Create a productive cloudops feedback loop


One of the most frustrating things that can happen when you’re on a cloudops team is having end users go directly to your leadership to complain about some issue with the cloud-based systems. It could be performance, lack of some feature, availability, or a compatibility problem with a browser. You cannot fix or improve what you don’t know about.

Most enterprises with a cloud operations team don’t have good communications between the end users and the cloud operations staff. Indeed, often they get feedback from leadership, as end users elevate all issues early and often, resulting in a political tap dance that leaves everyone frustrated.

The focus of continuous improvement as introduced by the devops culture is to consistently look for ways the system and operations can do better. No matter if it’s just replacing a router to increase performance, or tuning a database, or pushing some process to an edge device, fined-grained activities should be done incrementally as they arise.

Gone are the days of .0 version numbers and deployments that are tightly coupled to a hardware and software configuration. Cloud computing makes this much easier, considering that everything is centrally deployed and the improvements are mostly virtual. Staging, testing, and deployment happen within browser windows, and no one has to go into the freezing data center to bolt more hardware onto racks. The virtual nature of cloud computing enables continuous improvement at speed.

So if most things can be fixed quickly, then why are we not taking full advantage of informal feedback loops that will allow the cloudops teams to react quickly to end user issues? It’s a matter of culture, of course.

In order to change the culture, leadership needs to communicate that it’s unacceptable not to report issues directly to the people who can fix them. Complaints go from being a surprise annoyance to something productive. Indeed, we’re forming new technologies such as “chatops” to facilitate direct, real-time, and informal communication. E-mail also works.

Finally, everyone has to get on board that this is a core benefit of cloud computing. Limitations that we had to endure previously are no longer factors. We can have it all, if we just learn how to be direct and productive.