How a week in snow draws parallels to IT work practices

The end outcome is the important thing to focus on. What we’re trying to produce or achieve. This is just as true for any IT workplace. Or an amazing week-long adventure in the snow. How can these two ideas possibly be related? Here I share my favourite annual event with a discovery of how IT approaches such as DevOps are surprisingly similar.

I was extremely fortunate last month to spend a week up in the Victorian Alps in the Bogong High Plains, back country skiing with a bunch of fantastic young people from the Bogong Rover Chalet.

The Chalet was built around 1940 by an old Scout (Bill Waters), and has been run by the Rover Scouts ever since. They’ve maintained and operated it extremely efficiently for nearly 80 years.

The amazing thing is, the Rovers are aged 18 to 26 years old.

Once they hit 26, they’re ‘booted’ out. They can still use the lodge but managing and operating it still remains with the active Rovers.

They’ve developed a system that’s survived all this time, largely unchanged.

The trip to the lodge is for seven days. There’s seven ‘duty patrols’ each with a specific set of tasks, from wood chopping (most cooking, water heating and chalet heating is via wood fire), cooking meals, crockery and cutlery cleaning, cleaning of cooking pots, serving and table setting, and so on.

Duties are rotated daily. It works really well.

The thing is, you also want to get out and onto the snow as much as possible. So quite often when you’re cooking for the day and need to get the roast dinner started mid-afternoon, the pot cleaners (‘Slavies’) are out on the snow still.

And you need some space on your cooking benches.

So naturally one or two of your Cooks patrol wash a few pots to keep things flowing smoothly. If you were stubborn or arrogant and took the attitude of “that’s not my job today” the system breaks down.

Similarly, there are often people amongst the party who are brilliant at baking or ski instructing or wood splitting. (Yes, that’s a thing!). They tend to lend more than their allocated workload to those tasks, and everyone else just fills the gaps they might leave.

While the system works really well, it’s up to the individuals and the teams as a whole to optimise it and not be slaves to the system.

The parallels I’m drawing are especially with our work practices in IT.

And this is where approaches such as DevOps come into play. The end outcome is the important thing to focus on. What we are trying to produce or achieve.

Wood splitting is not a standalone task at the Chalet; it is an integral and extremely important part of the outcome.

Similarly, database administration is an essential component in most organisations and not something we can simply do without.

Both the business and the database administrators need to realise their respective importance. And what DevOps shows us that the two need to be much more closely aligned.

Each supporting the other and doing what is necessary to ‘get the job done’.

Guy Elliott is Co-Founder and Head of Customer Experience at Rise.CX, creating people-first, digital solutions for new-world contact centres.