The DevOps Industry Narrative Journey

Narrative leads every industry forward.

For the software industry, two major movements — driven by narrative — has led to the rise of Agile, and more recently, DevOps, from concept to mainstream practice.

From the Agile Manifesto (Feb., 2001) and Marc Andreessen’s famed 2011 WSJ column “Why Software is Eating the World,” to the much used motto “Building Better Software Faster,” narrative stories have helped lead both practitioners and vendors alike to collective benefit. narrative

Last month the Catapult team had the pleasure of attending the DevOps Enterprise Summit for the fifth time. We provide PR support to help position this event as “the conference” for the DevOps industry. A new location at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas hosted the largest event yet, with almost 2,000 attendees.

One of my favorite things about the DevOps Enterprise Summit are the presentations and conversations among people who are in the trenches of business transformation. It’s where you get the most accurate information about current industry advancements, challenges, trends and dynamics.

The top thought leaders and book authors attend, along with the majority of vendors supporting the industry. So are DevOps enterprise leaders, from companies like Verizon, Target, Disney Company, Capital One, KeyBank, Walmart, and Nike. They come together to share experiences through stories.

From those stories shape the industry narrative that evolves and inspires.

As technology, people and processes change, so do approaches – and this isn’t limited to DevOps. Think about the software industry over time. Concepts, trends and themes like “shift-left” get latched on to by marketers and turn into conference themes and industry headlines. Further, when a narrative shows business value the buzz spreads like wildfire. All of a sudden everyone seems to be talking about the same thing.

Having participated in DevOps Enterprise Summit since its inception, we hear first-hand stories from speakers, influencers and vendors. We’ve seen many narratives at the conference sweep the industry. This goes back to our time working with the Agile Conference. In the beginning, the conference centered around Agile adoption and setting up initial Agile teams, then multiple teams of teams, then it elevated to enterprise scale, which led to frameworks like Scaled Agile Framework ‘(SAFe).’

With the rise of DevOps, we’ve observed and watched the narrative journey evolve from the first DevOps Enterprise Summit held in 2014. It’s been amazing to experience a movement that started from a narrative for improving software development and delivery lifecycle, to a philosophy that reaches into every facet of technology businesses.

Here’s a quick look at how we’ve seen the DevOps narrative evolve over the years:

  • 2014 – the inaugural DevOps Enterprise Summit was all about culture change and “empathy.” Bringing teams together in a single room, and breaking down silos were the prevalent themes. Many of the vendors were talking about Continuous Delivery, and working hard to align offerings to the emerging DevOps movement.
  • 2015- after focusing on the teams and people, year two took a technical turn. Practices and patterns like containers, Docker, and automation were uncovered. The narrative was all about “how the sausage was made.” Technical automation became a big deal.  
  • 2016 – during the third year it was time to re-examine the journey and peel back the onion to get to the center of humane software delivery, and its impact on improving livelihoods.
  • 2017 – the narrative shifted to focus more on business value. Speakers put a greater focus on getting business buy-in and defining what DevOps maturity looked like. It took a deeper dive into next-generation operations — and balanced away from the software development side of things.
  • 2018 – last month’s event focused on high-level performance and value, improving skills and the advent of new technologies. The strongest narrative of the conference centered on “value streams.” From where we sit, “Value Stream Management” is a very positive narrative for the industry. It concisely articulates the means to track activity to value, and shifts the narrative away from technology, and more toward the “why” factor.

As you can see, an industry narrative ebbs and flows. It’s not an all-encompassing, static thing. Instead, new ideas are built upon a foundation that drives innovation and change. The downside is that some narratives could be (and are) viewed as industry hype and create confusion. But, that’s the importance of evolving and transforming it. Not only does a widely adopted narrative benefit the business, but it provides something the entire industry can stand behind — until the next chapter is written.

Industry narratives unify people and organizations together to work through common challenges that might keep the industry from moving forward. As the industry changes, so does the narrative. It’s been a great privilege to not only witness the evolution of the software industry but play an active role in communicating the narrative through our years of work in the market.

Look for the DevOps industry to continue its march forward. The industry narrative is elevated to business value, and a state of maturity is firmly established that will benefit all parties involved.

What is your industry narrative today? And, more importantly, ask yourself what role you and your organization can play to move it forward.

That is what the industry leaders do!