Navigating the ITOps Autobahn and How Teams Can Avoid the Biggest Speed Bumps

Posted 6/5/2016 10:01:42 AM by TIM ARMANDPOUR, VP of Engineering at PagerDuty

Navigating the ITOps Autobahn and How Teams Can Avoid the Biggest Speed Bumps
What do the Autobahn, the world famous freeway network in Germany, and IT operations have in common? For one thing, the Autobahn is known for a lack of speed limits, allowing drivers to race toward their destinations at break-neck speed. Similarly, DevOps teams move fast and break things even faster, all in the name of bringing new services and features to market at high velocities. 

Technically, only certain portions of the Autobahn are speed-unrestricted sections, and even those sections have advisory speed limits. Likewise, some parts of the IT organization need to move super fast, while others need restrictions for safety and stability. Modern, efficient organizations are built to allow these two speeds in order to run at maximum capacity. But what happens if your Autobahn is littered with speed bumps? How can you begin to remove those speed bumps while maintaining safety and stability? 

Defining Maximum Capacity in IT Operations

Maximum capacity is a term synonymous with peak efficiency (we’re talking the Tesla of IT). In the era of digital and software-defined enterprises where customers demand 24/7 access to their applications, it’s more important than ever that companies have the ability to work continuously toward their goals at max efficiency without hitting speed bumps along the way. 

In the world of IT operations (ITOps), one way to measure efficiency is mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR), or the time a team spends fixing customer-facing problems like application outages. MTTR is a reflection of how easily teams are able to continuously work toward their goals and run a business at maximum capacity.

Most companies measure MTTR in days, but MTTR at maximum capacity is measured in minutes. In the quest to achieve peak efficiency, many organizations tend to create speed bumps that prevent their ITOps teams from moving quickly along the proverbial Autobahn. Luckily, leaders can invest in modern tooling, leverage best practices and make intelligent personnel decisions to keep their organizations running at maximum capacity. Here are three of the most common speed bumps along the road to efficient ITOps and how organizations can address them.

Speed Bump 1.Failure to Modernize and Mature 

This type of MTTR is the biggest kind of speed bump. A company not able to modernize and mature its operations runs the massive risk that a customer detects a problem first. The issue is then escalated to an engineer, who must scour log files and collect forensics to determine root cause. By this point, the issue has been unresolved for days, customers are yelling, and engineers are under the gun. Next thing you know, it’s been a week and the problem still isn’t resolved. 

This inefficient process typically results in the customer moving to a competitor and the engineers shouldering most of the blame. Failure to modernize processes, tools and people-management systems prevents engineers from getting their work done. They end up stuck fixing problems and answering to angry customers rather than focusing on running at max capacity.

Speed Bump 2. Underestimating Employees

Intelligent tools play a huge role in helping organizations modernize and build the ITOps Autobahn without speed bumps. Tools for efficient organizations must be automated; they must be built specifically to enable fast, continuous application development and delivery. Intelligent tools allow engineers to move from one portion of their projects to the next without slowing down, backing up or stopping altogether.

Even with the right tools, however, organizations fall below their efficiency goals when leaders underestimate the importance of people. We hear a lot about the importance of innovative processes and modern tools in implementing successful ITOps practices. But we don’t hear much about how good leaders address the human aspect of keeping companies running at maximum capacity. It’s the right combination of process, tools and people that make the difference in technology organizations. 

Once an organization adopts modern tools, it must empower its employees to buy into and adopt them. Everyone has unlimited possibilities for what part of the Autobahn they might build. But unlimited possibilities also mean lots of responsibility. As new tools create more opportunities for people to take on bigger roles and do more, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of accountability they have. 

Many organizations have a hard time modernizing their processes because their offices are full of employees fearful of making mistakes and relinquishing parts of their job function to new team members. A company with employees afraid to innovate or delegate duties is an Autobahn full of speed bumps.

To modernize and keep a company running at maximum capacity, leaders must help their employees let go of their initial responsibilities and take on others. Rather than chastise employees for the inevitable problems that occur during the modernization process, leaders must reward them for detecting and fixing problems quickly. In order to get the buy-in you need from your team to modernize and move faster, employees must understand that new processes and tools help them grow as people while also helping the business grow.

Speed Bump 3. Siloed Personnel 

Organizations with siloed, limited roles for ITOps responsibilities don’t have the visibility they need to iterate quickly and continuously. Too many companies make the mistake of assuming tools and processes are all they need and that one or two people can govern a mode of operation that requires buy-in from across the organization.

It is important not to allow development and operations teams to separate themselves into silos. Incorporating best development and IT operations (DevOps) practices and processes will create leverage within organizations that allows IT Ops and DevOps teams to operate quickly and continuously, but more importantly, collaboratively. 

Efficient organizations empower teams and make them more aware of work being done across each of the other teams. Then, the notion of “you build it, you own it” can become the expected mindset across the entire organization. When this much transparency exists, the development and operations engineers will have the ownership and accountability required to run at capacity and speed up MTTR.

The Right People, Processes and Tools Make for a Smooth Ride on the ITOps Autobahn

With modern tools and employee buy-in, the delayed issue-detection scenario described earlier plays out differently. Automated tools detect an issue and alert the appropriate engineers immediately. Instant detection allows ITOps and DevOps teams to fix those problems efficiently. Equipped with modern incident management platforms that connect with logging and monitoring tools, ITOps engineers and DevOps teams have all the data necessary to triage and efficiently resolve the issue, and can then redeploy applications in a matter of minutes, likely without the customer ever noticing. 

ITOps teams that work in this manner are embracing the transformation to digital and software-defined enterprises, and enabling rapid iteration and innovation to reduce costs and deliver immediate customer value. To realize the promise of maximum capacity and create speed-bump free operations, organizations must adopt modern tools, but also invest in employee buy-in and communication. Organizations without these key systems in place will find their engineers toiling slowly and constantly addressing speed bumps, rather than moving swiftly along the ITOps Autobahn to fulfill customer demands.

Modern IT tools and processes combined with employee alignment enable organizations to operate at maximum capacity, which preempts customer-facing problems and minimizes business risk. This combination can truly make all the difference in technology organizations. 

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About the author: TIM ARMANDPOUR, VP of Engineering at PagerDuty

Tim Armandpour, vice president of engineering at PagerDuty. With the mantra “get things done,” Tim Armandpour specializes in just that with skilled people management, software development, web and server architectures and developing anything mobile. He has broad experience in all aspects of product development and software engineering. Before joining PagerDuty, Tim served as Senior Vice President of Engineering and Product at YapStone, following several years at PayPal in senior director positions for the Mobile Engineering and Consumer Engineering groups. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego.

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