Interview with Wesley Coelho on Challenges in DevOps

| Posted by Shane Hastie on Jan 04, 2017. Estimated reading time: 9 minutes |

Key takeaways

  • Agile & DevOps has made deployment very efficient for small co-located teams
  • Once organizations start to scale beyond small teams, then waterfall style communication between organization groups is often a blocker
  • You need to be able to link Agile/DevOps to the organization’s governance processes
  • There is value in communicating with different groups in their own language
  • Automating communication flows can be as important as automating deployment practices


At the Agile 2016 Conference InfoQ spoke to Wesley Coelho, Senior Director of Business Development for Tasktop, about the challenges inherent in DevOps and how to overcome them.

InfoQ: Please tell us briefly a little bit about Tasktop. Who are they and what do they do?

Wesley Coelho: Sure. Tasktop is an ALM and DevOps integration provider. We allow organizations to create a unified software development and delivery tool stack based on best-of-breed tools that they selected from multiple vendors.

InfoQ:  So it’s across the top and it doesn’t matter what they’re running.

Wesley Coelho: Yes. So there’s quite a range of options. We have up to 40 different software products that are supported in an integration network. So you can take any combination of those and string them together into an end-to-end solution that’s best-of-breed, allowing your practitioners to choose the technologies that work best for them.

InfoQ: Given that you are very active in that DevOps space, what are the challenges that you see in practice? What are some of the things that are working and not working?

Wesley Coelho: I think one of the things that is really interesting about where we’re at as an industry is I think we’ve been very successful in the core of the DevOps space. So organizations who are doing continuous integration, continuous delivery, they’re able to adopt those technologies and implement them and you hear many customers or companies bragging about their ability to release into production five times a minute, or maybe multiple times for a second, they’re releasing into production. And we’ve done a pretty good job as an industry of making that work.

Where some of the challenges are is in the intersection of that and Agile, and more specifically, the governance of Agile. So when you’re scaling Agile, one of the challenges is you’ve got to connect that DevOps activity to the governance. When I say governance, I mean  your Agile planning or your test management or  your formal requirements management. All those components are going to be there when you scale up from Agile. The flow of information between those areas is where things are breaking down for organizations. So you’re still seeing a series of waterfall communications between, for example, requirements and tests, and between requirements and development.

InfoQ:  But Agile is all about merging all of that together. So what’s going on?

Wesley Coelho: Correct. In a seven-person team with cards on the wall, you can do a pretty good job of that. When you’ve got a thousand people distributed around the world with specialized tools and skills, they have specialized tools, and then Agile doesn’t solve it all the way. You’re going to need to introduce some tools to get there. And people have done that. You can go and bring in the tools that you need. But what’s missing is the connection, the glue between those tools. And that is causing, in a lot of cases, Agile transformations to fail or for people to realize that the velocity, their development velocity is actually going down as a result of introducing their Agile transformation.

So I can tell you a bit about an example of a large bank. This large bank had invested heavily in their Agile transformation, and they went out and they spent a couple of million dollars training a thousand developers and they implemented their Agile transformation, and they wanted to deliver value more quickly. So they took a nine-month development cycle and they crunched that down into four weeks. And then they were shocked to learn that their velocity had gone down.

And when they looked into it, they found that, okay, well, the planning across these disciplines, previously siloed disciplines that was happening on a nine-month schedule, we’re now doing that every month. For each month, a quarter of the time was being spent just on planning and coordination across those different disciplines. So they realized that it was the automation that was lacking in between the requirements and the development and the other disciplines that was cutting them to slow down in manual processes. So they wanted to eliminate those to actually be able to achieve the ROI and the essential purpose of going Agile.

InfoQ:  That’s really interesting because at the team level Agile, it’s about the people.

Wesley Coelho: Correct. I think that’s important as well. People are essential to the process, and I think if you go out and you work with an Agile consultant, that’s where they’re going to start. They’re going to start with the people problems, they’re going to start with the process problems, and that’s very important. But then when the rubber meets the road, you need to introduce tooling at scale because those cards aren’t going to float across continents very well. So the next phase, once you’ve organized the people in the processes, you need to bring in those tools. You need to give people flexibility to choose the tools that work best for that particular type of practitioner.

So we’re getting there. And then as an industry, what we’re realizing is that at that point, we’re still not done. To get the productivity of Agile, you need to then go and glue those tools together so that the information flows in an automated way between them, so that now at scale, you’ve got everything working together on rapid development cycles without inefficient manual processes.

InfoQ: So what happens when you start to cut across outside of the delivery teams, or your IT group is now nicely Agile and that’s running smoothly, but now we want to start really getting the business needs fit in properly and the marketing teams aligned and so forth? What do we do then?

Wesley Coelho: Right. So then you want to take this Agile concept and go even beyond the original mission of DevOps. So you want to introduce business DevOps where now you’ve got resource planning and portfolio on project management systems that are now feeding requirements into specialized development requirements tools on one end. On the other side, you want to start bringing in your ITSM. So these are your Service Desk type tools, which also need to connect in to have a complete cycle and have automated flow between those. We see that as the next phase or evolution of where we’re going, taking this further across the organization.

Once you get there, or not necessarily in sequence, the other interesting thing that people are doing with Agile is you don’t want it just within your organization. You want it across organizations. So if you’re implementing Agile but you are outsourcing a component of your software, for example, to a different organization, you want to eliminate the waterfall communication that’s happening across those organizations. Example of what we’re seeing is a luxury auto manufacturer, who’s developing cars that they sell that run 100 million lines of code.

They don’t write any of that code internally. It’s all outsourced to dozens of suppliers. So when they take that car out on the track and they find a defect in the car, they file that defect in their own central repository and they take a technology, an automation technology such as Tasktop, and that gets transformed and automatically transmitted to the right supplier who produced the component where the defect was. Now, that supplier gets it in their language with the tools that they use. They can correct it and make updates to it. Those updates flow back to the auto manufacturer who sees that the defect has been corrected and they can take the car back out on the truck and test if everything is performing accordingly.

So those are the interesting trends that we’re seeing is it’s not just scaling Agile within teams, its scaling Agile across organizations. And that’s where there’s still a tremendous amount of waterfall communication that’s going on that needs to be automated so that everyone can shrink their development cycles down without incurring this massive overhead of all of the planning across the different tools, the different siloes.

InfoQ:  Shrink the feedback loop by leveraging the technologies with the people, especially across organizations. Are we just sending a ticket and saying, “Fix this” or what’s happening?

Wesley Coelho:  The people work on their specialized currency of communication. So depending on the type of practitioner that you are, once you’re at scale and you’re specialized, you have a currency of communication. If you’re a tester, that might be a defect report. If you’re a business analyst, that currency of communication might be a requirement. For a developer it is going to be stories and defects. So those currencies of communication, those are the things that those practitioners communicate with. So the people communication happens now in automated fashion via the tools. And by interacting with your currency of communication in your language, you’re now interacting with the adjacent disciplines in a language that you understand, in a way that you can report, in a way that you can get traceability across.

InfoQ:  And Tasktop, so it’s across the top and makes that communication visible and traceable?

Wesley Coelho: So the interesting thing is it doesn’t quite sit across the top. We’re not introducing a new layer on top. It’s more about providing the network infrastructure that these things run on. There isn’t a need to introduce a new system of record. You have tools in place that do what these companies need but they don’t have access to all of the information they need because those are on adjacent tools and they don’t have traceability to that. So a Tasktop technology sits there and connects those tools amongst each other while letting them remain as the system of record and the place where you go for unified reporting.

InfoQ: Wesley, thank you very much.

About the Interviewee

Wesley Coelho is the Senior Director of Business Development at Tasktop Technologies. At Tasktop, Wesley led the creation of the Tasktop Integration Network of more than 20 organizations who achieve interoperability via Tasktop’s integration technology. In this role, Wesley and the Tasktop team also established 10 OEM distribution partnerships with companies such as IBM, HP, and CA Technologies. Wesley is a member of the steering committee for the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) initiative that works to standardize the way software lifecycle tools share data with one another.

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