Shinichi Urano's personal blog

Mostly thoughts around Software Development and Entrepreneurship

DevOps - It's solving the right problem

Posted at — Jun 11, 2014

When thinking about building an IT solution (or a business for that matter!) I’m often reminded of this delightful article by Aza Raskin: You Are Solving The Wrong Problem.

It describes the insight that helped the late Paul MacCready solve the problem of human-powered flight and win the Kremer Prize. The winning aircraft, Gossamer Condor, can now be found at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and is pictured here.

More fundamentally, he had to figure out how to do something that had never been done before. So the problem he recognized he had to solve was not to build the human-powered aircraft, but to how to learn to build the aircraft, and to do it quickly.

In other words, he wanted to rapidly iterate this cycle: try, fail, learn, try again.

His solution was to focus on reducing the cost of trying and failing, by designing an aircraft that can be rebuilt quickly. And the end result is, well, history. After mere six months, and astonishing 222 failed attempts, the Gossamer Condor took flight and won the Kremer Prize on August 23rd, 1977.

Now I’m sure Agile aficionados will quickly see the connection here to the Agile principle. And I think the story should resonate well with those that practice Continuous Integration and Deployment. It’s a great allegory for DevOps, where the focus is similarly on making the changes more frequent and smaller in scope.

One concept that this story highlights is the notion of accepting, or even encouraging, failures. Make the cost of failures smaller and let the entire organization know and understand that failures are simply part of the process. You can then actually increase your chance of success and deliver faster.

As IT people, we like to focus and tackle technical challenges, and are sometimes blind to the challenges that are more people and process oriented. DevOps (Continuous Integration and Deployment) addresses the “right problem,” and provides the framework that allows our IT organizations to truly take flight.