Self Service: Empowering Your Team

My first professional software position was at Silicon Graphics. While there, I worked on a team building internal tools for the electrical-engineers I worked with. We worked closely with those engineers to help them organize all their data to build circuit boards and integrated circuits.

Also on my team was an administrator of databases, tools, and our SCM tool. He tried to describe to me what his role is, and he said, “I make my work obsolete every day.” At this time in my career, this was very confusing: why would we make our own job obsolete?

The irony of this statement, was that amidst so much restructuring within the company, this team member is not considered obsolete at all. He’s proven how valuable that attitude is, that he is empowering engineers to get more done.

Today, the modern version of this “make my job obsolete” attitude is seen in the 2019 Accelerate State of DevOps Report. In the report it is called “on-demand self-service.” We can see from this research, that getting manual tasks out of the way, developing automated systems, is a powerful way to empower development teams (and end-product users) to meet their goals more quickly.

As a DevOps engineer, I want to ask myself during my work, “Can what I’m currently doing manually be turned into an automated process?” It’s the same attitude of making myself obsolete. It’s the same attitude of “self-service” taken from the State Of DevOps reports.

The automation of tasks that empower developers to do self-service might be labeled “Technical Debt.” I’ve been on teams with product owners that balk at the cost of technical debt. This kind of technical debt is priceless: manual work is time-consuming, error-prone, and could require documentation or training. Automation of those tasks frees engineers to get more done with less effort and greater precision. This is a huge win-win for everyone.

P.S., the “Accelerate: State of DevOps” research is an incredible resource to review. If possible, add your team to the research findings. It is potentially quite powerful for your team’s growth and your end users. I’ll write more about this in future posts.

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