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So, you want to run an internal DevOps Day but not sure where to start? Back in May 2019 I was faced with the same problem. I knew what I wanted to achieve, and why, but had no idea how to do it, who to add to the guest list, or when/where to host.

Five months on and we’ve just hosted our second successful internal DevOps Day! I learnt a lot from the first conference and used those learnings to evolve and improve our second meet. This blog is my way of sharing what I learnt for anyone considering running something similar internal within your company.

 

Why did we run an internal DevOps conference?

Over recent years we’ve embarked on a mission to bring DevOps culture and practices to our organisation. During this time, we’ve found that the principles of DevOps have provably impacted positively on customer satisfaction, speed of response to customer demand, prediction of market trends and speed of response to potential risks such as security threats.

Introducing automation, lean management practices and measurement and feedback mechanisms can be achieved by adopting new team working practices and new technical tools, but how do we influence culture and share the work we’re doing with the wider business? Our DevOps Days internal conference series is an attempt to do exactly that, an opportunity to share knowledge, ideas, drive innovation and automation across the entire business.

 

How does it work?

I adopted the format of the DevOps Days conferences founded by one of the fathers of the DevOps movement, Patrick Dubois. Staff were invited to attend from across the business, not just the technical teams, but the whole organisation, and a call for presentations was made to fill a morning of conference-style talks with a wide remit of topics which spanned:

  • Continuous Delivery & Automation Tools
  • Software & Systems Architecture
  • Product & Process
  • Lean Management & Monitoring
  • Culture & Learning Organisations

The afternoon followed an ‘OpenSpace Format’ discussion which relies on input from the attendees to drive the subjects being discussed, the content and the discussions themselves. This was the element I was most nervous about but was really pleasantly surprised with the engagement and interaction. Some of the best content to come out of the day was actually driven by the attendees in the afternoon, and it was clear to see that the content from the morning presentations had got people excited and interested in discussing the topics further.

 

The secret ingredients for a successful DevOps Day

So, without further ado. My top tips for planning a successful internal DevOps Day are:

Leave plenty of time for discussion and questions 

I underestimated the amount of time that would be taken up by excited questions at the end of each presentation, so leave plenty of buffer space. A great deal of value comes from sharing between teams and across areas of the business who wouldn’t normally interact.

OpenSpace Format Discussions still require facilitation

While I was surprised at how engaged everyone was, it did take a little while to get going and needed one of the more experienced managers in the room to take the lead and get the discussions started. We also found with a relatively small attendee list that we didn’t need to split into discussion groups and that the whole room took part in the conversation. However, I still found myself scribbling down notes and writing up the results of the day to share with others and for attendees to look back on. If you do split into groups, make sure that the format is followed and feedback to the whole room is carried out at the end of the session.

Expect dropouts and non-attendees

We all know how it goes, sometimes you’re just too busy to attend a full day conference despite best intentions. We tried to cater for those by publishing slides afterwards and attempting to record sessions to produce a video record of the day. Recording requires technical know-how, cameras, microphones and the like, and video editing skills and most importantly time to do it.

Promote, promote, promote

We’re a medium-sized business, geographically diverse and honestly, I’m not sure that I managed to get the word out wide enough. It’s a real marketing exercise to sell the value of the conference to potential attendees, line-managers who need to approve the time out / travel expenses, and communicate clearly the topics which will be discussed, the format of the day and what to expect. I’ll likely be enlisting help from others in the business to help promote the next one.

 

Would I recommend hosting your own internal DevOps Day?

Yes, yes and yes! The feedback from the first day was so universally positive that it must be a good thing. I’m working to build a measure of the impact of the work we’re doing to adopt a DevOps culture by collecting survey responses to gauge Employee Net Promoter Score (ENPS), which asks ‘On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely would you be to recommend this company to a friend or colleague as a place to work?’, it’s early days yet but I’m hoping to make a real positive impact to this figure as the cultural change takes hold!

Colin Silcock

Colin Silcock

Site Reliability Manager

Colin has 15 years experience working in technology, with a diverse range of technical experience ranging from sysadmin, to network engineer and full-stack web development.

A self-confessed ‘jack-of-all-trades’, Colin still holds a passion for technology of all kinds, but more recently has specialised in technology leadership, channeling that passion into driving the cultural and technical changes required to create high performing technical organisations and teams. 

To find out more about Colin, or read more of his blogs, click here.

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