Change, Change, Change, All Change!
For those of you in IT where a change seems a rare and wonderful thing, this post is probably not for you, if you are implementing less than a change a week, this post is not for you…
So where I am, we make in some cases several changes a day through our various systems, all in a bid to keep away the Big Bang of changes (also known as the Service disrupter), quite simply, our ethos is many small releases so the change pattern looks like a saw tooth not a set of steps.
Just like this:
Courtesy of Its Tech up north
see those tiny little releases, that’s the aim, the right hand side of the picture is when it all goes wrong.
So, back to the topic, lots of changes all the time, And at this point you may think I’m going to deviate into discussing the merits of quick releases and longer releases, as per the graphic. Well you’d be wrong, you should all be doing the left side of the graphic.
What’s a Valuable change?
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of Agile = Quick therefore make many changes and use all those rapid changes later to fix things up again. This is not right. This is not to say that you shouldn’t make a change rapidly if it fixes a service affecting issue… i.e. reconfiguring apache; however this is to say that you shouldn’t release half arsed.
So a valuable change is a well thought out change that adds benefit, it is in line with the road map and well tested. There is no time limit on a valuable change, you could spend months working on it, you could spend minuets. The key is as above, it’s on the road map, it’s well tested and it adds benefit, if any of these three things are not in alignment you probably have a rapid change; sorry for your service loss.
A Rapid change!
They are cool, they are quick, everyone thinks they are amazing because of how quickly they made it into the product / the service and they are by far the most pointless changes you’ll ever have to make.
Sometimes you will need to make rapid changes, i.e. one of your nodes in the cluster isn’t working so you need to make a change to remove it. This is not in line with the road map, it is not even a sensible change in the bigger picture, but it is absolutely necessary in the short term.
So rapid changes are fine to fix service affecting issues, you have to keep the service running, no excuses.
Rapid changes are ugly, often poorly documented, thought out and designed. So they should not be a method for implementing changes for the long term, i.e. a new way of logging in, a new graphic, a new way of balancing traffic etc etc
Rapid changes always produce Technical Debt where as valuable changes do not. So the sure fire way to identify a rapid change is by the fact it has technical debt.
Slightly off topic, I wonder if it’s worth graphing the tickets that produce technical debt and link those back to the change that produced it, you would then be able to show how much effort was created by a rapid change and categorically prove how bad it was to do and therefore discourage then in the future…
You will always have some element of rapid change, the aim is to make the number of rapid changes as small as possible, as stated they aways produce technical debt and that is really bad for you, really bad. Where possible even in a crises you should try to come up with solutions that are valuable and do not produce technical debt.
This should always be your aim, for the sake of another couple of mins of thinking about a solution, do it, it may save you a lot of technical debt and reduce the pain of supporting a system that is not as ideal as it should be.
Another aspect of rapid change (the one that provides benefit) is the sort described in the Lean Startup book. The ability to give new features, new approaches tests quickly – and get _feedback_ quickly. “Does moving this from the top to the bottom help”?