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Toltec wisdom for the modern age – Q&A with PagerDuty DevOps guru Matty Stratton

Telecom Times caught up with PagerDuty DevOps advocate Matty Stratton who recently toured the region, to promote a new incident response code of conduct and collaboration approach.

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Stratton’s presentation The Four Agreements of Incident Response highlights the teams behind incident response, focusing on the importance of collaboration and personal conduct. Drawing on ancient Toltec tenets, Stratton uses author Don Miguel Ruiz’s personal code of conduct to adapt its four key components* to devise a new guideline for incident response teams.

*Be Impeccable With Your Word – Don’t Take Anything Personally – Don’t Make Assumptions – Always Do Your Best

TELECOM TIMES: I note that in your blogpost you focus on some key human behaviours to improve a team’s response performance, notably around ownership and communication.

From your perspective in DevOps, how much emphasis should companies in a digital economy place on this staff training and collaboration between bierachic remits in addition to concentrating purely on software or technological advances?

STRATTON: I believe that social and business skills are often underrated and de-emphasised compared to the specifics of technology. Technology education and adoption are easy, people are tougher.

Whatever amount your organisation is devoting towards developing real, actionable (i.e., not in ‘name only’) collaboration practices and skills is not enough. Understanding how to model proper incentives towards the behaviours of collaboration will drive the adoption of these behaviours, which is what will influence your organisation’s culture.

TELECOM TIMES: In other words, do you think there’s a risk for some decision makers to regard such excellent guideline principles as outlined in your Four Agreements as a mere overlay to IT systems , software upgrades and tech innovation? Whereas it seems the right mix or balance of the two concepts could provide a real sweet spot for just about any company in any vertical.

STRATTON: I agree! The two ‘sides’ are quite complementary. And, to be frank, you can’t realise the full advantage of modern IT practices without changing your ways of working.

Simply adopting kubernetes, for example, is not going to magically make you ship software at a higher velocity with greater agility – it is necessary to evaluate the human factors in your process and teams.

TELECOM TIMES: Has this kind of policy, process based on your Four Agreements already been rolled out somewhere and if so, what did you take away from the initial results?

STRATTON: The Four Agreements are a summarisation of the Incident Response practices we have been using at PagerDuty for years. These practices are open-source and available at https://response.pagerduty.com.

They have been adopted by many other organisations in verticals other than ours, ranging from startups, SaaS organisations, as well as larger enterprises. They are based upon practices used by first responders and other disciplines outside of IT, so there is a high level of maturity in these practices.

TELECOM TIMES: Is the Pagerduty proposition suited to specific verticals more than others or would you suggest the company’s services and products could be moulded seamlessly to benefit any kind of industry?

STRATTON: You don’t have to “be DevOps” to leverage the value of PagerDuty. Whether you follow DevOps practices or more traditional ITSM approaches, PagerDuty can still be massively valuable to get the right information to the right folks when dealing with service interruption or other business challenges.

TELECOM TIMES: Is there any kind of business or industry Pagerduty as yet hasn’t engaged with and one you’re keen to get your DevOps teeth into?

STRATTON: Personally, I am intrigued to dig deeper into the area of Security Incident Response – which is something that PagerDuty already engages with – but for me, I’m fascinated to see how to understand the needs of security response and how our product and practices can help practitioners in that space.

TELECOM TIMES: Can you nominate some key trends yo see emerging within the Pagerduty DevOps space you feel one should look out for in the near term?

STRATTON: In the larger space, what I’m definitely seeing is a desire and impact for DevOps practices to have an impact in business areas outside of IT. I believe we will see even more adoption of these practices in the business operations space.

DevOps may sound like it is only for software engineers and technology operations (due to its somewhat limiting-sounding name), but the reality is these approaches to collaboration, measurement, sharing, and more are directly applicable to almost all areas of a business.

I believe in the near term we will see even more adoption of these practices.

TELECOM TIMES: How big a role do you see for AI within your particular brief and more specifically, how do you see it could benefit smaller businesses?

STRATTON: There is a LOT of data that is captured as part of incident response. Being able to apply AI to this operational data can help provide clues for responders to be able to restore service with even greater effect.

I don’t believe we are ever going to completely replace human decision making and experience, as every incident is unique and our systems are complex, but we can leverage AI and machine learning to provide more robust data to these human decision makers.

AI can help make these systems more robust, but humans are what make it resilient. Resiliency is how our systems respond when they expand outside of our predicted robustness and resiliency always requires human factors.

But the better equipped we can make these humans, the more resiliency they can help achieve!



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