Microsoft has awarded Gofore an official Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF) Ready partner status. Gofore can now implement Azure cloud services for its’ customers based on the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework. The CAF Ready partnership is a guarantee that Gofore has the expertise and know-how of the model’s best practices in order to provide the customer with the best possible support for the flexible and secure deployment of Azure cloud platform services.
If you’re considering deploying cloud services, the collaboration between Gofore and Microsoft will provide your organisation with comprehensive support from an expert organization.
“We guide and help the customer at all stages of the cloud journey, from cloud strategy to cloud migration, and follow the best practices and doctrines of the Microsoft CAF model. In this way, the deployment of cloud services becomes systematic and cost-effective, which in turn saves customer’s time and resources. Our goal is always to guarantee the customer the true benefits of the Azure cloud transition, ” says Jussi Puustinen, Gofore’s Head of Cloud.
“We are pleased that Gofore has achieved Microsoft CAF Ready Partner Status and their expertise has been audited by a third party. With this expertise, organizations can accelerate their Azure cloud transition from strategic planning to implementation and maintenance, ensuring successful outcome of their business modernization. Congratulations to Gofore on this significant achievement, says Vesa-Matti Paananen, Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft Partners.
Cloud services will enable the organization to be agile and sustainable in the future as well. With the CAF Ready partnership, Gofore’s offering of Azure cloud services expertise will expand and diversify even further. Gofore offers cloud consulting using a four-tier model, depending on the needs and wishes of the customer organization:
- Creating a cloud vision and defining a strategy
- Creating a secure Azure cloud foundation and governance model
- Renewal and solid architectural design and implementation
- Effortless and efficient maintenance and continuous improvement.
Get to know our work: Gofore cloud consulting
Nowadays, consumers are conscious. The trend is that people are increasingly buying from companies whose values they appreciate. Being ethical and doing ethical choices is affecting people’s behavior more and more.
But are companies ready for this? Companies should reflect on society and align their business with the change that is happening in the world right now. They should understand that when products and services are being designed, values and ethics should be used in the decision-making. This is something we should think about also in our own work, as designers, developers, specialists, and leaders. Sami is writing in his text that we need to understand the complexities of the impact that digital services have on society. Only then we can use design to minimize the negative impacts and set society-level goals to maximize the positive ones.
This is where company values, ethics and global sustainability goals come into the picture. Good Growth’s model and Design for Everyone toolkit provides concrete actions and tools, so that we can help our clients into the right direction.
Differentiating by being ethical
As Anton describes in his text, Good Growth – three reasons why the younger generations demand sustainability, while older generations are fighting with their guilt. When you look at the markets, doing responsible business is already expected, but being seen as an ethical company is the way to differentiate. Gofore’s brand promise states that we are the pioneers of ethical digital, in this blog post I will present how to make this concrete via a case example.
But what does ‘being ethical’ mean in practice? For me, as a designer I view my projects and my clients from the design perspective.
Here are few points from design perspective, the goals of Design for Everyone:
- Increasing awareness of ethical decision making
- Mindset of being ethical – understanding the human side of our business
- Responsibility as a designer – in the process and in the outcome
- Doing ethical and inclusive design. Recognizing marginal and diverse groups, as well as biases (we all have those, whether you like it or not)
- Predicting the future and where society is going – helping our clients to adapt
Customer project example
Few months ago, we started a project with a client, who had some ethical concerns. This was one of our first Good Growth projects, where we used the Good Growth model and the Design for Everyone toolkit. We arranged a workshop with them around values, ethics and sustainability. The aim was to increase the awareness of ethical decision making in product business. We also used the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in action, I will shortly tell you how. But first some background of why the customer wanted our help.
The client works within healthcare with plans on going international. They were pondering whether their product will be used as expected in new unknown market areas or whether it could even be used to cause harm for some groups of people. It can be a bit of a mystery, how business is done in a culture that differs a lot from ours. So, what direction should they take? Is it better to be safe and not scale the business or be brave and hope that everything goes well? How could their company values guide them in doing ethical and sustainable decisions?
Ethical discussions can be challenging, as there often is no clear answer of right or wrong. However, what one can do is to systematically consider the possible risks and the possible positive impact and look at the big picture. We helped the client to facilitate this discussion and bring it into global context. In our client’s case another important aspect was that they want to be a purpose driven company, they want their employees to get motivated by this.
United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in action
When doing Good Growth projects, one approach is to look into ´making an impact’ in the light of the United Nations Sustainable development goals. These 17 goals are universal and aimed at achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges. They are dealing with issues such as inequality, extreme poverty and environmental catastrophes. This is the standard that companies are already measured by.
Our Design for Everyone toolkit gives practical tools to address these questions. The SDGs should guide the work of governments and companies, globally. But they can also guide our work, when we want to design and develop sustainable services and products. Some companies are already using the SDGs and they have selected their goals for their future and for example listed them on their websites. But there are also many smaller or medium-sized companies, also within our clients, who have not thought about SDGs or ethics in decision making. When we come across client’s who have not thought about this at all, maybe we are the ones who should be asking these questions?
Now, let’s go back to the client case. We had around 10 participants from different roles attending the workshop. The first part of the agenda was about ethical design and the values of the client and the second part was about expanding their thinking into the global context – there we used SDGs to help in the evaluation.
The participants were asked to look at the SDGs and think about their product’s societal impact. They selected 6 goals out of 17: goal 3 Good health and well-being, goal 4 Quality education, goal 8 Decent work and economic growth, goal 9 Industry innovation and infrastructure, goal 16 Peace, justice and strong institutions and goal 17 Partnerships for the goals. Everyone voted for the goals individually, they could select as many as they wanted.
After the goals were selected, we took also Good Growth lenses along: people, business and nature. The participants were asked to write down the impact or consequences the selected SDGs would have within these lenses. This led us to a more in-depth discussion about what this means when going international to new market areas. The SDGs worked pretty well as a reference point, and as the UN is behind them, they are credible as well.
So, what was the outcome of this workshop? And what was the value for us? For the client this was a discussion starter first of all, the aim was to increase the awareness of ethics, values and societal impact. Also, for the employees to find motivation to thrive, through the purpose of the company. For us, the Good Growth team, this was a great opportunity to try out the Design for Everyone methods in practice and gain experience. Now we can iterate our tools to work even better in the next projects. And now it is also easier to tell about Good Growth projects to you all, with a real reference case.
Do you think your company could need a workshop like this? Please contact our team and we would be happy to help out!
This is the fourth blog text of Good Growth’s Design for Everyone series, make sure to read also Anton’s blog post Resetting the role of Design, Sami’s recent blog post about designing with a societal state of mind and Michelle’s blog post Grounding digitalization in sustainable development – I’m in! Are you?
My path into an IT consulting company has maybe not been the most traditional, but that just means I’ve experienced a lot on the way. Reducing inequalities has been the guiding light throughout my career and that is what brought me to Gofore too.
Gofore’s brand promise of creating an ethical digital world and the Good Growth business model makes Gofore a pioneer among digitalization consultancies and I wanted to be a part of that!
My diverse and international work experience have ingrained sustainable development and a human rights-based approach in me and my way of work. In 2016 I first got introduced to human-centered design through becoming an innovation focal point at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The human-centered design was selected as the framework for innovation activities in the organization and my role included driving innovation culture and designing innovation projects.
After that experience, design thinking has followed me everywhere I’ve gone: from co-creating, the Health Buddy program at the Finnish HIV Foundation to my MBA studies, leading the Digital Wellbeing Sprint at Laurea University of Applied Science, currently writing my thesis on inclusive design and most recently starting as a service designer at Gofore.
So how does my passion for reducing inequalities and my work at Gofore go hand in hand, you might ask?
In brief, the Good Growth business model views the future of business through the lenses of People, Nature and Business and the “Design for Everyone” approach acts as a concrete tool for working towards the promise of the SDGs to leave no one behind. With this approach, Gofore combines my passions for equality, human-centered design, and digitalization and that’s why Gofore is the right place for me.
“To get digitalization right”
I’m very excited to be a part of shaping the thinking around ethical/sustainable/inclusive design and I’m looking forward to becoming an expert in designing services incorporating these values. In the future I’d like to work on more customer projects incorporating social and environmental sustainability in the design of digital services.
One of the biggest challenges of our time is to get digitalization right, in a sustainable way. If we fail, we risk a number of negative consequences, such as a growing digital divide, further environmental degradation and increasing economic and social inequalities both between countries and within countries.
Can you really afford not to do it in a sustainable way?
We have the trillion-dollar chance now to do digitalization right. In this context, what I mean by ”right” is so that everyone has a chance to participate and no one is left behind. If we fail, we might unwittingly create an even more unequal world where digital services only serve some of us. There’s already plenty of examples where AI-based products and services have adopted bias and only work for some people, leaving large parts of the population (and possible customer base) outside. Sami Vihavainen brought up several examples in his recent blog, go check it out.
Notice how I said we have a trillion-dollar chance? The wording was very deliberate. Grounding digitalization in the sustainability framework is not just the right thing to do, but it’s also the profitable thing to do. All 193 countries have committed to the SDGs and they have also recognized that the goals cannot be reached without the private sector. This means that there are great business opportunities connected to realizing the SDGs. Several estimates value the possibilities in the trillions and the Business and Sustainable Development Commission estimates the SDGs bringing 12 trillion dollars’ worth of business opportunities by 2030.
So here’s a question for all organizations embarking on the journey of digitalization: Can you really afford not to do it in a sustainable way, for people, the planet, and prosperity?
This is the third blog post in the Good Growth Design for Everyone series. If you thought this was interesting, go read Anton’s post Resetting the role of Design and Sami’s post “Autoplay, let me sleep” – How can we design to help societies thrive? And keep an eye out for one more text by Suvi before the holidays!
Elkington, J., Roberts, R. 2017. Sustainability: A $12 Trillion a Year Market by 2030. The European Business Review. Available at: https://www.europeanbusinessreview.com/sustainability-a-12-trillion-a-year-market-by-2030/ [Accessed 18.6.2021]
Amazon’s recruiting algorithm favoured male applicants over female ones. Facebook’s news feed algorithm persuades users to read news that it thinks interests them. The Suomi.fi service creates a digital channel for users to interact with public organizations, and Netflix gives people easy access to an almost unlimited archive of films to watch after a hard day of work. These examples show how digital services can shape decisions on who gets employment, what information people are exposed to, how they take part in civic duties, and how they spend their leisure time.
I have recently been discussing the large-scale impact of our work, designing and developing digital services, with my colleagues at Gofore. Here, I’ll share two viewpoints.
- Treating digital artifacts as participants in our society can teach us to see how they shape its workings and impact how people in society behave.
- We need to systematically understand the complexities of the impact that digital services have on society. This way we can use design for minimizing the negative impacts and setting society-level goals to maximize the positive ones.
Treating digital services as participants in our society
Digital services shape our societies partly based on the values that drive their design. The main purpose of digitalization is often to make things more efficient, easy, pleasant, and safe. These can be great values to drive design. We all know how convenient it is to order an Uber or get food via Wolt. However, when we take a deeper look—for example, at the value of convenience—we can see that it might have unintended and unsustainable consequences in the long run and on a large scale. Uber, for example, can be convenient for its primary user (the passenger), but at the same time creates a loss of security, stability, and safety nets for other stakeholders, such as freelance Uber drivers or licensed NYC taxi drivers. In the case of Netflix, one can argue that it is not good on a societal level that the autoplay function conveniently starts the next episode automatically; farewell good night’s sleep, hello next episode of The Crown, and morning fatigue.
The idea of technology actively shaping society has been discussed for example in academia. Treating technology as an actor working as a network with humans was presented by sociologist Bruno Latour . The impact of values on the design of technology is deeply discussed in a myriad of books and articles . However, I think we still lack in taking that into practice in the context of creating today’s digital services.
One often-used pre-digital-era example about the effect of values in design is a construction project in NYC: the city planner at the time, Robert Moses, constructed highway overpasses so low that they prevented (and still prevent) tall vehicles such as public transportation buses from using the highway without hitting the bridge. This design stopped people who rode the bus from accessing certain beaches.
In practice, this meant people with lower socio-economic status: poor people and minorities. The design decision has been said to be deliberate due to Moses’ racist values . Others have argued that the design decision was related to money, norms and building practices of the time (before and around the mid-20th century) . Whether the reasons were racist values or a narrow-sighted design process, it’s clear that the impact of the design on society was very significant.
I had the opportunity to drive under the famously low overpasses while living in NYC.
How can we design to help societies thrive?
As stated, technologies such as digital services or a concrete bridge can have a significant impact. However, I see that technology does not solely have the power to shape people’s actions. Instead, people are in an active role in shaping technologies into directions where they support people’s and societies’ actual needs and goals. Next, I’ll raise two points that I see as steps forward in designing digital services to help societies thrive:
1. Educating people about the impact of digital services, and
2. Designing digital services with a societal state of mind.
Related to the first point, education is a fundamental tool to share knowledge and give perspective about the world around us. Doing so increases people’s capabilities to change the world into something better. We increasingly support our clients by educating them that technology is not an island, but as mentioned, can contain design decisions that significantly impact society. Participants have perceived this kind of education as motivational, as it shows them the broader meaning of their own projects and product-level work. It also enables people and organizations to position themselves in the bigger picture of how societies are shaped through technology and how they are part of that continuous process.
Let us look at the second point next: design with a societal state of mind. Projects in which new software and digital services are designed are often purposely focused. Questions like “What is the MVP of this service?” or “Who are the primary users and what are their needs?” can be important. However, such questions give us a narrow view and might take us to paths that have negative implications on the societal level. For example, “Move fast and break things,” the mantra of Silicon Valley, affects us all, but does not consider the societal consequences. Also, traditional user-centered design mainly focuses on fulfilling the pragmatic and hedonic goals of primary user groups and aligning those with the service provider’s business goals to make a profit.
One way that we have facilitated our design and helped our clients get into the societal state of mind is using broad, well-known frameworks such as the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). We systematically review how specific projects could contribute to some of the SDGs such as quality of education or reduced inequalities. This can help connect even a small project to a broader context and set goals based on that.
We are here to help societies thrive
In this text, I raised points that I believe are important steps forward in designing digital services that can help societies thrive. The points arose from our recent initiatives at Gofore: our Code of Ethics booklet, which guides us on “How to Be a Human at Gofore” ; and the business model we call the Good Growth. The model gives our clients tools to view designing digital business and artifacts more holistically and sustainably. It utilizes design for everyone practices that take societal and inclusive dimensions into account (more about Good Growth e.g. in our earlier post and Resetting the Role of Design by Anton Schubert   ).
Overall, at Gofore we are motivated and in a pole position to work toward design practices that are increasingly holistic, inclusive, ethical, and take sustainability into account.
- Latour, B., 2007. Reassembling the social – An introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford University Press.
- Friedman, B., Hendry, D., 2019. Value Sensitive Design. The MIT Press.
- Caro, R., 1975. Power Broker. Random House USA
- Bloomberg City Lab, 2017. Robert Moses and His Racist Parkway, Explained. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-09/robert-moses-and-his-racist-parkway-explained [Accessed 31.5.2021]
- Gofore, 2020. Code of Ethics. Available at: https://gofore.com/code-of-ethics/
- Schubert, A. 2020. Gofore. Good Growth – 3 Reasons Why. Available at: https://gofore.com/good-growth-3-reasons-why/
- Schubert, A. 2021. Gofore. Reseting the Role of Design. Available at: https://gofore.com/resetting-the-role-of-design/
What is communication? What it means to me might not have the same meaning for you. Do our values, culture, behaviour, emotions have some effect on our way of communicating and interacting? What is the role of spoken language and body language within communication and interaction?
I work as a project leader in IT projects. Often the role is called project manager, but leader describes the role better since projects and people in projects need to be lead not only managed. Leading a project includes managing the project tasks of course – but a big part of the job includes interaction with people.
To have a common understanding, here is how I understand these terms interaction and communication.
- is being in contact with the environment and with other people.
- is conscious or unconscious.
- is being present.
- is listening.
- calls for emotional awareness.
- includes communication.
As you can see, communication is part of interaction to me. There are two areas of communication, goal-oriented communication to other people and nonverbal communication.
Goal-oriented communication is words, both spoken and written, and it is conscious. Nonverbal communication (Nonverbal Communication and Body Language, 2020) is most often instinctive. It is formed by multiple ways like body language, tone of voice, the way we listen, how we touch and what is our space, and how we take it. Body language means for example gestures, body posture and movement, facial expressions, and eye contact. This means that communication is not just words but deeds.
Communication at work
I have experienced the importance of communication in my work. For example, the outcome of a root cause analysis is a piece of good evidence. Root cause analysis is often done if something has gone wrong in a project. This is an analysis to find out what was the real reason for what happened. We do this analysis to learn and to be able to prevent the same thing from happening next time and later in the future.
Based on my experience, approximately 80% of all mistakes in projects have happened because someone has thought or assumed something wrong. Therefore, I dare to claim that 80% of the root causes have been communication-related, lack of communication, or misleading communication. This is no surprise if we think of Wiio’s law, the law that describes it all about how difficult communication really is, it states that “Communication usually fails, except by accident” (Wiion lait – ja vähän muidenkin, 1978).
Easy to fix? Not at all. It might be if the machines were doing the communication, but because it is we human beings, it gets a bit more difficult. A human being is a complicated creature.
To make us communicate we need to be motivated to communicate.
To make us to be motivated to communicate we need to be dedicated to the work that needs communication.
To make us dedicated we need to understand what is in it for each of us. There needs to be trusted for letting us make the decisions and take responsibility. There needs to be an open and honest environment, so that we have psychological security, and the work needs to be consistent with our own values.
To make this all happen we need a lot of active positive interaction between people! We need to be present and focus, listen and receive all types of communication, also the nonverbal communication such as body language.
Communication at Gofore ?
I became Goforean beginning of March 2021, and I was more than interested to find out how things related to the topic are done here. What I have experienced is that people at Gofore know how to communicate and interact, and more than knowing they also do so <3. Here are some reasons why I think so.
I felt and still feel more than welcome. I had a nice surprise phone call on the Friday before starting, Turku office Lead Eero called me just to remind me that I will become a Goforean the following Monday and to wish me welcome! 😀
I feel that I am part of Gofore Crew (and many other different groups as well). During my first month I had the following events related to communication and interaction:
- 6 onboarding meetings with different contents about the story of Gofore, our values, our mission, our strategy, our diversity, our culture, our code of ethics, expectations of Gofore Crew, well-being, Gofore handbook, daring, clubs, this list goes on.
- 4 “How are you doing” phone calls.
- 24 “Welcome to the crew”- messages from acquaintances and strangers
- 10 Coffee and weekly encounters
- 1 personal Introduction text with pictures written by me
- 4 afterwork events:
- Massage supported by Gofore
- Online board game
- Amos Rex: Egyptian brilliance, remote guidance
- Remote cooking with colleagues and Harri Syrjänen
- 16 Slack channels (picked out by me out of hundreds)
There are a lot of interesting Slack channels and conversations. The conversions are very open, and I feel that there is a lot of trust among the discussions, since people are asking questions, asking for help, sharing opinions, giving good tips, agreeing, disagreeing, and thinking together – communicating in a way that I have not seen before in work life.
I have almost forgotten the Covid-19 since I have felt that I am in the same room with people – people use videos during the online meetings, they are present, there is interaction, I am able to see them and their nonverbal communication! This means a lot to me, and I think is also one big reason for not feeling alone, when starting in a new company during a remote work situation.
Gofore is growing and this is also visible with the different company cultures that are present. I find it interesting to see how things are solved and how the culture is changing and growing to keep the Gofore values present. I just received the Gofore culture booklet in our old-fashioned mailbox with a chocolate bar that I will enjoy while reading the booklet.
My top list to remember about communication
- There is always interaction when there are two or more people involved.
- We all communicate, whether we want it or not. We should focus on what we communicate and how!
- Rule number one in project communication is “Never assume anything”.
- We shall make sure there is a common understanding about the topic under work.
- Listening to others is also a form of communication.
- Not saying anything is also communication.
- Communication and interaction are the keys to success.
- People at Gofore have good communication skills that are supported by the Gofore culture.
How do you understand communication and interaction? Do we share the same understanding of the subject in question? Would you like to hear more about my experience with project leadership, or experiences here at Gofore? I’m happy to communicate with you!
My name is Henri Ihalainen and I am working as a full-stack developer at Gofore. I do coding, infra, and architecture work but I also work a lot with customers when planning new features and systems. I like to work equally with code and people. I feel that working at Gofore as a consultant enables that to me.
Tell us about your career and study background?
I have always been interested in computers and technology. I started programming with Quick Basic when I was maybe ten years old and did that for a while but then it got forgotten. Later in high school, I was interested in computer networking which eventually led to studies at the Tampere University of Technology. I majored in Communication Protocols and Networks and Radio Network Planning but also had a minor in computer programming.
My programming career started when I got a thesis job at Nokia Siemens Networks working with network management systems. When I was doing my thesis, I started to feel that programming was my thing. I worked at NSN for a couple of years and then moved to Gofore in early 2014. At Gofore I’ve been working on various software projects in different roles from developer to the scrum master.
What makes Gofore a great company for you?
A side that Gofore has always been a company where I can develop myself, I feel it has been a very flexible employer in different life situations. I have small children and during my career, at Gofore I have been twice on parental leave for a longer period. Also, I have worked at 80% working time when children have started daycare. I have always felt that I have been supported by the company and colleagues in my choices.
When I started at Gofore the company had only 70 employees. Now that the company has grown ten times bigger, I feel that the people are still at the center and are treated equally.
What are the things you most likely tell your close circle about Gofore?
As my close circle knows what kind of a working place Gofore is, I might tell about things I’m working on (if not secret) that are interesting and may be visible to the public in some way.
What’s the best Gofore memory?
There are many good memories but the first things that came to my mind were family days at Särkäniemi and summer parties at Herrankukkaro. Also, many good memories are related to nice people that I have been working with during my years at Gofore.
What is your favorite internal Slack channel at Gofore?
Currently, I have two: #raksagerho where discussion is about renovations, building projects, etc. which I’m also interested in. Then there is #moneybags where people discuss the finance market, stocks, and economy in general.
What are the technologies and methods you mostly work with?
How does your typical day look like? What excites you most in your daily work?
I usually start my day before anyone else in the family wakes up and do the work that requires the most concentration in the morning. The rest of my day typically consists of few meetings with customers, Slack calls with colleagues, work planning, and of course some programming. I’m part of the recruitment circle so some days I have interviews. Sometimes I help our sales with tenders as a technical advisor and participate in our guild activities and other internal things. In my daily work, I feel the most exciting thing is to build great software together with my colleagues.
What would you like to do in the future at Gofore?
I want to focus more on software architecture and develop myself in that area. I hope I can take larger responsibility in projects and help to develop our company. Technology is still my number one interest and currently, I would like to improve my skills in functional programming.
What kind of digital world do you want to build with others?
I can identify with the Gofore mission of changing the world for to better. I would like to be involved in projects that have a positive impact on the environment and help society.
It’s often said that digitalisation has changed every part of human life – how we live, how we work and how we interact with the world around us. But when you think about it, digitalisation alone can’t change anything. Without people, it’s all just hardware and code. That is why we want you to get to know our people, Goforeans. Read Our Gofore stories! ?
Are you interested in job opportunities at Gofore, read more about us, and check out the open positions gofore.com/liityjoukkoon
DevOps officer’s (b)log, stardate 202105.13
It has been truly challenging. Many months have passed since my last blog post Devops 101 – pt. 1: Journey to enlightenment. Writing the (b)log entry has proven to be much more challenging than expected, and this is the third time I write this almost from scratch. My current project has also taken most of my time, so writing this down had to be delayed again and again.
What could I say about silos without sinking into the bottomless swamp? I could state it shortly and just mention, that it is all about communication and transparency, or really go into the details and possibly bore my readers. Where is the neutral zone?
Looking at the past years, what I have seen, heard, and read, and thinking about what creates silos, there are multiple reasons. It might be a business decision. If the project is a multi-vendor project, each of them producing one component or maybe working as part of the team, business decisions may lead to knowledge being held back from the external members. On some level, this is natural in the world of corporations, but at the same time, it actively reduces transparency and can cause trust issues. “If we are holding back information X from the team Y, what are they hiding from us?”, one may think. I can understand withholding information on some level as a business decision, but at the same time, it does not help keep up the sense of trust to others.
The physical manifestation of a silo (though this one might be for wheat)
Behind hiding, knowledge can be fear of losing status, job, money, power, or having to be responsible for something. It may be abuse as well. If business partners hide relevant information and work behind each other’s backs, they may be abusing the relation to gain something from the other by not telling everything. If this kind of thing comes up someday to the other party, it can be very damaging to the relationship. “If you used our relationship and goodwill for your benefit while hiding information from us, why should we trust you?” The answer often is, “It is just business”, but it never is “just” business. It is never two faceless corporations cooperating, it is the employees, whether ordinary Joes or business managers, but it is always human beings working together and for them, trust is important. But more on trust some other time.
Something, something, something, separation of concerns. Something, something, something, devops.
While I fully support the idea of separation of concerns in software development, and in fact, it is my prime directive, implementing it over-zealously everywhere can lead to silos as well. If the team structure or organization structure is based completely on it, it may lead to having a separate team take care of security, releases, operation, development and so on. Code is just passed from one to another and there is very little communication and transparency between them. Concerns indeed have been then separated, but now there are silos.
Wisdom is to know how to use knowledge. It is a good thing to have leads for different subject matters since no one can know everything, but the work must be made visible between team members and different teams, there must be transparency so others are informed what is happening, what blockers there may be and what new features are being designed and implemented. That allows efficient cooperation early on when specialists can give feedback each other and possibly help remove the blockers.
There are other reasons as well for silos, and sadly, sometimes getting fully rid of at least some of them might not be possible. One of these situations is laws and regulations, which might require certain type of process or separation of responsibilities. While I do not have personal experience on these matters, they are something that might pop up when dealing with things like national security, military and finances. A dear colleague of mine also shared a story that budgeting could create silos, when different teams are not allowed to help each other because of budget reasons, even briefly.
The Silo Crusades
But even though silos are something to get rid of usually, hunting them down religiously can also lead to trouble. It is easy to see spies and enemies everywhere when one really tries to look for them. I have seen it resulting in attempts to force people out of their comfort zones, thinking that those zones are silos, but there is a key difference between being in a silo and being in a comfort zone, and that is the walls.
If there is a strict wall between people, then it is a silo, but if there is transparency, openness, a constant stream of information, and the possibility to move from one place to another, then it is a comfort zone. We all have them, some might be more specialized in back-end development, some are purely front-end developers, and so on. But if it is allowed and made possible for us to step outside of those roles, and participate in doing other things as well (and of course knowledge is spread by communicating), can we really talk about creating silos? From my point of view, no.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend, The Lord of Darkness
How could I then as a devops officer help the crew remove the silos? I already have mentioned communication and transparency as key features to this but there are so many moving parts. Size of the teams, amount of the teams, how people communicate and work, how people phrase things, cultures (e.g., organizational, team, national), the level of psychological safety, tools – oh, there are so many factors involved in this and there are things that cannot be forced on people.
I cannot force others to change their culture, but I can encourage them to communicate more and ask when they do not know something. I can organize demo sessions where everyone can voluntarily demonstrate what they have done so far and how something works. I can drive for faster and much more open communication methods such as Slack channels instead of email discussions.
Having one source of truth is not something to forget either. Multiple wikis or places for documentation just leads to confusion and increases memory load. Phrasing also matters. It can be very discouraging if the other side in a conversation uses sarcasm, or weaponized form of advocatus diaboli argument. Devil’s advocate is easy to weaponize into something that does not really feel like something intended to drive the discussion further. It may be intentional or unintentional, making it dangerous to use and in my books an anti-pattern to be avoided.
The Devil, (Public domain)
If we consider the following discussion:
*Developer has suggested improvements in the architecture and payback of technical debt to make the development work more fluent and safer in terms of deployment*
Manager/PO/TPO: “If I play devil’s advocate for a while, and take the role of the end-customer. Why should I as the end-customer care if the development work is easier or more ‘fun’ to the developers, what do I get out of it? What is the return-on-investment?”, says the product owner.
This argument feels confrontational, doesn’t it? There is the difference of power, one being in a decision-making role and the other being an “ordinary worker”. The argument dismisses the initial reasoning done by the developer and instead suggests that only the return-on-investment matters, which can be difficult or even impossible to calculate or estimate in certain cases. It may well be a valid point, that to someone the ROI is the only thing that matters, but this does show that the arguer (in this case the product owner) does not have the skill or will to cooperate and help combine the initial argument to what is needed to convince the other parties that ultimately pay the bills, moving all the responsibility to the developer. This corrodes the sense of psychological safety, the feeling that developers matter, reduces conversation, and instead increases frustration leading to cynicism. All of this increases other risks such as burnout and losing the employee to some other company that cares about people’s wellbeing making it anti-devops.
So, in the end, the enemies of silos are constructive discussions, a good amount of quality communication, and transparency. With the help of them, we can create better quality software and faster, without burning out ourselves. Of course, there are other factors that must be taken into account, but at least now we have a good basis to build upon.
Computer, end devops officer’s (b)log and save.