Within my time working and researching DevOps, I started seeing a clear pattern that some very, very switched on people were doing a lot of really cool things and this was something that really inspired me to bring #DevOps to the SAP world. At the start of the journey, I looked at the practitioners of DevOps and saw this crack team of people who are able to move mountains with their exceptional skills and processes. Despite everything these people tell us, about it being about a complete organisational and conceptual change about the management of the IT landscape, you still see these exceptional people. Being a big fan of Babylon 5, the practitioners of DevOps initially started out in my head as being like the Rangers or the Anla-shok. The deeper down the rabbit hole you go though the more you realise that this is a complete and dangerous fallacy, because it is not about small band of special forces fighting from outside the system.
People traditionally identify with things more readily if they can relate them to their own experiences or to something that means something to them. Which is why when I discounted the Anla-shok equivalence I had wrongly applied, I couldn’t shake the Babylon 5 connotations. Upon reflection, through my knowledge of the B5 Universe, I came across something which started to make sense. The Grey Council of the Minbari, which seemed a much closer approximation for a number of reasons.
1. They have several castes, Worker, Religious and Warrior. IT also has many castes which can be defined, in fact probably 1000s of them, but an easy one for me is Development, Applications and Infrastructure.
2. The Council speaks as one to the outside world, despite internal disagreements. When IT departments speak externally, it should be with a unified voice – transparency is important and can be reflected without detracting from the decision being communicated.
3. Each caste has it’s own language, but in order to communicate effectively in everyday life, all 3 languages must be used. The same way in IT, each of the 3 areas of IT I listed above have their own languages, but to understand the full breadth, depth and scope of IT within a company, you must use and understand all 3 languages.
4. Technology is a tool to be used appropriately, it is not the end. The Minbari are the most technologically advanced of the ‘younger’ races, they live in harmony with their technology. They recognise that technology drives a great many things but also that there are times when technology is not appropriate. People should look to use the right technology to fit their purpose, for example, the Minbari use a fighting staff, the Denn’Bok, to great effect when other races use plasma or laser or projectile based weapons in close quarters. A similar example in IT is the use of administration scripts to quickly pull a snapshot view of things. Like the fighting staff, it is easier than manually finding the information (like fighting with fists) or using a complex monitoring system (like a laser cannon).
5. They do their presenting in the style of a Stand-up/Morning Prayers. Not a big one, but I like the parallel that information is presented, judged and decided upon as a standing exercise.
This is not a perfect analogy and there are places where it lets itself down, mostly because Babylon 5 is a fictional series and we live in the real world which is much more complex and rich in experiences, but I think it works pretty well as a basic illustration. The only problem is finding non-IT people who liked Babylon 5 to try this analogy out on :-)
Let me know what you think in the comments section – I am happy to be told I am completely wrong as long as you offer a counter argument :-)