DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) 2021

May 21, 2021    Process DevOps Agile Improving Organizations

DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) 2021

I had the high privilege of attending the DevOps Enterprise Summit (DOES) 2021 virtually this year with John and Dakota at Omnitech (it was great to have them to bounce ideas off, attempt to summarize and help me remember what track I was going to and when). I’ve followed Gene Kim for years, read most of his books and promoted them and I’ve also recently read Project to Product by Dr. Mik Kersten, so when the DOES registration came up I quickly asked Omnitech if I could attend.

Omnitech Crew

Omnitech is great at supporting our learning paths and enabling us to attend conference. We maybe should have realized that it was in Europe, with a different time zone :-). We quickly adapted and decided to get here at 4 am go home at 1 pm for naps and early beds. I’m writing this on Friday at 7:15 am (trying to adjust back to the normal schedule).

The conference was exhilarating, exhausting and refreshing.

The format with was outstanding. The live talks were pre-recorded. The presenters were available in the Slack channel during the talk for questions. The Slack channel conversation was many times just as interesting as the presentations.

We felt we were drinking from a firehose with inspiring experience/journey stories, new ideas to consider, new tools to think about from vendors and seemingly non-stop opportunities to learn. Many times we felt a bit out of place with all the attendees who included C-level execs, internationally know speakers and authors to other engineers like ourselves, but people seemed very friendly and including in the virtual spaces.

We ended up taking some walks for a break, but also participated in some “ask me anythings”, virtual Zoom demos and a few “birds of a feather” (we were a bit overwhelmed and tired so we didn’t make too many of those) in Gather (a fun way to gather virtually). We had a great time trying to find all the hidden codes and even won some DOES 2021 US passes.

In Gather

We created an Omnitech blog version of this article.


Where else can you hang out with and ask questions of top experts? There were so many names I recognized and new ones that I won’t forget. I attended an Ask Me Anything (AMA) with Dr. Mik Kersten and Pieter Jordaan. There were only 15 on the Zoom call and I was able to ask a question. If I had needed less breaks, I could have attended more sessions and found Lean Coffee or Birds of a Feather and been a part of those conversations as well.

The shared experience of what has been achieved with the DevOps ideas and Flow are outstanding. If they can do these massive improvements (during Covid and in areas that helped millions of people and customers), then I can be a part in improving organizations at smaller scales. It brought me hope that the current product I’m working on can improve too!

We spent about 20 minutes with Lee Reid seeing Tasktop Viz in a very small group during a break. I was impressed with all the functionality and Lee and the software were ready for the questions I asked. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for opportunities to introduce flow ideas and the Tasktop solution.

I asked “What is DevOps?” in Slack and got some answers!

"The best definition I've heard is the one coined by Jon Smart (author of Better Value, Safer Happier) that identifies the outcomes you want/get: Better. Value. Sooner. Safer. Happier. BVSSH" ~ [Jeff Gallimore]( - CTO Excella

“Not something you can predefine, it is more about the journey” ~Thomas Jachman

“I love Jon Smart’s definition β€” can’t imagine a better way to characterize a better way of working!” ~ Gene Kim

I had always leaned on Donovan Brown’s Definition “DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users.”, but this new input puts the definition in another light.

I’m thinking more and more about how we’ve moved from Waterfall to Agile to DevOps and to Flow/Value Stream management on our industries journey to Sooner, Safer, Happier.

Check out TaskTops Whitepaper for an illustration how we need to include the full value stream (Figure 1).

I got to spend time learning and watching with friends

It was a great time with John and Dakota. We had many conversations and walks. They also helped me several times with the schedule, what time it was and what track I was watching. It was hard to keep track of details with all the notes and high level concepts I was trying to absorb.

It’s hard to get a lot of learning time in for me these days. What a gift 🎁 to spend 3 whole days!


Getting up at 4 am and changing schedules is hard. Even if I went to bed at 6 pm :-). It’s Friday at 5 pm and I am exhausted. Hopefully I can make it to 8 pm to get closer to normal.

The sessions were non-stop with hardly a chance to run to the bathroom and start a new page in OneNote. This was a good exhaustion to experience πŸ˜….


I needed a break from the daily grind, interruptions and troubleshooting. I was beginning to lose hope that our momentum of improvements would continue. Now I have new and refreshed ideas and thinking to share with colleagues.

Common Themes

Focus on Flow, culture (safety, learning, growing, happiness) and value. Safer Better Happier!
  • Digital transformations are happening everywhere!
  • Flow and system thinking is critical
    • Find the constraints, then realize something is wrong, uncover the next level

DevOps is a journey

  • Know the business goal and objectives (OKRs)
    • The North Star
  • The way is not clear
    • Learning, detours, side-tours, plateaus
    • Always helps the organization grow, uncover things
    • “DevOps to the Metal”: Achieving β€œFlow” in a Large Organization and In Cyber-physical Systems - talk was helpful. Plateaus, you’ll get to one, then make the plan and climb to the next one
    • DevOps will lead you to a better place

Culture is key

  • safety to fail, learn and improve
  • give teams and leaders autonomy and empowerment
  • Training, upskill in house talent. Develop leaders
  • celebrate victories
  • C level buy in is necessary to transform the full company
  • The whole company needs to transform
    • Not just dev
  • Retaining and recruiting
  • Psychological Safety
  • Tech Maestro leader is important
  • Information Flow Cultures - Dr Ron Westrum’s talk was incredible
    • Generative vs pathological
  • Bad environments can affect health
  • Empowerment and Autonomy
  • Silos exist, sense of control
    • Break the silos
    • Improve communication

Agility and speed

Everyone wants to go faster with higher quality. Your business may not exist for long if you don’t.

  • Deploy more often
  • Independent deployments
  • Decouple deploy from release
  • As fast as possible
  • Respond faster
  • Small batch sizes
  • MVP
  • Celebrate small victories

Automation is essential

Automate all the things: testing, infrastructure as code, flag on/off gates (

Many companies have platform teams and tools

Put great people on these teams that create tools and practices to make everyone else more productive. Make sure they are learning and a part of teams that depend on them.


You can watch videos for free from their library: . There are also great ebooks, podcast and other material available. We’ve read many of Gene Kim’s books for lunch and learns (see our past blogs ) and I have a list of even more that I’ll be adding to.

Don’t miss the Idealcast from Gene Kim . I’d heard of a lot of these ideas and leaders from his interviews.

Books I noted (I have a lot of reading to do!)

Top recordings to watch

There were over 35 and I could have listed them all, but here are a few of our top choices(thanks to John and Dakota for this list). These are links to the video library.

OK NOTOK OKRs β€” 3Ms: Mindset, Mission and Measurement

Information Flow Cultures

The Myth of Productivity vs Compliance - How to Have it All

AMA with Jon Smart

A Layered Approach to Progressive Delivery

How to DevOps the H** Out of Your Covid Crisis

Building a Successful Platform Team

Engineering ITSM Through Site Reliability Engineering

Government as a Platform and Covid-19 – How Shared Platforms Enabled New Services To Be Built In Under a Week


It’s going to take me years to process all of this and read the new output. I look forward to how it will shape my thinking about “Improving Organizations” and I hope to see it help much improvement towards “Better Safer Happier”. I’m sure you’ll be seeing more posts from me (edit: see my Table of Contents of articles ).

This was the best conference I’ve attended. I’m glad it was virtual as I wouldn’t have gotten to go to Europe to attend.

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