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InfoQ Homepage News A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: DevOps Dojo Stories from DOES London 2020

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: DevOps Dojo Stories from DOES London 2020

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The use of a training "dojo" was a popular topic at DevOps Enterprise Summit London 2020, appearing initially in Gene Kim's opening remarks on the first day of the three-day virtual conference. He referred to Target's dojo framework, as shared in the IT Revolution Forum ebook, which, like the conference, went virtual this year. The topic of dojos -- a place where DevOps team members go for hands-on training -- went on to feature in talks from adidas, Virgin Atlantic, Comcast, Sky, Verizon, US Bank and Walmart.

The first keynote, from adidas, 'DevOps Journey at adidas III: Exploring Data in the Cloud' delivered by Fernando Cornago, VP of platform engineering and Daniel Eichten, VP enterprise architecture, also referenced the dojo as a new interaction model for collaboration engagements that they used to replace their existing digital ecosystem and create a space dedicated to learning and experimentation.

Adidas had found some of their platform services teams struggling with collaboration, so the dojos brought two teams together to jointly agree on a problem statement, KPIs, and how they were going to help one another. Cornago described the dojo as a 'peer-game' where the platform team brings deep technical knowledge and the product team brings experience in the day-to-day running. Their dojos are time-bound and value-based. As a result of the dojo approach, they reported that they have decreased Mean Time to Restore (MTTR), Detect (MTTD), and the Mean Time Between Service Incidents (MTBSI).

Virgin Atlantic's Michelle Moss, senior project manager, and Nic Whittaker, head of platform engineering and DevOps, also described their dojos in their breakout talk on day one, 'A Trail of Breadcrumbs', where they reflected on the success their XLR8 dojo had contributed to, which they had designed to provide a platform to "optimise, collaborate and create opportunities for the best common outcome" for the participating teams from Crawley (UK) and Delhi (India).

Another breakout session on the first day, 'Connecting Comcast and Sky: Using the Dojo Format with International Teams' with Michael Winslow, Comcast's director of engineering, and Nisha Parkas, online compliance and brand protection manager at Sky, focused entirely on how a dojo enabled Comcast to get their open-source project, VinylDNS, working at Sky. Winslow described the importance of the platform for Comcast which has a large DNS footprint. It enforces standards for DNS entries, has fine-grained access control, and a robust API.

However, Sky in the UK wasn't able to connect with Comcast in Philadelphia through the communications channels, such as Slack, that were in place and so they were forced to find another way to share work. Sky also used Azure, which Comcast hadn't previously experienced, but was ready to accept the challenge of putting it on the new cloud platform. Comcast's definition of a dojo is:

An upskilling program that is designed to be an immersive learning experience where full-stack engineers come together to learn modern engineering, product and agile practices.

They collaborated on a working agreement which ensured that everyone was learning something during the dojo engagement. Together they created goals with measures and ground rules for the dojo sprints. They used remote collaborative technologies such as Mural, which provided a virtual white board/Scrum/Kanban board.

They described how an existing change request process required three levels of approvals to create a new DNS record. With a mixture of non-technical and technical people in the virtual room, they learned from each other. Parkas said, "They (the technical team) didn't make us feel like we were working with aliens!" VinylDNS eliminated the onerous approval process that was becoming cumbersome as DNS zone creations increased. Winslow stated that he saw the only way to scale this process was to automate it. They also referenced IT Revolution's 'Getting Started with Dojos' book as a key resource that helped them model their own dojo.

On the second day of the conference, Olivier Jacques, DevOps principal, and Chris Swan, VP and CTO global delivery of DXC Technology, introduced the audience to their open-source online DevOps dojo as a place where people can learn and practice DevOps patterns, as made popular by the 'Accelerate' book and research by Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim.

They conducted a walkthrough of one of the training modules of the online DevOps dojo: "shifting security left". They explained that developers receive directly reusable content and that leaders achieve understanding of the concepts, see them implemented and access resources to create similar programs for teams. The learning modules are open-source and the DevOps community is invited to not only use, but also contribute, to enhancements and new modules.

Also on the second day, a talk entitled 'Enterprise Transformation Through Scenius' was given by Dojo Consortium founding members Roger Servey, senior manager of systems engineering at Verizon, Stacie Petersen, agile product engineering DevOps Change leader at US Bank, and Bryan Finster, value stream architect at Walmart.

Servey described how the consortium's purpose is to drive a collective sense of intelligence and a crowdsourcing effort to create a Scenius. Like Kim, they attributed the origin of the concept of the dojo to Target, in particular Ross Clanton and his team, outlining how an immersive learning environment pilot became three large dedicated spaces, where work was deployed in seconds instead of months. Dojos sprang up at Target all around the world, which then defined a mission to share and give back to the community. Other members of the community then hosted other companies, and each learned and hosted more organisations, creating the cyclical beginnings of a scenius community that also included CapitalOne and Nordstrom as early participants.

The Dojo Consortium is a community of currently more than one hundred practitioners across forty companies, continuously working, sharing and learning from each other. Finster said:

We act as Scenius as a Service. We answer questions like, "How do we start, measure success, scale? Learning transcends competitive relationships. Who better to learn with than the people who share the same challenges as you? A rising tide lifts all boats! We have the same cultures as DevOps in general; everyone is sharing as much as they can. Everybody is ahead or behind at something. We are all sharing our strengths and getting our weaknesses addressed by those who are stronger. We are all mentors and mentees to each other.

He also described how they measure success and that it's common to see a rapid improvement in software delivery performance, for example, a 50% improvement in change failure rate has not been uncommon.

In less than two months, a team at Verizon reported that they delivered a multi-million dollar product enhancement that saved $2m per annum and they also delivered $280K per year in cost avoidance. They drove 150% improvement in team metrics and the number of defects was reduced from four hundred to one hundred and fifty, and deployment lead time dropped from nine days to two and a half days.

US Bank has invited customers into their dojos to get close to their experience and receive direct feedback; they called this "The Experience Studio". As a result, they developed a customer-focused mobile product in less than a month, which previously, they said, would have taken months just to build a project team. Petersen added that the build process was ten times faster when they used this approach. They also created a "Red Shoes Movement" where they bought red shoes for the leadership to remind them that change is happening, to be bold and not to keep doing things the same way; "Culture and trust can be impediments or accelerants."

At Walmart in 2017 defined a unified delivery platform, created a community of interest and started collecting metrics via Hygieia. They needed to horizontally scale experiments, and Finster said joining the consortium was key to meeting this need, allowing them to compare ideas and have conversations that avoided wasting investments by learning from others' experiences. He emphasised that context is key though - making considerations for cultural and regional differences for example. Survey said that:

That which is measured and reported, improves exponentially. Leaders need to share the teams' journey to avoid recidivism. There is strength in community.

Find the slides from speakers at DevOps Enterprise Summit 2020 Virtual on GitHub.

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