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InfoQ Homepage News Q&A with Gene Kim on the DevOps Enterprise conference

Q&A with Gene Kim on the DevOps Enterprise conference

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DevOps Enterprise, a conference focused on DevOps as it applies to the enterprise, will be held in San Francisco, between October 19-21. This 3-day conference is unusual in the DevOps community as most of the speakers have senior positions on very large enterprises such as Bank Of America, ING, Target or GM. DevOps Enterprise is a long way from the devopsdays conferences, with their grassroots character.

InfoQ interviewed Gene Kim, one of the DevOps Enterprise conference founders, to learn more about this year’s edition.

InfoQ: What is the DevOps Enterprise Summit conference about?

Gene Kim: The purpose of the DevOps Enterprise Summit is to create a community of practice and to create a place where practitioners can share what they have learned. Over the course of the three-day conference, there will be 14 keynote sessions and about 36 other sessions in concurrent tracks.


I have never learned as much as I did in any three days than at DevOps Enterprise Summit 2014. They were some of the most courageous and exciting transformation stories I had ever seen, and this year’s conference is going to be even better.


DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015 builds on the most important questions that emerged from the 2014 conference. It will bring back more of attendees’ favorite presenters, tell new chapters in stories of transformation and acceleration, and introduce an exciting new set of top experts, case studies, and practitioner-led research.

InfoQ: What were the main lessons attendees got from last year's edition?

Gene Kim: At last year’s event, we established that many large organizations were already on the path to adopting DevOps practices.


After the event, we wanted to know what the biggest roadblocks were to those efforts. Our speakers had shared their struggles from the stage. In the post-conference survey, attendees told us their biggest challenge as they returned back to their companies.


These important questions came up again and again:


  1. How do we adopt DevOps practices in legacy environments?

  2. How do we successfully lead large transformations in technology organizations?

  3. What are the best approaches for organizational design, roles and responsibilities?

  4. How do we integrate security and compliance into our DevOps efforts?

  5. What metrics work best for improving performance in DevOps initiatives?


The programming committee, made up of Adrian Cockcroft (Battery Ventures), Dominica DeGrandis (LeanKit), Cornelia Davis (Pivotal), Damon Edwards (DTO Solutions), Anders Wallgren (Electric Cloud), John Willis (Docker), and advising member Jez Humble, have used these five questions to guide all of our programming decisions.

InfoQ: Why should someone who attended last year's DevOps Enterprise come back this year?

Gene Kim: To help the DevOps Enterprise community overcome these obstacles, this year we have gathered the top experts, case studies, and practitioner-led research to answer these five important questions, because we believe the answers to these questions will accelerate the adoption and success of DevOps initiatives in enterprise organizations around the world.


For the tough challenge of legacy environments, we have  experience reports from century-old companies Sherwin-Williams and Western Union on how they have accelerated their DevOps practice and IBM’s Rosalind Radcliffe will talk about how to create test automation in mainframe applications.


For leading large scale transformations, MIT’s Dr. Steven Spear will discuss the cultures and management methods in high-velocity organizations such as Toyota, Alcoa, and the U.S. Naval Reactor program, and Paula Thrasher will talk her work mobilizing IT transformations in the face of extreme bureaucracies in more than 16 different federal government agencies.


For enabling organizational design, Ralph Loura, CIO for HP’s Enterprise Group, will talk about nurturing DevOps capabilities and spreading those practices through a mammoth technology organization, and Jason Cox, Director of Systems Engineering for The Walt Disney Company, will share how he organizes, staffs and funds embedded Operations engineers across the Disney enterprise.


For security and compliance best practices, Both Ed Bellis, former CISO of Orbitz, and Bill Shinn, principal solutions architect at Amazon Web Services, will talk about how to overcome security and compliance objections, and integrate those practices into both publicly traded companies and some of the most regulated and security-stringent organizations around.


For using better metrics, Julia Wester of LeanKit and Troy Magennis of Focused Objectives will talk about the theory and practice of making team data visible in ways that lead to improvement action and how to avoid the pitfalls and traps of managing by numbers.


We are also bringing back several speakers from last year to hear the next step in their DevOps journeys—Target’s Heather Mickman and Ross Clanton on how APIs enable their developer productivity and how to spread DevOps practice into the whole organization. Nordstrom’s Courtney Kissler will talk about their company wide goal of reducing lead time by 20%.

InfoQ: Most of the speakers are very senior people, with lots of C-level executives and Directors. Is the conference also targeted to less senior people? What will they get from the conference?

Gene Kim: One of the things we discovered this year’s State of DevOps research that we did with Puppet Labs for the third year was that high performance required not only grassroots support but also executive support. This didn’t make it into the report, but I thought this was absolutely fascinating.


Of course, in hindsight, this makes total sense. We know that DevOps requires three things: certainly the technical practices that include things like Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery, automated deployment, proactive production monitoring, and so forth; but it also requires high-trust cultural norms, and, ideally, an architecture that lends itself to testability and deployability.


Changing the last two items, culture and architecture, requires support from the highest levels of leadership — by definition, these are things you can’t do in isolated pockets.


Ross Clanton, Senior Group Manager at Target, who is presenting again this year with Heather Mickman, Director at Target, said in a recent live chat, “Sharing within our community has been one of the pillars of the DevOps community from the beginning, but it was often for the technical community. What’s so great about the DevOps Enterprise Summit is that it’s a community for leaders, which was the first one that I learned about.”

InfoQ: You are a strong proponent of using DevOps as a driving force to transform the enterprise world. It's very common to see hot debates during this transition. We just have to look at the whole "Agile is dead" articles and talks. Is DevOps reaching such a stage?

Gene Kim: I love the Geoffrey Moore model of “Crossing the Chasm,” which is merely the Gaussian distribution of how organizations adopt new capabilities  I think the earliest category, the “innovators” are the Googles and Amazons of the world; I think the speakers from in the DevOps Enterprise Summit are the “early adopters,” who are showing the “early majority” that these principles and practices are safe and create value. We have yet to cross that chasm, where DevOps practices are becoming the norm.


So, my opinion is the exact opposite of “DevOps is dead.” Instead, we’re still at the beginning of the game, with the majority of economic value still to be created. DevOps is relevant to every industry vertical, and the majority of the technical workforce is still working in the bad old ways, far from achieving the potential we know is possible.

If you are planning to attend the conference, you can get a 10% discount with the GENEKIM10 code.

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