ManagementSpeak: It’s all about process.

Translation: It’s all about checking the boxes, and not at all about getting actual results.

Long-time subscriber Peter Bushman followed the process — he emailed this fine example of what managers say and what it so often means.

I’m writing this the day after Thanksgiving. Yesterday, I was thankful when Da Bears implausibly beat the Packers. This led to a spiritual reflection on the limitations of the so-called golden rule, namely, that it only applies to like-minded individuals.

I reached this conclusion because of my wife’s family, which hails from within hailing distance of Lambeau Field and didn’t appreciate my enthusiastic response to the game’s outcome. Nor, to be fair, have I always appreciated theirs when faced with the more common result of Bear/Packer encounters.

What’s this have to do with DevOps, the subject we’ve been exploring in this space the last couple of weeks?

Not much. Except that applying DevOps to internal IT has golden-rule-like flaws (okay, it’s a stretch): As has been mentioned in this space from time to time, the similarities between developing commercial software or customer-facing websites and what IT needs to do are quite limited.

The big difference, as if you don’t already know what’s coming: Both waterfall and any of the popular Agile variants — Kanban, Scrum, xTreme, Test-Driven Development, and the strangely acronymed Lean Software Development — are designed to develop software.

And DevOps, in case you aren’t already aware of this, is built on top of one of these Agile variants, most often Scrum.

DevOps is a fine way to create software products, as Microsoft reportedly does. For that matter it’s a fine way for advanced retailers to constantly test new selling approaches on their websites. But … while the number of deploys per day is a frequently touted benefit in articles extolling the virtues of DevOps in retail, what these deploys are for is usually left to the imagination.

Which gets us to the questions raised last week about DevOps inside the enterprise, and an Agile methodology mentioned in this space several times but … and I apologize for this … never fully explained: Conference Room Pilot (CRP).

The question: Can DevOps be based on CRP instead of Scrum, and if so what would the result look like.

But first: What is CRP and why does it matter?

Answer: CRP is the only Agile variant designed from the ground up to implement commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS) and, by extension, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions as well.

Here’s how it works.

First, IT installs the new COTS package to create the development environment. If the COTS system is supposed to replace one or more existing legacy systems, as is often the case, IT also converts the legacy data — a logically waterfall effort that shouldn’t be made Agile because what would be the point?

Next, whoever is in the best position to do so collects a few hundred or thousand test transactions, in the form of actual business conducted using the legacy systems over the past few weeks or months. These are staged as paper or electronic forms, whichever makes the most sense for use in exercising the new system.

One more preparatory step: IT trains a few developers in the new application — the ones it plans to turn into its gurus, because IT shouldn’t ever implement any COTS package without developing gurus for it — along with a training professional.

Now it’s time to lock the team, composed of business managers and users plus the newly anointed COTS gurus, in a conference room, to pilot the new system (hence the name).

Locked? Metaphorically — bathroom breaks are allowed, and pizza and beverages (caffeinated) are provided on demand.

The business users enter randomly chosen transactions into the new system. They’ll experience one of two outcomes: The new system will either:

  • Handle the transaction cleanly. Result — add it to the system’s automated test suite, for use later on to make sure changes don’t break what’s fixed.
  • Handle the transaction clumsily or not at all. Result — discuss it with one of the gurus, designing enhancements that don’t violate the integrity of the COTS system and do handle the transaction smoothly and efficiently. When the enhancements are finished and satisfactory, the transaction is added to the automated test suite.

Note that neither of the outcomes is “handles the transaction the way it’s currently handled.” There’s no intrinsic value to that, and that this is the case is a critical point, with which all team members are familiarized before being locked in the conference room.

By the time the team has plowed through the complete stack of prepared transaction and the resulting system passes the accumulated automated test suite, it’s ready for deployment.

Now it’s time for the magic question: What would the marriage of CRP and DevOps look like?

* * *

Sadly, we’re out of space, which means you’ll have to wait until next week for the magic answer.