Dysfunctions of a corporation

Deploying a sufficiently complicated application into a corporate environment involves navigating a sea of paperwork, getting all the appropriate “approvals” in place, co-ordinating with department managers to get time slots from their staff, and so on.

Knowledge silos

On Release Day all the right people from the various departments - DBAs, application server administrators, server administrators (both Windows and Unix), desktop support, storage experts - are all sitting in their cubicles at the allotted time waiting to check their checkbox, waiting to mark their task as Done, so they can catch the 5:31pm train home.

These distributed silos of expertise have no vested interest in actually getting the application working. They follow their prescribed steps to Done and hand over to the next department in the chain. Each department only sees a small cog in the machine.

Much finger-pointing ensues when problems arise. The people charged with resolving the issues (usually the application team) are at the mercy of the experts, because only the experts are permitted to view the logs, or monitor processes, or produce query plans.

Self-contained teams?

Ideally the application team would contain all the expertise it needed rather than relying on people outside the team, and these experts-within-the-team would have the power (and responsibility) to manage the production deployment themselves.

Self-contained teams can be challenging to assemble in large companies because often their IT departments are organised by technical expertise rather than functional responsibility. Getting allocated 20% of a DBA is not the same as having one sitting in the project room.

Automate, automate, automate

If the deployment can be expressed as a set of verifiable steps then why not build it in code? The deployment would be repeatable and self-documenting, and would not rely on resources outside of the application team - except maybe to provide temporary passwords.

Deployment automation makes people in large corporations understandably nervous. There’s a trust issue, and job security concerns, so I’m proposing the next best thing: a Flash Team.

Flash team

A Flash Team is my way to describe a cross-departmental group of people brought together for a short period of time to solve a particular issue, or to achieve a goal. Everyone involved in the deployment gathers in one room where they work together to get the whole system up and running smoothly. If problems crop up then the development team can pair with the expert to resolve it. The experts see the big picture, the development team gets unfettered access to the right people, and the application gets deployed.

Who knows, they might even bond over a pizza when it’s Done.