Working in IT means that we see the pressures of delivering against units of time. It is how contracts are drawn up and it is how people are measured. My observation is that the DevOps world is challenging this concept, and challenging it hard. In fact, I could go so far as to say it is the greatest cultural challenge our industry faces in these transformational times.
Delivering by DevOps no longer means meeting milestones or deadlines, it is about delivering “value.” Improvement in delivery is no longer measured by “time” on its own, it is measured by value streams. This means that we now must also consider “quality” and “cost” as measures. By themselves, this is not a great challenge for companies. We have long held the yardsticks of QA and Finance Management to keep these elements in check. What is different in this new era, is the way we view and measure these elements. That is, the way we measure “value.”
The first conceptual issue is that in the past, these three elements have always been measured in isolation. We have measured time on a project plan. We have measured costs against a balance sheet. We have measured quality against a test results report. Within each of these things we set arbitrary thresholds. We call them milestones, P&L or passed test cases percentage. Measurement in a value stream is a combination of these factors.
The second conceptual issue is the fact that these measures are arbitrary, set against numbers generated from an opinion of what means “good” in terms of cost, time and quality. These are thresholds to avoid failing. But with “value”, we measure an improvement against the current state as an achievement.
As an example, how many times have you heard a declaration that someone has worked 60 hours in a week, and declare it like a benchmark achieved? Or that the test team has discovered 150 bugs at the end of a test stage? Or that by reducing the scope of a piece of work has saved X amount of dollars? Value, as a measure, is to say that someone has achieved the delivery of a piece of code, that works to the user’s satisfaction, in the best time possible, while ensuring costs are managed.
When you bring these two concepts together, it means you go from attempting to pass three (or more) arbitrary numbers, to one achievable, goal-driven target. One that means something genuine to the end user. Take the opportunity to review how your project is measuring success and see if it determines the delivery of value. Try it and see what happens. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences as a result. You can reach me on LinkedIn.