DevOps – Office Discouraged 2

devops[G u e s t   P o s t]  As discussed in my previous post, there are many issues that tag along with the concept of a traditional office space. However, the constant interruptions, distractions and whole slew of other obstacles that keep us from having a productive work day have finally met their match with the implementation of DevOps and remotely distributed ‘office’ cultures. With a few simple tools, your office can do a complete 180 in terms of its level of employee satisfaction and consequently, productivity.

One of the keys to success that I mentioned in my previous post was having the right people in a team, namely, individuals who are talented in a specific field and are motivated to do the work. This task may seem easier said than done if you are solely looking in the vicinity of your city or even country for such individuals. Therefore, broadening the search to a global level increases your chances of locating the right person for a specific position. They don’t have to be where you are…you have to be where they are. With the tools available today, and the fast, omnipresent internet, placing two people at adjacent computers seems a bit redundant. Voice calls, video calls, shared terminal sessions, and shared screens make ‘showing’ and ‘telling’ your problems across long distances a non-issue.
Once the appropriate individuals join the team, the united goals of productivity and results stand at the forefront of the company’s new, remotely distributed environment. This, along with the practice of ‘no managers’ that I touched on in the previous post, creates a shared feeling of responsibility amidst all employees. The restrictive top-down mentality to blame for the creation of destructive departmental silos no longer rears its ugly head; instead, one, single silo is formed by all of the employees and a solid premise for sharing information is firmly established.
While the free flow of communication may still seem questionable without a physical conference room, modern technology has enabled a vast amount of tools to overcome this issue. Perhaps the most well known tenets utilized by remote office environments are chat rooms and wikis. Asynchronous collaboration tools, like campfire and hipchat, enable colleagues to chat in real-time, or delay incoming messages in efforts to deter interruptions. Chat rooms provide transparency, giving others the opportunity to benefit from shared knowledge, as well. Additionally, wikis enable all included individuals with the ability to edit, correct, amend, document and search a given subject. These act as a knowledge exchange that technologically stores accessible and modifiable information. They are used for introductory and catch-up purposes, and are considered to be the recommended method of sharing within a company.
With these ground-breaking modes of communication, the downfalls of traditional office spaces and meetings come into view. As opposed to short term improvements derived from scribbles on a note pad, from an office meeting, that translate into a serious waste of time, searchable wikis and chat rooms allow all employees to share their opinions, generating an authentic will to make progress and changes, if need be. As a point of reference, a wiki or chat room can easily illustrate what was discussed at prior meetings, as well, making the recap a non-issue. The ease of communication between team members facilitates a strong platform for collaborations, greater innovation and quick problem solving.
Lesser known tools used to improve remote office communication include dashboards and forums, where similarly to the wikis and chat rooms, everyone involved is able to edit and add information accordingly. A dashboard can be utilized to collectively measure a product, service or the health of a business. That information can then be shared for documentation, analysis or reference purposes. Forums, on the other hand, can be utilized for version control pull requests, permitting asynchronous, documented peer reviews of product codes. All of the information is online, in a threaded forum, yielding easy searches, additions and changes.
Via collaboration, the automation of manual tasks can further increase the productivity within a company. Built-in chat room robots, like the hubot used at GitHub, are quickly becoming the preferred manner of performing simple tasks, from deploying software to sending documents. Now, rather than interrupting your own or someone else’s work flow, you can simply send a command and continue on being productive. It’s not just automation, it’s fun.
What is not so fun, however, is the possibility of things going wrong. Working remotely runs the risk of people procrastinating and losing touch with the actual business goals. Therefore, it is important to have the necessary ‘checks and balances’ in place, making sure everyone’s vested interests still lie in the success of the company. People who are hesitant or shy about sharing or receiving information at any given time via technological means will find themselves misunderstood or performing tasks incorrectly. Likewise, all team members need to be on the same page about how and why all of the tools are used. If one person becomes a bottleneck, there is a chance that no one will notice that everyone is having a single individual at the bottom do all of the manual work. That is why creating the right team is crucial for DevOps and remotely distributed cultures. In order to build this trust and understanding, it is highly recommended to have the team physically come together from time to time. We are human, after all, and nothing can replace the actual physical introduction of people with their peers.

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