DevOps: How to Persuade Your Boss


So there you are, you and your ace tech team, all excited about DevOps. You know that DevOps is the methodology that will move you past “yak shaving” and into building an IT infrastructure that will streamline and move your company forward. But how do you sell this to your bosses, and especially your non-technical bosses? Victoria Blessing, Operations Engineer for the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University, described the basics in her LinuxCon North America 2016 presentation.

To start, Blessing explained the meaning of “yak shaving,” which was coined by Carlin Vieri at MIT. It refers to a series of tasks that must be completed in order for you to be able to do what you were trying to do in the first place. While it can really be applied to any aspect of life, it’s something that we, in IT, constantly fall victim to. Getting caught up in the little details it takes to get things done, and then we’re constantly fighting fires. It’s a part of the culture problem that we have.”

The speed of business is very fast these days, and keeps getting faster, and we can’t afford inefficiencies. But implementing DevOps usually means making a giant cultural shift in your company, and the price of change is often steep. Blessing said, “I’m not going to lie to you. There will be initial technical debt. That often ends up being a stumbling block or a barrier to entry for many organizations. “Oh, we don’t have the time to implement that, or the right tools.” But you have to be willing to take the leap in order to reap the rewards. Yes, there’s initial technical debt, but the rewards are exponential.”

You know the benefits of breaking down the traditional silos, the barriers between the different departments in your company where everyone is doing their own thing, and nobody knows what anyone else is doing, and somehow you’re all supposed to magically coordinate your efforts to develop and release products on time without anyone seeing the big picture. How do you talk to your boss about this? You know that if you start going on about tools like Chef and Puppet, Nagios and Zabbix, Git and Subversion, microservices, orchestration, and all of those good things you risk putting your boss to sleep.

Avoid this trap and follow Blessing’s advice: “The best way to sell something to someone is to show them why it matters to them. Interest is often directly proportional to personal investment. For management, decision drivers are often monetary ones. You’re going to have to show that the benefits outweigh the costs. Ask yourself, “In what ways does this save us money, and in what ways does this make us money?”…Listen to your audience and use their questions to help you adapt your content to make sure that you’re getting your point across.”

Watch Blessing’s presentation below to learn how to persuade your bosses and co-workers to buy in to your DevOps vision.


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