published on 23 January 2015

Derek Austin is a technical project manager at Puppet Labs. In a prior life, Derek was involved with a big change initiative to bring about more continuous delivery practices, as well as a DevOps culture, to his organization. The company needed a more rapid and repeatable deployment process, and needed to reduce manual errors and friction between development and operations teams. Derek talks how migrating first to Open Source and then to Puppet Enterprise helped bring about these changes.

Derek provides a lot of insight into improving tooling, process and culture:

  • How embedding QA resources with development teams can help achieve truly production-ready code at the end of a development sprint cycle.
  • Some unintended consequences of tracking meaningless metrics that people can game to look better.
  • How a common toolset like Puppet can help break down silos between groups.
  • How cultural changes like sharing pain and celebrating success together can help build empathy, plus produce code that's less likely to require emergency fixes.
  • How configuration management, together with automated testing, fits into a continuous integration pipeline.

Derek makes the point that change isn't always easy, and that sometimes a change agent has to have thick skin to be able to deal with the emotional blowback. He gives cautions about providing specific reassurances, because change is unpredictable, and you're likely to make changes repeatedly. Instead, Derek suggests providing regular feedback through retrospectives at the end of each sprint cycle, and to avoid taking a too-opinionated stance so you don't provoke conflict.

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