Recap, reflections, highlights, and photos from DOES Vegas 2023
I recently read Walter Issacson’s biography about Elon Musk and was surprised to discover how many similarities there are between Elon’s famous algorithm and the Lean/Agile/DevOps movements. There is one stark difference, however, and it’s quite significant: individual human suffering. (Note: Elon believes, as do I, he’s net-good for humanity.)
Attending my 4th DevOps Enterprise Summit last week reminded me that it was shared values that drew me to the community in the first place. The DOES community is made up of individuals from around the world who are interested in achieving high performance through the use of technology without human suffering. It’s not high performance at the cost of human suffering, it’s high performance AND happiness and joy. It’s why I became passionate about DevOps and it’s why I founded an entire company on this principle.
Being in Vegas last week I was reminded yet again that these are my people. It was great to spend a few days embedded in the scenius.
In this post is a recap of the conference, some session notes and other highlights.
- DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas 2023: “The conference for technology leaders of large, complex organizations.”
- The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas
- October 3–5, 2023
- Hosted by IT Revolution
What Happens After the Transformation — Amy Willard and Matt Ring talked about how they continued to evolve and sustain results after completing a 3 year agile and operating model transformation at John Deere. Evolved from emphasizing outputs to outcomes to impact.
From Months to Minutes - Modernizing Database Technology at JP Morgan Chase — Fascinating tale of scale and how the database team adopted modern cloud capabilities to provision databases much, much faster, and with much better results. Applications that migrated to modern cloud database were 82% less likely to have a database-related major incident. They adopted the language of the agile manifest to help their internal customers choose the best option. It was Open Source over commercial, Cloud portable over single cloud, Resilience built in over 3rd party add ons, Cloud and saas over self managed, and a small set of excellent products over a wide selection with less quality.
Northwestern Mutual SLDC Journey One Year Later — Engineering Shared Services (ESS) bridges the CTO (engineering) and CIO (infra, cyber, cloud ops) organizations. ESS started orginally as a testing center, but is now building golden paths to improve engineering. They are taking ambitious moon shots: new engineers deploy code on day 1, 100% automated guardrails all the way to production, and the golden path — an easy, streamlined, opinionated platform to deploy to production.
Scale your impact! — Incredible talk about leadership, learning and development, and culture by Admiral John Richardson, former Chief of the Navy, and Captain Emily Bassett, a Navy warship commander in the Navy. The talk begins with a retelling of a dramatic sea story, starting with me learning a thing or two about submarines: they can stay submerged for months and have machines that make oxygen and water and create a whole livable ecosystem. During a very critical mission, their evaporator breaks — which means they can no longer make fresh water. They had about 2.5 days to fix it or they’d have to abort and their mission would fail. They were in emergency mode trying to fix it. 150 people in a 40 foot tube with no showers (imagine the smell, he tells us). And then someone saved the day at the last minute. That story of miraculous achievement is what he wanted to scale when he took over the US Navy and built the Navy Leader Development Framework which was built on competence + character. He called it Version 1.0 which is a sneaky way of inviting other people to add to it, and that’s exactly what Captain Emily Bassett did when she added a third dimension: competence + character + connection.
From Technical Debt to Technical Capital —Denali Lumma uses finance terms and research on open source projects as a way to predict the future value of a code base. She makes the claim that cycle time is THE metric to understand technical debt, and cycle time variance as the metric to understand technical capital. Then she looks at data for several open source projects and compares interest (using search analytics to represent value) to cycle time variance and we see several examples where interest (aka value) is correlated with a decrease in cycle time variance. MySQL vs postgres, Firefox vs Chrome, React vs. Angular, emacs vs vscode vs vim.
Hands On Transformation Patterns for Modern Data Business Leaders — How the National Bank of Canada transitioned into modern data management practices by combining their top down (business) and bottoms up (tech driven) initiatives into one single backlog and began applying product management practices to data. Major things they did were to document prioritization criteria so they could make the best decision about what to work on based on risk and value, categorized all types of work (tech debt, biz value, platform, documentation, etc.) and then gave each bucket a budget to use (i.e. 20% of all work is tech debt), cultivated a mindset that merged technology and business, and measured what they wanted to improve.
Introducing Chaos Engineering to SAP DevOps — 77% of the worlds transaction revenue touches an SAP system. Chaos engineering is testing a distributed computing system to ensure it can withstand unexpected disruptions. The history of chaos engineering from Amazon GameDay (2003) to Google DiRT (2006) to Netflix — chaos monkey (2011) to SNCF — Days of chaos, Facebook storm, Gremlin (2017). In SAP, chaos engineering should test for Network reliability and security, Latency and Server resiliency.
Accounting vs Physics — Coordination Costs and How Organizations Win — Scott Prugh’s talk was one of my favorites of the entire conference, where he demonstrated using physics equations the actual cost and impact of dependencies. Fascinating talk for us math nerds who also happen to be into DevOps. The job of CTO as an equation is Architecture + Leadership = Focus, Flow and Joy. Common observed problems are capacity and estimation fail, no progress, escalation is the norm, people are waiting and frustrated, rework is often, customers are unhappy. To fix these issues, understand the physics at play which involve: wait time — the busier you are, the longer you wait, coordination risk — the more handoffs, the more likely you are late, knowledge left — loss of 50% with each handoff.
DevEx Essentials: Igniting Change Delivering Results — Nicole Forsgren, of DORA and the state of DevOps fame, gave a talk about her recent research into Developer Experience. There are 3 dimensions that impact developer experience: Flow State (msut have it), Feedback Loops (they should be short) and Cognitive Load (“the right amount” — should be low but a little friction helps people think things through. Or as my friend Andrew Davis likes to point out, when you walk on ice you fall).
Bringing GenAI from Promise to Reality: Navigating the Journey of Implementation — Patrick Debois, known as the godfather of DevOps (story goes he coined the term) gave a very fast paced talk about GenAI. I later had the chance to talk with him and he shared with me he’s never given the same talk twice, and he only gives talks about things he’s currently learning himself.
Wiring the Winning Organization: Creating Conditions for the Enterprise’s Distributed Intelligence to Achieve Unparalleled Results — We got to hear Gene Kim and Steven Spear talk about writing their upcoming book and give us a preview into the 3 mechanisms of wiring the winning organization — slowification, simplification, and amplification.
Happier Leaders: A How to Guide- Paul Gaffney and Courtney Kissler gave an excellent talk about the importance of becoming an effective leader. Fundamental shifts are required from power driven to collaboration, from using opinions to make decisions to using facts, from expecting courage to just happen to creating a sense of safety and modeling courage, and from being paranoid to confident.
I didn’t get a chance to see even half the talks I wanted to and I’m looking forward to getting into the IT Revolution video library and catching up.
Did you attend the conference? What were your favorite sessions and highlights?