HumanOps: the human side of DevOps

DevOps implementation leads to well-organized and automated tech processes, increases employee efficiency, and allows your company to develop at an incredible pace. However, live monitoring & support or continuous delivery schedule add to the workload and cause ongoing stress. The stressful atmosphere can lead to errors. And errors or delays can cost businesses millions. So if not implemented appropriately, DevOps practices can harm your employees’ well-being. But is there a way to grow your business without burning out your team? Here comes HumanOps.

What is HumanOps

Unreasonable expectations and enormous pressure are often placed on DevOps engineers. Eventually, they started to reject this “superhero” culture and promoted a philosophy focusing on the human side of running infrastructure — HumanOps.

It was launched in 2016 as an event devoted to the well-being of the teams running infrastructure. HumanOps practices focus on stress reduction, straightforward communication, improved work quality.

This movement aims to prove that the health of your infrastructure isn’t just about hardware, software, automation, and uptime — it also includes the health and happiness of your team. When it comes to DevOps, efficiency should go in tandem with empathy.

Implementation principles

DevOps practices should be implemented properly, as mentioned above. But what does “properly” stand for? It’s about certain rules companies shouldn’t forget about while applying DevOps practices. Here are the main principles HumanOps encourages:

  • Humans build systems that have a critical business impact.
  • People get stressed and tired, they need rest.
  • Human health directly affects business health and system operations.
  • Help your employees by automating & documenting everything.

In practice, when an enterprise adopts DevOps, it must establish systems that balance workloads to avoid employees routinely being called in after hours to put out fires. Reduced stress leads to fewer errors and an increased contentment level of the team. In addition, it means that DevOps paired with HumanOps brings significant changes to both the working atmosphere and business processes.

HumanOps areas

There are plenty of operational areas where HumanOps can be implemented. Let’s look at the core ones for DevOps, they are worth starting with.

On-call

This is the key area of HumanOps focus. Being on-call and not being called is indeed more stressful than a busy shift. Therefore, it’s essential to share the workload properly, analyze response time expectations, automate alert processing when possible.

HumanOps agenda here is to restore the feeling of control, measure the human cost of out-of-hours incidents, give reasonable rest time between shifts.

Metrics

How can you improve anything without measuring it? First, analyze as much information as possible, for example, the general number of alerts, the number of alerts out-of-hours, your basic alert level, the number of alerts one person can process per shift, etc.

Investigate what parts of your system generate the majority of alerts, whether they have an impact on your revenue. Then, always share these metrics with your management team to assure permanent improvement.

Alerts

System administrators receive a lot of alerts, and some of them happen to be missing important information. Your goal should be to reduce the human intervention for problem-solving.

Use linked documentation, keep an eye on the content of each alert, automate as much as possible. Wise alerting will scale down employees’ stress levels and help solve issues faster and easier.

Documentation

Writing and keeping documentation up to date is crucial for any system, even the smallest ones. HumanOps requires making documentation writing a part of a standard development process.

Documents should provide clear guidance on the alert type and the ways to fix it. Update your documentation regularly and make someone responsible for it.

Simulation

Humans stress more if they don’t know what to do in a certain situation. Knowing the right set of actions for you and each of your team members will streamline response processes.

All roles and responsibilities should be clear in advance, so test your systems, train people, examine documentation. These efforts will result in a confident and integrated approach to alerts, fast bug fixing, and coherent team communication.

Summary

HumanOps practices put people first and care about human impact on tech processes. DevOps combined with HumanOps establish smooth operational actions, favorable working conditions and contribute to your business success.

Obviously, a challenge like this could never be tackled by one engineer. All people in the company should take part in HumanOps implementation. What’s the point of spending all that time and money on high-quality equipment if the people who actually operate it aren’t being looked after?

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