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PuppetConf 2017 Day 2 keynotes: Thorsten Biel, Michael Lopp & Tricia Burke

Editor's note: Arik Hessendahl is a guest blogger covering PuppetConf.

Coming after a day which included the biggest batch of news announcements in Puppet’s corporate history, you might be forgiven for assuming that Day 2 of PuppetConf 2017 would open at something of a slower pace.

Then came Porsche.

In Thursday morning’s first keynote session Thorsten Biel, manager for cloud services at the Germany-based sport car manufacturer Porsche, explained how they have embraced automation and Puppet in particular in a shift to a more agile IT culture.

Biel explained how the Porsche Principle — which, put simply, is to get the most out of every resource you have available — is shifting away from being a pure-play auto manufacturer to one that provides digital services like Porsche Connect alongside its cars.

This includes a shift toward running its applications for numerous aspects of the business in the cloud, which in turn required lots of changes to infrastructure that are best managed with Puppet. After using the open source version for 10 years, Biel said Porsche recently switched to Puppet Enterprise.

But he also talked a lot about the cultural changes inherent to the shift to automation: “You cannot mandate DevOps. DevOps is a culture of trust, not a culture of fear,” he said. He’s built teams within Porsche whose role is to show other teams how their projects might be improved by using the DevOps approach. Hear him share the rest in the video of his keynote below.

All companies — even those that build fast cars — have slow-moving parts where people are resistant to change. One of those over the years has been corporate boards. Directors of large companies often have to slog through reading “board books,” thick confidential briefing documents that until recently have always been printed on paper, or perhaps worse — emailed around.

Did I say until recently? Diligent, a creator of software- and cloud-based tools for corporate board members to securely communicate and collaborate, has replaced those emails and board books, and either saved some trees or frustrated some hackers in the process.

In the morning’s second keynote, Tricia Burke, Diligent’s VP of production operations, explained how her team scaled out their success with automation by turning developers into partners and accelerating release cycles.

Burke said that ironically for a company that specializes in helping its customers communicate, internal communications among teams proved to be its biggest problem. “The main culprit was our old processes,” she said.

Teams scattered around the globe were pushing out no more than four monolithic releases per year. “They would create a build and then throw it over the wall to the operations team,” she said. “Does that sound familiar?”

Over time her team sold upper management on the idea of continuous software delivery. What sold them was a greenfield project using Puppet and the DevOps approach from beginning to end. “We started doing releases every two weeks, and people realized this is actually going to work.” Today Diligent is doing 50 releases a year across its product lines. There’s more detail in the video of her talk here.

If you had looked at the agenda and had hoped that Michael Lopp, VP of Engineering at Slack, would talk about, well, something related to engineering at Slack, you were probably disappointed. But you could not have been disappointed in the talk he did deliver: He shared some learnings about corporate culture — a subject he writes about often at his blog Rands In Repose and in a couple of books — taken from a career that started at Borland Software in the late 1980s, and has included stints at Netscape, Apple, Palantir and Pinterest. (There was also a stop at a startup he declined several times to name because “you’ve never heard of it.” Hint: You can find its name by exploring the links above.)

Nearly all those companies are “first act companies,” he said, meaning they all delivered one product they’re known for. “They’re successful. Delivering a product is really hard. Only one company out of 10 actually gets that far,” he said.

But what with the notable exception of Apple, none of those companies had a successful second act. He went on to explain exactly what that means, and more importantly why that happens. Along the way he weaved an interesting and entertaining argument involving, among other things, flying toasters, the poet Bill Hicks, and how he learned about kindness from the first-person shooter video game Destiny 2. If you missed it, it’s definitely worth your time, so really, just watch it.

Arik Hesseldahl is veteran technology journalist and independent analyst. He was a founding editor at Recode, has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Forbes, and has contributed to CNBC and NPR.