Mainframe DevOps evangelist
July 7, 2016 DevOps

How to Be a Mainframe DevOps Evangelist

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More and more companies on the mainframe are realizing IT innovation is the best approach to meet the growing digital demands of their customers and beat competition in the marketplace of ideas. The most innovative of these companies have embraced mainframe agility and mainframe DevOps to accomplish those things.

DevOps, with its emphasis on automation, measurement and feedback loops, has proven invaluable to organizations wishing to improve the reliability and increase the pace of production deployments. But what about mainframe sites that are lagging in their DevOps implementation? How does a company get from where they are to where they want to be?

This is a challenge. DevOps is as much about people as it is about technology; as much about culture as it is about process; as much about mindset as it is about day-to-day tasks. It isn’t as simple as saying, “Yesterday we weren’t DevOps; today we are.”

You need someone who fanatically believes in the benefits of mainframe DevOps and can drive an organization to embrace changes in people, process and technology to achieve those benefits.

Enter the mainframe DevOps evangelist.

This is not an easy job. While there is certainly a list of desirable hard skills, it may very well be this person’s soft skills that decide the success of any given DevOps initiative. What if this person is you? Let’s take a look.

Traits of a Fearless Mainframe DevOps Evangelist

Can Ruffle Some Feathers

An evangelist is a person who seeks to convert others. There will be frustrations during this process. People will often look at this journey with a cynical eye: “Why are we changing proven processes?” The mainframe DevOps evangelist will have to persevere through these dips in the road and constantly remind the organization of the goal: delivering more business value to the customers via more reliable software delivered faster. Keep your eyes on the prize and celebrate the wins!

Can Overcome Inertia

It’s human nature to continue doing things as they’ve always been done. This habit, sometimes called cognitive inertia, is deeply formed and hard to break. There is substantial evidence that even corporations have cognitive inertia—the belief that what they’ve always done will continue to be what they will always do. The road to corporate success is littered with companies that couldn’t adapt. It will be your job as the mainframe DevOps evangelist to disabuse your organization of this thinking. Old habits die hard!

Can Fight Friction

Speed is the primary DevOps emphasis. Key successes occur when the mainframe DevOps evangelist identifies what steps in the classical software development lifecycle (code, build, test, package, release, configure, manage) are dragging their feet and slowing down the organization. This will be a see-saw of emotions: as the mainframe DevOps evangelist, you’ll be encouraged when you see that improving any individual step improves the entire process, and discouraged when you realize the entire process can only go as fast as the slowest part. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How does a company get good at steps they are bad at? Practice, practice, practice.

Can be Ruthless

One lean startup mantra is “Pivot, Persevere or Perish.” As the mainframe DevOps evangelist, you should keep this in mind as you evaluate your current DevOps toolchain and processes. Some decisions were made generations ago, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re still the best choices moving forward. Don’t let the weight of sunk costs cause you to stick with tooling that doesn’t allow your company to achieve escape velocity. This strategy leads to awkward discussions but worthwhile decisions: a consistent set of tools designed specifically to power your organization to go fast. So at every decision point, ask:

  • Should we pivot to a new tool or process?
  • Should we persevere with what got us here?
  • Can this tool or process perish as we move forward?

Can Have Fun

As the mainframe DevOps evangelist, you’re driving a transformational process, something very few people get to do in their career. While it’s easy to get caught up in the bits and bytes minutiae, remember you’re helping your organization speed up the delivery of reliable software to your customers. Ultimately, every hard-fought step forward is for the sake of your customers. You’re fighting the good fight!

The title for the mainframe DevOps evangelist will vary from organization to organization. It might be as modest as continuous integration engineer or as bold as CIO. This person may be an outside hire or an internal promotion. Regardless, it offers an incredible opportunity to leave your mark on your company for the better. Go get ‘em!

Photo: Flickr: O’Reilly Conferences

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Jim Liebert

Jim Liebert is a product manager at Compuware. He lives in Seattle, just up the block from a coffee shop.