DevOps Conflict - Do You Feel It?

Applications development people can't stand the Luddites in the operations group, and ops people hate those prima donas in apps dev - at least that's what we are led to believe. To explore the issue, two of my colleagues who write to the infrastructure and operations (I&O) role - Glenn O'Donnell and Evelyn (Hubbert) Oehrlich - invited me to participate in an experiment of sorts. They arranged a joint session for the I&O Forrester Leadership Board (FLB) meeting, and I was the sole applications guy in the room - a conduit for I&O FLB members to vent their frustration at their apps dev peers. For those who aren't aware, FLBs are communities of like-minded folks in the same role who meet several times a year to network, share their experiences, guide research, and address the issues that affect their role.

We infused the session with equal parts education, calls for joint strategic planning across all IT work, and a bit of stand-up comedy - Glenn noted that as representatives of our respective roles, he and I were actually twin sons of different mothers. I noted that in that context that our parents must have been really ugly. Once we opened the session for discussion, the good folks in the room wasted no time in launching verbal stones my way. Now, I'm no IT neophyte: I've been in the industry since 1982, and I'm no stranger to conflict - I grew up with 3 older brothers, and we all exchanged our fair share of abuse as siblings will. Still, I wasn't quite prepared for the venting that followed. To summarize a few of the main points, I&O sees apps folks as:

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Architectural Agency

Recently one my clients, Mike Rehorst with Northwestern Mutual, sent me this link to a TED presentation by well-known architect (in the building sense) Joshua Prince-Ramus:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/joshua_prince_ramus_building_a_theater_that_remakes_itself.html

During the first 8 minutes or so, the presenter makes a number of excellent points about how architects have abdicated their power to act. (He actually calls us cowards.) The rest of the presentation is an amazing example of what happens when architects take the responsibility to make their creations come to life. As with most TED videos, it is well worth the 18 minutes it takes to watch it.

Mike and I had been talking about the role of architecture and how architects respond to their organizational context. For many architects there is a big divide between representation and what Prince-Ramus calls agency – taking action. Too often we create “genius sketches” but accept little accountability for making them real. We expect the organization to embrace them and do the “easy” work of implementation. I’ve got news for you. Creating the architecture – those genius sketches – is the easy part. Getting the organization to embrace them and make them its own is the hard part. Of course we know that; we just don’t act on the knowledge.

By way of example: I occasionally recommend to architects that they need a small team of developers to implement some parts of architecture like an ESB or SOA components. I get the “we’re architects man, we don’t do that” response. Well ... maybe we should. Maybe we should “own the problem” instead of pointing our finger at others

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