Front-End Ops and
the OODA Loop:
A decision cycle time strategy for
winning in a hostile internet environment
Erik Sowa, V...
ulive
Online video syndication
Front-End Ops
Observe, Orient, …
…, Decide, Act
OODA at Flowcon
Fundamental Secrets
of Modern
Management
Col. John Boyd
Winning in
Syndication
From monthly
cycles…
To hours and
minutes...
Enter Hostility
• Culture upgrade needed
Maneuver warfare
Einheit
Fingerspitzengefühl
Auftragstaktik
Schwerpunkt
Getting to seconds?
Thank You / Credits“Things went down we don’t understand, but I think in time we will… One way or another” –Robert Hunter
...
Front-End Ops and the OODA Loop: A decision cycle time strategy for winning in a hostile internet environment (DevOpsDays ...
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Front-End Ops and the OODA Loop: A decision cycle time strategy for winning in a hostile internet environment (DevOpsDays Ignite version)

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Many organizations are using John Boyd’s OODA loop to describe business strategies driven by continuous innovation cycles and the supporting technical practices. In a hostile environment, whether it is a aerial dogfight or an advertising-supported internet business, survival itself depends on going around the observe-orient-decide-act loop faster than the threat. At Scripps Networks Interactive, we are doing online video syndication and we surely have to contend with a hostile environment. In this talk, I will discuss how we moved our decision cycle time from weeks to hours by instrumenting our embedded video player and using our data operating system to understand what is happening in the field. The emerging mindset and set of practices called “front-end ops” — which brings front-end work into the culture and practices of devops and continuous delivery as a first-class citizen — can be used to shorten the cycle time through the OODA loop and increase the power of the actions we can take.

Video of the ignite talk from #‎DevOpsDays is online. I start 40 seconds in. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/49676397

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  • Hello! I’m here to talk about “Front-End Ops and the OODA Loop: A decision cycle time strategy for winning in a hostile internet environment.” My name is Erik Sowa and I take care of engineering and operations for ulive.
  • Ulive is the brand within Scripps Networks Interactive that is focused on online video syndication – moving the cable revenue stream online before the cable TV model gets eaten by the internet. Our video players are embedded in dozens of publishers’ websites, and the revenue comes from advertising.
  • The instrumented browser application is the heart of “front-end operations”. Our video players are constantly “phoning home”. We need that data to understand how our end users are engaging with the content, which helps us with everything from billing to errors in the field.

    Alex Sexton in Smashing Magazine: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/06/11/front-end-ops/
  • This presents a clear example of an OODA loop. Our player instrumentation is the observer, and we’ve built a data operating system based on our understanding of our ecosystem that listens to those observations and grinds on the data to orient us to what is happening in the field.
  • The insights from the data give us the opportunity to reason about what is happening – to hypothesize and to decide – which sometimes provokes new actions to test those hypotheses.
  • A business is more agile when it can execute the OODA loop more quickly. This doesn’t mean building product features faster; it means being quicker to recognize and respond when appropriate.

    Adrian Cockcroft argued this point at Flowcon last fall when talking about continuous innovation in the cloud – and he inspired me to revisit the work of Col. John Boyd.
  • I first learned about John Boyd, the OODA loop, and maneuver warfare concepts applied to business at the Lean Software and Systems Conference in 2011 in Long Beach, where Chet Richards gave a fascinating keynote talk on “Fundamental Secrets of the Universe”.
  • After Long Beach, I read Coram’s biography of Boyd and Chet’s book “Certain to Win – the strategy of John Boyd applied to business.” Of particular interest to me are the cultural and teamwork traits common to smaller, more mobile teams that defeat larger, more entrenched organizations by learning faster.
  • You can’t be certain to win unless you know what winning means. Since this is business, winning means that money coming in exceeds money going out. In syndication, we must serve ads to have money coming in, so it behooves us to pay timely attention to these matters.
  • Small, nimble teams like Forrest’s cavalry or Guderian’s panzers share several interesting culture and teamwork characteristics which we would like to apply in our hostile internet environment. The first is Einheit – team unity and cohesion. The real value of devs knowing how ops work and ops knowing how devs work is empathy for each others’ roles.
  • The second is Fingerspitzengefühl – an intuitive feel for the business at hand. This can come from rehearsal and repetition. Engaging the Simian army prepares you for the real army. Being able to look at a graph and tell in a glance whether the situation requires attention is invaluable.
  • The third is Auftragstaktik – mission orders. Convey intent and desired end state but leave “how” to the skills and motivation of the team. Please note that these officers are not hiding out in châteaus in the rear. They are out in the field with their troops observing directly.
  • Fourth, we have Schwerpunkt – focus and direction. There can be only one primary mission, and when everyone on the team understands that primary mission, they are empowered to put aside any secondary tasks to support the primary whenever the opportunity or need arises.
  • So what does this mean for my teams? To be honest, focus and direction is challenging to maintain in a hostile environment with many stakeholders. Recognizing that shorter decision cycle times are not the same as building features faster is key – as is evolving to fitness of purpose for operating the loop. We’re trying several experiments this summer to get a handle on traffic quality and bots attacking the revenue stream. Come see my talk at FlowCon in September to hear more about what we learned.
  • Thank you. That’s one step done and another begun.

    Photo credits
  • Front-End Ops and the OODA Loop: A decision cycle time strategy for winning in a hostile internet environment (DevOpsDays Ignite version)

    1. 1. Front-End Ops and the OODA Loop: A decision cycle time strategy for winning in a hostile internet environment Erik Sowa, VP Engineering, ulive @eriksowa esowa@ulive.com erik.sowa@gmail.com
    2. 2. ulive Online video syndication
    3. 3. Front-End Ops
    4. 4. Observe, Orient, …
    5. 5. …, Decide, Act
    6. 6. OODA at Flowcon
    7. 7. Fundamental Secrets of Modern Management
    8. 8. Col. John Boyd
    9. 9. Winning in Syndication
    10. 10. From monthly cycles…
    11. 11. To hours and minutes...
    12. 12. Enter Hostility • Culture upgrade needed
    13. 13. Maneuver warfare
    14. 14. Einheit
    15. 15. Fingerspitzengefühl
    16. 16. Auftragstaktik
    17. 17. Schwerpunkt
    18. 18. Getting to seconds?
    19. 19. Thank You / Credits“Things went down we don’t understand, but I think in time we will… One way or another” –Robert Hunter Learn more at FlowCon14 http://flowcon.org/flowcon-sanfran- 2014/speaker/Erik+Sowa $50 off with code SOWA50 ulive.com: http://www.ulive.com/ Phone Home: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/737491 Patrick De Jode OODA: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OODA.gif Flowcon tweet: https://twitter.com/eriksowa/status/396315927660097537 Chet Richards / Certain to Win: http://slightlyeastofnew.com/certain-to-win/ John Boyd bio: Robert Coram http://www.amazon.com/Boyd-The-Fighter-Pilot-Changed/dp/0316796883 Championship winning: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Championship_winning_09S.jpg Christopher Foster Monthly calendar: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar Vandalism clock: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vandalism_clock.jpg The Great Unwatched: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/04/business/the-great-unwatched.html Nathan Bedford Forrest: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NathanBedfordForrest.jpg Abel Streight: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Col._Abel_D._Streight,_51st_Ind._Inf._USA.jpg Panzer destruction:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-127-0369- 21,_Im_Westen,_zerst%C3%B6rter_franz%C3%B6sischer_Panzer_Char_B1.jpg Panzer bridge crossing: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1978-062-24,_Floing,_Pontonbr%C3%BCcke_%C3%BCber_die_Maas.jpg Guderian: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-769-0229-15A,_Frankreich,_General_Guderian_im_Panzerwagen.jpg Panzer officers: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1972-045-08,_Westfeldzug,_Rommel_bei_Besprechung_mit_Offizieren.jpg Rommel with maps: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1972-045- 02,_Frankreich,_Erwin_Rommel_und_Offiziere_mit_Karten.jpg Daisy focus: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daisies-Focus.jpg by Alexmenk

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