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On March 4, 1933, the date of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inauguration, America and the world were in the depths of the Great Depression. Facing the crowd for his first address, Roosevelt had to get to the heart of the issue and provide confidence that he had a plan to get back to prosperity. In the address he said, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is ... fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” He had identified that fear was stopping what needed to be done. Stopping this fear would convert the retreat into an advance.
We see something similar with organizations implementing DevOps on the mainframe. While admittedly the scale is not the same, fear is stopping what is needed to be done in order to advance. We speak with many organizations around the world and have seen great examples of people recognizing that fear, taking steps to overcome it, and successfully implementing DevOps on the mainframe.
Here are 10 strategies that others have used to fight their fears and reach mainframe DevOps success.
1. Put in place people who can lead.
Simon Sinek famously states in his book entitled Start With Why, “There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead, inspire us.” We must have a powerful combination of "leaders" and "those who can lead us" if we are to move forward and leave fear behind. As we work with organizations to implement DevOps, we often see teams that are afraid of management response to the inevitable failures that come from something new. Developers need to feel confident that the potential for failure is understood by leadership and that they will be supported while they learn from these failures and work to improve.
2. Realize that you aren’t alone.
You may feel like you are alone in facing this change, but you aren’t. Seek out others who are implementing DevOps, both within your organization and in others. You may be surprised to find that the help you seek is in another part of your organization. It is important to know that you aren’t blazing new trails — these changes have been successfully put in place at many sites around the world.
3. Know the facts.
Perhaps the easiest way to counter fear of the unknown is to become informed. Seek training in Agile techniques and participate in DevOps seminars. Besides conferences like the DevOps Enterprise Summit and SHARE, there are other resources, like BMC Compuware's 10 Steps to True Mainframe Agility eBook. Network with your peers and see what your competitors are doing.
4. Break it down.
When facing something new, there is often a feeling of being overwhelmed — that it’s just too big and you can’t do it all. That is understandable, but the secret is to treat the process not as one big monolithic delivery, but rather a series of smaller incremental improvements that can be accomplished easily. Tackle each task as it comes.
There often is fear that change and an increase in speed will cause a loss of quality — a feeling that the way you are doing things now has been honed over the decades and any changes could cause adverse effects. The fact is that by implementing a good automated DevOps pipeline you can actually improve quality while accelerating development. Automation results in performance improvements, but it also provides a way to improve the lives of developers by removing repetitive tasks from their work, giving them time to focus on creative tasks.
6. Build an army.
This isn’t rocket science, it’s easier than you think, but there will need to be changes in culture and your reward system. Every organization has an army of sleepwalkers, held in a trance by "fear" and "red tape." A cultural shift which makes it acceptable to experiment and fail will wake them from their slumber and kickstart a whole new era of passionate explorers who will make things happen.
7. Enhance capabilities.
You may fear you can’t do it with your current tools, and you may be right. Trying to do this without having the right tools — and training — in place is not a path to success. Provide your teams with the right tools, including Source Code Management and a deploy that is open to integration. Leverage the continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines used by other teams and plug in what you have. You don’t have to start from scratch, this is a case where it is acceptable to steal and repurpose.
A good exercise is to lay out a generic DevOps pipeline and have the teams enter in the tools they currently use. This enables everyone to see where the gaps are and helps complete the pipeline, but more importantly it shows teams that they don’t need to wait — they can leverage what they have today. Any improvement, even a small piece of automation, is better than none.
8. Identify your stakeholders.
Keep "selling" and "proving" value to them. The best way to accomplish this is to make sure you have agreed-upon key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring success. First, establish a good baseline. Then, when implementing new practices and pipelines, you can see what is effective.
Our experience tells us that businesses are focused on velocity (pace of software delivery), efficiency (how effectively their teams are working), and quality (error rates and frequency of fallback from production systems). Each of these categories can be broken down into multiple specific metrics. Choose the ones that make most sense to you. “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” That is a very wise saying; make sure your metrics are framed within the right context and aligned to your strategy.
9. Turn your vendors into partners.
Understand that they have access to a whole market from which they are continuously learning. Leverage those valuable insights to accelerate your journey. Attend webinars, read case studies, speak with reference customers, and, most importantly, ask vendors to demonstrate how they are "walking the walk". Worthy partners should be using best-of-breed solutions, which hopefully will include their own solutions.
10. Just do.
No excuses, just do, and fail and learn and learn again and celebrate. You can’t enjoy the rainbow without putting up with the rain. Moving forward, you will gain confidence and find a momentum which will make further changes easier.
The people who climbed out of the Great Depression were led by a man of vision who helped them confront their fears. In the same way, we must be led by our Chief Vision Officers (CVOs). This is not a title you will see assigned to any of your executives, but these are people who can see the bigger picture and help us set our path. There is nothing stopping us from reaching our DevOps goals except one thing. So, remember, “The only thing you have to fear is…” well, we think you know the rest.