View All Videos

Archive for July, 2009

Tools are easy. Changing your operating culture is hard.


Damon Edwards / 

Did you ever notice that our first inclination is to reach for a tool when we want to change something? What we always seem to forget is that web operations, as a discipline, is only partially about technology.

The success of your web operations depends more on the processes and culture your people work within than it does on any specific tooling choices. Yet, as soon as you start talking about changing/improving operations the conversation quickly devolves into arguments about the merits of various tools.

We see this repeatedly in our consulting business. Time after time we are called in to do a specific automation project and wind up spending the bulk of the effort as counselors and coaches helping the organization make the cultural shift that was the real intention of the automation project.

This article from InfoQ on how difficult it is to get development organizations to adopt an agile culture is a superb encapsulation of the difficulty of cultural change. Switch the word “development” to “web operations” and switch “Agile” to any cultural change you want to make and the article still holds up.

This condition really shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us. After all, how much time do we really spend, as an industry, discussing cultural, process, and organizational issues? Compare the number of books and articles written about the people part of web operations vs. the number of books and articles written about the people part of web operations. The ratio is abysmal, especially when you compare it to other types of business operations (manufacturing, finance, service industries, etc.)

UPDATE: The Agile Executive brings up the point that tools are valuable for enforcing new behavior. I definitely agree with that… but still maintain that new tools without a conscious decision to change behavior and culture is, more often than not, an approach that will fail.