Double Half and Quarter

I’ve worked in a a couple very high performing organizations that adapted to changing conditions and built software well. I’ve worked in more poorly performing organizations that struggled to release updates and patches, causing tremendous stress for the IT staff.  DevOps is designed to help improve our software delivery and quality, if you work on improvement in many areas.

I saw a post on LinkedIn, from the Chief Architect at HSBC bank. This was interesting to me because I see HSBC ads constantly when I travel to the UK. They’re the 7th largest bank in the world and was founded in 1865. If ever there was an organization with lots of legacy everything, this is it. They have every reason to do what they’ve been doing for years, since it’s worked out well.

The post notes that Jez Humble, well known DevOps author and co-founder of DORA, came to talk to them about software delivery and DevOps. For the author, the highlight of the day was the CIO giving this challenge: “… setting every team the goal to double, half and quarter every year: double the frequency of releases, half the number of low impact incidents, and quarter the number of high impact incidents.”

That’s an ambitious goal, and as the post notes, this results in exponential improvement year over year if the team can achieve this. I think there is likely some limit to this, based on team size and application complexity, but certainly when you’re going from a mid range performing software development group, this isn’t bad.

I like that this goal was set not just to increase deployments, but to also prevent incidents. I think too many managers look at speed as the goal, without requiring quality to improve. This goal doesn’t quite address this, unless the impact incidents include bugs and poor performing software. It can be easy to limit incidents to downtime from deployments, and not necessarily the use of software.

The hands off management of this approach is good as well. Not specifying how this gets done. Leave it to the technologists to get this done and hold each other accountable. With that kind of support from management, I’d hope most professionals would step up, improve process and quality, and take pride in their work. It seems to have worked as HSBC, as they’ve been written up a few times in their DevOps approach to IT. I think it can work anywhere with the right management approach.

Steve Jones

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