively leverage people, teams, and
technology
• Continuously impro...
Specialization and
Sharing
@randyshoup
Specialization and
Sharing
@randyshoup
Engineering the
Organization
•Services
•Platforms
•Communities
•Leadership
Engineering the
Organization
•Services
•Platforms
•Communities
•Leadership
Business
Alignment
<Business
Domain>
• Aligned around a business
problem
• Clear goals and metrics …
o … that matter to cu...
Full-Stack
Teams
Idea
Development
Quality
Operations
Idea
Development
Quality
Operations
Idea
Development
Quality
Operatio...
Service
Organization
• One domain: One team: One / few service(s)
o Organization  reflects  Architecture (“Conway’s Law”...
Service
Provider
• Meet the needs of the customers …
o Functionality
o Quality
o Performance
o Stability and Reliability
o...
Service
Discipline
• Vendor-Customer Relationship
o Service provider team is a vendor; consumer teams are customers
o Serv...
Service
Evolution
• Variation and Natural Selection
o Create / extract new services when needed to solve a problem
o Servi...
“Every service at Google is
either deprecated or not
ready yet.”
-- Google engineering proverb
@randyshoup
Engineering the
Organization
•Services
•Platforms
•Communities
•Leadership
Common
Platform
• Common Capabilities
o Authentication
o Secrets management
o Observability
o Alerting
• Standard Framewor...
Platform
Provider
• Reduce cognitive load on customer teams
• “Paved Road”
o Consistent set of integrated capabilities tha...
Platform
Consumer
• If you use it, embrace it
o Abstracting it away leads to “least common denominator” capabilities
o Rep...
Usage
Discipline
• Charge to Use
o Charge customers for *usage* of the service
o Free usage gives no incentive to control ...
Engineering the
Organization
•Services
•Platforms
•Communities
•Leadership
Communities
of Practice
Collaborating via
• Slack channels
• Groups and maillists
• Periodic meetings
• Internal conferenc...
Internal
Open Source
• Accept contributions from outside the
team
o Contributor submits a Pull Request (with tests!)
o Pro...
“Pull Requests
are accepted”
@randyshoup
Engineering the
Organization
•Services
•Platforms
•Communities
•Leadership
When you organize,
think like an engineer.
When you lead,
think like a parent.
@randyshoup
“Technological
Maestro”
• High energy
• Asks the right questions
• High standards
• Good on the details
@randyshoup
“If the man at the top is a dope
or ignorant, everyone under him
will soon be a dope or ignorant,
because he sets the tone...
A players hire (and retain) A
players.
B players hire (and retain) C
players
@randyshoup
Theory X vs.
Theory Y
• Dr. Douglas McGregor, 1960
• Leadership’s beliefs about
what motivates employees
@randyshoup
Theory X vs.
Theory Y
• Theory X: people are inherently
lazy, avoid responsibility, require
extrinsic motivation
• Theory ...
Never ascribe to malice what can adequately
be explained by incompetence.
@randyshoup
-- Hanlon’s Razor
-- Shoup’s Corolla...
Psychological
Safety
• Team is safe for interpersonal
risk-taking
• “Being able to show and employ
one’s self without fear...
Inclusive
Decisionmaking
• Make better business decisions 87% of
the time
• Make decisions 2x faster with 1/2 the
meetings...
None of us is as smart as all of
us.
-- Japanese proverb,
as quoted by Bob Taylor
@randyshoup
Engineering the
Organization
•Services
•Platforms
•Communities
•Leadership
“If you can’t
change your organization,
change your organization.”
-- Martin Fowler
@randyshoup
Thank you!
@randyshoup
linkedin.com/in/randyshoup
medium.com/@randyshoup
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All organizations are wrong, but some are useful. This session discusses the different ways high-performing engineering organizations gain leverage by specialization and sharing. Taking an engineering approach, we can factor out common capabilities into Services, Platforms, and Communities, with the goal of enabling other teams to sustainably deliver specialized value to customers and to the business.

With common Services, organizations effectively divide work and expertise by domain. We discuss full-stack teams, the healthy vendor-customer relationship between provider and consumer, and the need to allow customer teams to choose whether or not to use a service.

With a common Platform (or platforms), organizations share foundational capabilities and make it easier to build, deploy, and operate services and applications. We discuss the value of a Paved Road a la Netflix or Google, the fear of lock-in, and the need to charge customer teams for usage of the platform.

With common Communities of Practice, organizations share ideas, practices, and idioms outside the formal organizational structure. We also discuss the value of an internal open source model for developing and improving shared systems.

Lastly, we outline the critical characteristics of Leadership that make all of this possible, including technical competence of leaders, employee empowerment, psychological safety, and inclusive decision-making.

You will take away actionable insights you can apply in your own organization.

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Engineering Your Organization: Services, Platforms, and Communities

  1. 1. Engineering Your Organization: Services, Platforms, and Communities Randy Shoup @randyshoup linkedin.com/in/randyshoup
  2. 2. Background @randyshoup
  3. 3. All organizations are wrong, but some are useful. @randyshoup
  4. 4. Organizational Goals • Sustainably deliver value • Effectively leverage people, teams, and technology • Continuously improve and adapt @randyshoup
  5. 5. Specialization and Sharing @randyshoup
  6. 6. Specialization and Sharing @randyshoup
  7. 7. Engineering the Organization •Services •Platforms •Communities •Leadership
  8. 8. Engineering the Organization •Services •Platforms •Communities •Leadership
  9. 9. Business Alignment <Business Domain> • Aligned around a business problem • Clear goals and metrics … o … that matter to customers! @randyshoup
  10. 10. Full-Stack Teams Idea Development Quality Operations Idea Development Quality Operations Idea Development Quality Operations
  11. 11. Service Organization • One domain: One team: One / few service(s) o Organization  reflects  Architecture (“Conway’s Law”) • Team can independently design, develop, deploy, operate its service(s) • Team owns its service(s) end to end, cradle to grave @randyshoup
  12. 12. Service Provider • Meet the needs of the customers … o Functionality o Quality o Performance o Stability and Reliability o Constant improvement over time • … at minimum cost and effort o Leverage common tools and infrastructure o Leverage other services o Automate building, deploying, and operating the service o Optimize for efficient use of resources @randyshoup
  13. 13. Service Discipline • Vendor-Customer Relationship o Service provider team is a vendor; consumer teams are customers o Service is useful only to the extent that it provides value to customers • Choose to Use o Customer team can choose to use the service or not o Service must be *strictly better* than any alternatives of build, buy, borrow @randyshoup
  14. 14. Service Evolution • Variation and Natural Selection o Create / extract new services when needed to solve a problem o Services justify their continued existence through usage o Deprecate services when they are no longer used • Teams grow and divide over time o Teams and services split like “cellular mitosis” @randyshoup
  15. 15. “Every service at Google is either deprecated or not ready yet.” -- Google engineering proverb @randyshoup
  16. 16. Engineering the Organization •Services •Platforms •Communities •Leadership
  17. 17. Common Platform • Common Capabilities o Authentication o Secrets management o Observability o Alerting • Standard Frameworks o Service “chassis” o Communication protocols and data formats @randyshoup • Shared Infrastructure o Compute and storage o Databases o Event system • Developer Experience o Source control o Development and testing environments o Continuous Delivery pipelines
  18. 18. Platform Provider • Reduce cognitive load on customer teams • “Paved Road” o Consistent set of integrated capabilities that work together o Path of least resistance o E.g., Netflix, Google • Self-service o Automated provisioning o Integrated monitoring o Examples and documentation o Mocks @randyshoup
  19. 19. Platform Consumer • If you use it, embrace it o Abstracting it away leads to “least common denominator” capabilities o Replacing a platform is rare; don’t optimize for the edge case • “Lock-in” is another way of saying “value” @randyshoup
  20. 20. Usage Discipline • Charge to Use o Charge customers for *usage* of the service o Free usage gives no incentive to control usage or find more efficient alternatives o Motivates both provider and consumer to optimize • E.g., App Engine usage at Google o Charging particularly egregious internal customer led to 10x reduction in usage @randyshoup
  21. 21. Engineering the Organization •Services •Platforms •Communities •Leadership
  22. 22. Communities of Practice Collaborating via • Slack channels • Groups and maillists • Periodic meetings • Internal conferences @randyshoup Organized around • Language framework / ecosystem • Specialized roles • Service / platform consumers • Techniques and Practices
  23. 23. Internal Open Source • Accept contributions from outside the team o Contributor submits a Pull Request (with tests!) o Provider team reviews, iterates, merges • Best Practices o Document your processes o Learn to say no o Leverage the community o Embrace automation @randyshoup https://opensource.guide
  24. 24. “Pull Requests are accepted” @randyshoup
  25. 25. Engineering the Organization •Services •Platforms •Communities •Leadership
  26. 26. When you organize, think like an engineer. When you lead, think like a parent. @randyshoup
  27. 27. “Technological Maestro” • High energy • Asks the right questions • High standards • Good on the details @randyshoup
  28. 28. “If the man at the top is a dope or ignorant, everyone under him will soon be a dope or ignorant, because he sets the tone.” -- Rabinow’s 23rd Law of Leadership @randyshoup
  29. 29. A players hire (and retain) A players. B players hire (and retain) C players @randyshoup
  30. 30. Theory X vs. Theory Y • Dr. Douglas McGregor, 1960 • Leadership’s beliefs about what motivates employees @randyshoup
  31. 31. Theory X vs. Theory Y • Theory X: people are inherently lazy, avoid responsibility, require extrinsic motivation • Theory Y: people are intrinsically motivated, seek ownership, want to perform well @randyshoup
  32. 32. Never ascribe to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence. @randyshoup -- Hanlon’s Razor -- Shoup’s Corollary Never ascribe to incompetence what can adequately be explained by perverse incentives.
  33. 33. Psychological Safety • Team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking • “Being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences” • More important than any other factor in team success
  34. 34. Inclusive Decisionmaking • Make better business decisions 87% of the time • Make decisions 2x faster with 1/2 the meetings • Deliver 60% better business results Cloverpop Inclusive Decisionmaking study, 2016 As we improve diversity, decisionmaking improves @randyshoup
  35. 35. None of us is as smart as all of us. -- Japanese proverb, as quoted by Bob Taylor @randyshoup
  36. 36. Engineering the Organization •Services •Platforms •Communities •Leadership
  37. 37. “If you can’t change your organization, change your organization.” -- Martin Fowler @randyshoup
  38. 38. Thank you! @randyshoup linkedin.com/in/randyshoup medium.com/@randyshoup
  • matthewskelton

    May. 28, 2021

All organizations are wrong, but some are useful. This session discusses the different ways high-performing engineering organizations gain leverage by specialization and sharing. Taking an engineering approach, we can factor out common capabilities into Services, Platforms, and Communities, with the goal of enabling other teams to sustainably deliver specialized value to customers and to the business. With common Services, organizations effectively divide work and expertise by domain. We discuss full-stack teams, the healthy vendor-customer relationship between provider and consumer, and the need to allow customer teams to choose whether or not to use a service. With a common Platform (or platforms), organizations share foundational capabilities and make it easier to build, deploy, and operate services and applications. We discuss the value of a Paved Road a la Netflix or Google, the fear of lock-in, and the need to charge customer teams for usage of the platform. With common Communities of Practice, organizations share ideas, practices, and idioms outside the formal organizational structure. We also discuss the value of an internal open source model for developing and improving shared systems. Lastly, we outline the critical characteristics of Leadership that make all of this possible, including technical competence of leaders, employee empowerment, psychological safety, and inclusive decision-making. You will take away actionable insights you can apply in your own organization.

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