DevOps and the Iteration Showcase

Look down. Look up again. You’re on the agile team your team could be like.

It’s the end of the iteration, and there’s a showcase this afternoon (sprint demo if you prefer) demonstrating all the new functionality the team has built in the last two weeks. In the room are members of the project team, the product owner, and various stakeholders and interested parties from the marketing and customer service teams who use the product every day. Everyone’s very excited about the new features, and provide some great feedback on the spot.

This sounds great! But something is missing. Where are the ‘ops’ features?

Very few agile projects I’ve been on will demonstrate the ‘cross-functional’* or ops features they’ve completed in the same showcase, but they SHOULD. Features like monitoring, failover testing, deployment automation, performance improvements – these are all very important to our business. If you’ve truly got a DevOps culture, then they should be showcased and celebrated alongside the new whizzy UI features.

How do we make these achievements relevant to a wider audience? Start by describing the work in a different way – talk about the work that’s being done in terms of its benefit to our business.

A technical story would look like:

Enable monitoring of JVM heap allocation.

To make it more understandable to the business, highlight the business benefit in this way:

In order to reduce the risk of an outage as site traffic grows
The operations team need to
Monitor the JVM heap memory allocation

By putting the business benefit up front (and always present) this should help make the story more interesting to showcase.

The regular showcase presentation is also an opportunity to report to the stakeholder group on the current state of the system in production. This can take the form of presenting some selected metrics plotted over time. For a website you might include metrics on site traffic, response times, performance and stability over time. The presentation should support the prioritisation of appropriate cross-functional work to improve those metrics over time.

Getting to the point where cross-functional work is celebrated by a wider stakeholder group requires some creativity and effort. When it works I’ve observed it makes the conversations around proper prioritisation and collaboration on DevOps work so much easier.

* I’ve taken to using the term ‘cross-functional requirements’ (thanks to Sarah) to describe requirements that are cross-cutting and not-directly-functional – for example performance, availablity, volume, maintainability. I think the term NFR has become a weasel-word, treated as ‘someone else’s problem’ rather than an important priority. It might just be a word game, but I think it’s useful.

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