I was working with a client recently and one of the managers said they wanted to encourage innovation inside their organization. That sounded good, but as I thought about it, I wasn’t sure what this means, or if it’s really something that matters. Let’s take a few examples and think about this in a modern organization that builds and operates software.
If I am a developer, I get a series of requirements or tickets where I have to write code. Perhaps I need to take inputs from a user, query a database, and produce a result. I might write code in C# 7 instead of C#6. Maybe I’d use a lambda instead of creating a new function. Perhaps I decide to ensure I use the stored procedure type with named parameters rather than submitting SQL as a batch. Is that innovative? It might be a better way to write code and improve the quality (or security or maintainability) of the code, but is it innovation?
Another example. I’m a DBA and I need to run scripts against production. All the DBAs use SSMS, but I decide to change. I store the scripts in a folder and use Flyway to execute them against production with an automated system like Octopus Deploy, which manages the security. Is that innovative or just adopting a more DevOps-y practice?
Jason Fried says innovation is overrated, which I think is true. At least when that’s an aim or we expect to build something radically different. I know there are sometimes we might come up with something new that our organization hasn’t done, but most of the time work is work. It’s tedious mundane, and it can be very repetitive. That’s why the urge to do and try something new pervades most development organizations.
I do think that you can regularly innovate in your workplace. You might not create something that’s never been done anywhere in the world, but you might get people in your org to try something new. To adopt a new technique or habit, to create higher quality code with a small change. That’s the type of innovation that I like to see and foster. That’s what DevOps encourages, experimentation and learning. It’s also what I think my examples above show. It’s innovation in this particular space, which hopefully makes work more interesting and enjoyable.
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